How does the apartment deposit (Mietkaution) work in Germany?

How does the apartment deposit (Mietkaution) work in Germany?

Before you move into an apartment in Germany, you must give the landlord a deposit (Kaution). The landlord keeps that deposit until you move out. If nothing needs to be repaired, you will get the whole deposit back. If something needs to be repaired, the landlord will use your deposit to pay for the repairs.

How much is the Kaution?

The Mietkaution is usually equivalent to 3 times the cold rent (Kaltmiete)1. That's the maximum amount landlords can ask for1, 2. Some landlords ask for less.

What if I don't have enough money?

Even if you get your deposit back when you leave the apartment, it's still a lot of money to set aside. There are ways to pay your caution if you don't have the money right now.

Paying your Kaution in instalments

You are allowed to pay the deposit in 3 parts1: 1/3 of the deposit before you move in, 1/3 before the end of the first month, and 1/3 before the end of the second month1. The landlord can't force you to pay the Kaution all at once1, 2.

Paying with a Mietkautionskonto

If you don't have enough money to cover the deposit, you can also open a Mietaval. The bank pays the deposit for you, and you slowly pay it back, with some fees. This service is also called a Mietaval, or a Mietbürgschaft.

The following banks offer a Mietkautionskonto:

When do I pay the Kaution?

This is the normal order of things in Germany:

  1. Visit the apartment
    Always see the apartment before sending money. There are scammers who will ask for a Kaution for an apartment that doesn't exist, then disappear with your money.
  2. Sign a lease
    Do not send any money before you have visited the apartment and signed a lease.
  3. Receive the keys
    The landlord can wait until the first day of your lease to give you the keys.
  4. Pay the rent for the first month, and at least 1/3 the Kaution
    You only have to pay 1/3 of your Kaution before you move in. You can pay the full Kaution, but you can also pay it in 3 instalments. The landlord can't force you to pay the full Kaution before you move in1. Always pay by bank transfer.
  5. Move into your new apartment

Where does my Kaution go?

Your deposit will go in a savings account called a Mietkautionskonto. The landlord can't use your deposit money. Any interest paid by the bank belongs to you, not to the landlord1. You can also agree with the landlord to invest the money somewhere else.

When do I get my Kaution back?

When you move out, the landlord has 6 months to return your caution, or to inform you about the damage you caused.

Will I get all of my Kaution back?

This depends on the condition of the apartment. If the landlord has to make repairs, he will use your deposit to pay for them. However, you do not have to pay to fix normal wear and tear1, 2, and you are not responsible for the damage that was already there when you moved in1.

When you give the apartment keys back (the Wohnungsübergabe), you will fill a handover document (Übergabeprotokoll). In this document, you describe the state of the apartment, and what needs to be repaired.

In this document, you should record everything. Take a lot of pictures, and consider bringing a lawyer with you during the handover1. This prevents the landlord from discovering "additional damages" later, and from using your deposit to fix them1. The landlord can't charge you for something that is not in the Übergabeprotokoll1. Don't let the landlord fill the Übergabeprotokol alone. Don't sign it unless you agree with everything in it.

If you don't return all the keys, your landlord can make you pay for the missing keys. Your landlord can sometimes charge you to change all the locks in the building. This can be very expensive. They will take the money from your Kaution. Your liability insurance might cover the cost of replacing the locks1. This is why having liability insurance is important.