In a lease contract, you are entering a legally binding agreement in writing. That is why you should review it carefully before signing.
You must define the following points with the landlord:
- Start and duration of tenancy
- The cost of rent without heating, lighting and other service charges
- Auxiliary costs
- Notification period for lease termination
- Amount of security deposit
- Renovation when moving in and moving out
- Agreement on how repair costs will be handled
- Conditions for future rent increases
Tenancy: Start and costs
The contract should name the start of tenancy as well as the duration, if tenancy is subject to a time limit. Furthermore, the contact lays out the period of notification for terminating the lease.
In Germany, landlords collect the so-called "cold rent" (Kaltmiete), which is the price of rent without heating, lighting or extra service charges. Auxiliary costs cover the fees for rubbish removal, building cleaning, heating and water. The types of auxiliary costs charged depend on the flat and the landlord.
Landlords collect a security deposit as a hedge. This means that the tenant pays a sum to the landlord, which can equal up to three months of cold rent. Landlords are obligated to apply interest to the security deposit. That is why the security deposit should be transferred to a special rent account.
The security deposit will be returned to you upon moving out as long as you have not caused any damage to the apartment. Otherwise, the landlord is permitted to deduct the repair costs from the security deposit.
Notification periods for termination
If you would like to move out, you should notify your landlord in compliance with the notification period. Generally, the notification period is three months. It is defined by the lease contract. Landlords are also subject to notification periods in the event they would like to use the flat themselves and terminate your lease contract. The longer you have been living in a flat, the more time you will have to find new accommodation: It is three months after having lived in a flat for up to five years, six months after having lived in a flat up to five years, nine months after having lived in a flat up to eight years.
Check the conditions for renovation work when moving in or moving out, and clarify with your landlord which repairs you are responsible for and which repairs the landlord covers. This can also mean that you are obligated to pay for certain repairs up to a predefined amount.
Before signing the lease contract, inspect the flat together with the landlord or the agent and make a record of all defects in writing. The same applies for furnished flats and rooms as well. Furthermore, you should also note which pieces of furniture are part of the lease contract and whether they are intact. This can save you frustration and costs in some cases. It is important that the landlord and tenant sign a so-called handover protocol, and that you do not rely on verbal agreements.
Rent increases and pets
If the landlord would like to increase rent in a graded manner, then it must be defined in the lease contract. This applies to all types of rent increases. If you do not consent, then you will have to renegotiate.
Animals are not welcome everywhere: Prior to concluding the lease contract, clarify whether you are allowed to have a pet in the flat and which types of animals the landlord does not like to see.