Berlin 101: Housing

Hi everybody! This Berlin 101 series is designed to be your ultimate guide to moving to and living in Berlin, where we will aim to tackle all of the most important things to know about the city. In this article, we will be speaking about housing in Berlin. There are a lot of great guides online that you can use to help you to get places in Berlin, but in this article, our aim is to tell you all of the information that we wish we had known before coming to Berlin, including some tips we didn't see a lot of in most Berlin guides. We hope they help you and make your experience much easier :)

Acquire an anmeldung and know where to look:
First thing’s first: you will need an anmeldung, which is the process of registering your address with the citizen’s office, for the purposes of getting your tax ID and other official documents.  It is also worth remembering that there are better chances of getting a better and cheaper place when you look outside of the inner ring. Some helpful places to look for a new house are wg-gesucht and immobilien scout, but the best place to find new options tends to be online Facebook groups. Bear in mind that sometimes it can feel like a full-time job to get a new place; the process is very difficult, but after you’ve found a place with anmeldung, most of your problems are solved!

Remember it takes time:
Make sure that you are taking care of your mental health and always remember that it will take time to find a good long-term place.  Many people move a couple of times before establishing themselves in a long-term contract, and that is completely okay if it means ending up in the right place! Of course, some people are lucky and find a great place right away, but mostly it takes time, so be patient and don't panic, the right thing will come to you sooner or later. If you find yourself in a situation where you need something right away and cannot find a permanent apartment, it is always worth looking at short-term arrangements such as Airbnb,, etc.

Write a cover letter and present yourself well:
A good idea for when you are looking to rent an apartment is to write a cover letter to send out together with your application, like the ones you send with your CV for jobs.  If you get an interview for a place, remember that you want to make a great impression with the person renting the place; be kind, nice, maybe bring chocolate or a small gift.  If it is a room that you are renting, make the others living there want to live with you. If it's a full flat you want to rent, make sure you make the impression you are a reliable person and have enough money to pay for the apartment and that you won't give them any problems.  This will massively increase your chances of successfully renting a place much sooner.  Besides this, the more paperwork you have to show that you are reliable, the better.  Bring everything to the interview that you think could be relevant, especially schufa (showing your credit score).

The next tips are for when you have successfully rented a place in Berlin, to make sure that your renting experience runs as smoothly as possible!

Ask for a native German to read your contract before you sign it, to ensure that you know what is required of you and what your rights are.  If you do not know native German speakers, simply ask on the Facebook group and some amazing women will be happy to help you!

Make a copy of your key and give your copy to a friend or someone that you trust.  If you lose your key, it costs a lot of money to have the door opened.  The key itself can cost from 10 euros to 50 euros, depending on the type of key you have.

Take pictures of the inside the flat and the furniture, then email the pictures to your landlord so that you have proof of the current state of the house when you move in.  This will help you to avoid any problems getting your caution/deposit back at the end of the tenancy. 

Be mindful of the Kaution: this is a deposit that your landlord will ask you to pay in order to protect the state of the apartment.  The value is typically 3x the monthly rent, but many landlords accept that you pay it in 3 installments, so no need to panic right away to have the full amount when you move in.

Notice period: in the majority of the cases for a permanent rental contract, you will have a 3 month notice period, meaning that the landlord can't kick you out by law without giving you a notice of 3 months.

There is a Tenant's Association called Berliner Mieterverein which offers support in tricky situations in terms of disputes with landlords, terminations, etc. The association works based on a membership fee and it is a good investment in case you find yourself in a difficult situation.

Beware of scams: if you search for "scam" in the group, you will find many regular scam situations that you can avoid.  It is important to know that the contract you are entering into is legitimate before you sign anything or give any money.

If you are having problems with your landlord, talk to them only over email.  This means that you will have written proof of everything that is said in the conversation, and this can help you later!  

For newly arrived non-EU citizens who do not have a SCHUFA yet: In most cases, a Schufa can be replaced by a guarantor's contract/declaration. It is better if the guarantor is German. If not, a lot of landlords or agencies accept declaration from non-EU citizens as well. Basically, the guarantor needs to declare that if the tenant fails to pay for the rent, they will be responsible to pay for it. As for documentation, the guarantor needs to submit their ID, a written declaration (usually the agencies provide the template), and documentation of their income.

ARD/ZDF tax is a mandatory tax that must be paid monthly to cover the costs of television and radio services; this tax is charged to every household.  Regardless of whether you have a TV or radio, your household must pay a monthly fee of 17,50 euros per month.

Don't forget to get Haftpflichtversicherung and Rechtschutzversicherung - these are types of insurance that will cover and protect you.  Haftpflichtversicherung is liability insurance, meaning that if there is an accident in your place, such as a fire, then the costs will be covered by the insurance company.  Rechtschutzversicherung is legal expenses insurance that helps to cover costs in any legal disputes you may come into.

Noise rules: in Berlin, it is important to note that there is a 10pm rule for making too much noise.  This should mean that you will have peace and quiet after this time, but buy a pair of earplugs and noise-canceling headphones, just in case. You never know if you're going to live in a noisy street or if your roommates will be noisy, so it is best to be safe.

If you are having trouble with the people you live with, have adult conversations, try to adapt and compromise on both sides, and if nothing works and you just get stressed out, move out as soon as you can!  You should feel good and comfortable where you are living, for your mental health and happiness.

Security: if for any reason you want to feel safer at home, talk to your landlord about getting a second door lock or taking out other safety measures. Also locking your door and leaving the key on the door already is a good safety tip, since if there's a key at the door, another key won't be able to enter inside the lock.  

Decorate on a budget: if you do not have a lot of money, but wish to decorate your new place, try checking out some "free your stuff" groups, or thigh shops and markets. There are amazing shops as well which sell affordable items, such as Made and Bolia. If you are looking for something brand new, IKEA never lets you down either!


Other good links with information about getting a place in Berlin:


We hope that this information has helped you!  Let us know in the group if you have more tips about living in Berlin in this post: