Accommodation in Germany
As there is a shortage of housing in Germany, accommodation is often expensive, at least in many larger towns and cities. You often may have to spend 40% of your monthly salary/fellowship on rent. This is particularly true for the kind of accommodation visiting researchers usually require: furnished or at least partly furnished, readily available and available on a short lease. The relationship between supply and demand, particularly in towns where there are large numbers of students, fluxuates radically over the course of the year. At the beginning of the semester, the demand for accommodation is particularly high.
We especially recommend that you to start looking for accommodation for yourself and your family in Germany as soon as possible; preferably several months before you begin your stay.
Some universities have guesthouses for international visiting researchers. As there is generally great demand for accommodation in these guesthouses, you should make enquires and bookings as early as possible.
If you want to search for accommodation privately, you can use many different portals across Germany.
Prices can vary a lot between cities, and depending on residential location and building condition within them as well. Generally, cities in Southern Germany are more expensive than cities in Northern and Eastern Germany. But with recent fluctuations and inflation it is not possible to make definitive statements.
Regardless of the type of accomodation you choose, it is important for you to understand the leasing agreement you sign and what is included. One crucial aspect when searching for accomodation is the difference between "Kalt- and Warmmiete". "Kaltmiete", or rental costs without utilities, services and extras, only covers the rent for the flat. In contrast, "Warmmiete" includes the utility costs, services and extras that are required by your landlord. Make sure to know what is included in your "Warmmiete" and what is not so that you can open accounts with service providers for any utilities not covered by your rent.
Furthermore, it is not always immidiately apparent what type of rent an advertisment has included, so if it is unclear, make sure to find out before signing any contracts.
It is often worth reading the advertisements in local newspapers and checking notice boards at your university for accomodation offers. You can also post your own advertisement for a room or flat search on some accomodation websites, in local newspapers or on notice boards. Furthermore, you can enlist the help of a real estate agency to find accommodation. Please note that from 1 June 2015, real estate agent commissions must only be paid by those looking for flats if they hired the agent themselves. In all other cases, these services are to be paid by the landlord. A list of real estate agents in your place of residence can be found in the Gelbe Seiten (Yellow Pages) (enter 'Immobilienmakler' and the name of the town).
Also keep in mind while looking for accomodation that sometimes people unfortunately use accomodation platforms to try to trick people out of money, so make sure to read advertisements carefully and use a bit of caution, especially in cases where payments or personal documents are requested in advance. Foreigners urgently looking for an accomodation are particularly vulnerable to these scams, so we advise you to start your search early in advance and contact your future university or research centre to ask if they have internal resources that can provide help or if they have any tips to keep you safe while looking for your new home.
Common Abbreviations for the Search for Accomodation
When looking for accommodation in Germany, you will quickly discover that advertisements contain a lot of abbreviations. A list of abbreviations is available here.
Everyone who becomes resident in Germany is required to register their address with the authorities. It is also a requirement to register a new address following a move within Germany and to deregister at the registration office (Meldeamt) as a resident when leaving the country.
Everyone is required to register their first or new address within two weeks of moving into a new flat. It is not possible to register your address in advance (as stated in section 17 of the Bundesmeldegesetz (Federal Registration Act)).
Every municipality has at least one Einwohnermeldeamt (registration office), regardless of its size. It is important to know which office is or which offices are responsible for your place of residence and register there.
Many registration offices require an appointment for address registration. For this reason it is advisable to look into which registration office will be responsible for your new place of residence in good time and find out if you require an appointment and, if so, to register for one. Especially in larger cities, it is often only possible to sign up for an appointment several weeks in the future.
Generally in cases where an apointment needs to be booked, the date you sign up for an appointment and not the day of the appointment itself will be considered when checking to see if you registered your address on time. If you still miss the deadlines to register your address, you may be required to pay a fine.
A list of all registration offices can be found on this website.
The registration office responsible for your place of residence can inform you about the exact documents you require for your registration.
One document that is required for every address registration is called the “Wohnungsgeberbestätigung”, or landlord confirmation.
The Wohnungsgeberbestätigung confirms that you have moved into a new flat and on which day you moved in.
This document is generally completed by the person letting the accommodation. This means that often the document will be completed by your landlord. In cases where you are subletting a room or flat, this document is often completed by the person subletting the accommodation to you.
It is not always possible to receive this confirmation for short stays in temporary or holiday accommodation such as hotels or holiday lets as these are subject to a special type of registration requirement for temporary accommodation (described in section 29 of the Bundesmeldegesetz (Federal Registration Act)). This type of accommodation is generally not required to issue a landlord confirmation if you are staying for a period shorter than the maximum stay listed under the exemptions to registrations requirement (section 27 of the Bundesmeldegesetz (Federal Registration Act)).
If you are uncertain, contact the registration office responsible for your place residence and they will be able to help you further.
It is important to know, especially for short stays, that there are exemptions to the registration requirement. For mobile researchers, two exemptions are prevalent.
Individuals Resident Abroad
- If you continue to reside abroad and are staying in Germany for less than three months, you are exempt from the registration requirement (section 27, paragraph 2 of the Bundesmeldegesetz (Federal Registration Act)).
Individuals with a Registered Residence in Germany
- If you are already registered in Germany and staying temporarily in another city, for example in order to spend time at a different research institute, you are exempt from the registration requirement for stays of six months or less (section 27, paragraph 2 of the Bundesmeldegesetz (Federal Registration Act)).
If you are uncertain whether you might be exempt from the registration requirement, you can contact the registration office responsible for your place of residence. They will then be able to inform you about your individual case.
If you are moving to a new city, you do not need to de-register with the city you are leaving. When registering your new address in your new city, the city where you were previously resident will automatically be informed about your move.
An exemption to this rule is when you want to permanently move away from Germany. Information about this can be found under Departure conditions/Formalities.