How the apartment deposit (Kaution) works in Germany

When you move into an apartment, you must pay a deposit (Kaution). If you break something in the apartment, your landlord uses your Kaution to pay for the repairs. If there is nothing to repair, you get your Kaution back when you move out.

How much is the Kaution?

The Kaution is maximum 3 times your cold rent.2 Short-term rentals sometimes have a smaller Kaution.13

When to pay the Kaution

You can pay your Kaution in 3 parts:17

  • 1/3 before your lease starts
  • 1/3 one month after your lease starts
  • 1/3 two months after your lease starts

Example: Your Kaution is 3,000€. You move in on January 1. You must pay 1,000€ before January 1, 1,000€ before February 1, and 1,000€ before March 1.

Your lease starts when you can move in, not when you sign the contract.3

Your landlord can’t force you to…

  • …pay the Kaution earlier22
  • …pay the whole Kaution before you move in1
  • …pay anything before you sign a lease.19

Don’t pay anything before you see the apartment in person. There are many fake apartment listings online. Don’t pay a Kaution for a fake apartment.

Common apartment scams ➞

How to pay the Kaution

Pay the Kaution by bank transfer. You can pay in cash, but it’s not common. If you pay in cash, always ask for a proof of payment. If your landlord asks you to pay with PayPal or wire transfer, it’s probably a scam.

If you don’t have a bank account in the EU, use Wise to transfer money from another country. I used it many times.

If you don’t have enough money

The Kaution can be thousands of euros. If you don’t have enough money, you can…

  • Get a Mietbürgschaft6
    You don’t pay a Kaution. Instead, someone else promises to pay your landlord if there is a problem. A parent or a friend can do this. Banks and insurance companies do this as a service. It costs around 4% of the Kaution every year.20 Some landlords don’t like it. Some leases don’t allow it.21
  • Borrow money23
    Get a loan from a bank or a friend, and pay it back when you can. If you just moved to Germany, it’s harder to get a loan.
  • Get help from the Agentur für Arbeit4
    If you receive ALG I or Bürgergeld, the Agentur für Arbeit or the Jobcenter can pay your Kaution.

Your landlord can’t ask for a Kaution and a Mietbürgschaft. It’s one or the other, not both.24

How to get your Kaution back

When do I get my Kaution back?

Up to 6 months after you move out.5 Your landlord must return your Kaution in a reasonable time. There is no legal limit, but 6 months is normal.7 It should never take more than 12 months.18

Your landlord holds your Kaution until…

Your landlord can’t hold back more money than needed. They can’t hold back your whole Kaution for a few small repairs. You should get part of your Kaution back now, and get the rest when the repairs are finished.10 For example, your landlord can’t hold back a 3,000Kaution to repair a few holes in the wall.

If everything is paid, your landlord must return your Kaution without waiting.25

Will I get all of my Kaution back?

It depends. The landlord can use your Kaution to repair things that you broke. For example, your landlord can pay to fix holes in the walls. Landlords often try to use your Kaution to pay for other things, but that’s illegal.

The landlord must let you make the repairs yourself. You can also pay someone else to do the repairs. Your landlord can’t force you to pay for professional repairs, or to choose a specific professional.26

Your landlord can use your deposit to…

  • Repair things that you broke
    For example holes in the wall or broken bathroom tiles. You only pay for the real cost of the repairs. The landlord must give you a detailed invoice for the repairs.11
  • Pay your debts
    For example if you leave without paying your rent or your Nebenkosten.9
  • Replace missing keys
    If you lost some of your apartment keys. You only pay for the cost of replacement. The landlord might replace all the locks in the building, but this is rarely necessary, and you rarely have to pay for it.

Your landlord can’t use your deposit to…

  • Repair normal wear and tear8
    Walls, wallpapers, floors and furniture get old and wear out. There will be scratches and scuff marks. This is normal and expected. You do not have to pay for this. You don’t always need to repaint the apartment.
  • Repair damage that is not your fault
    You should not pay for damage that was already there when you moved in, or damage that you did not cause.14
  • Repair damage that is not in the Übergabeprotokoll
    If it’s not in the Übergabeprotokoll you signed, don’t pay for it.16 This is why you should always sign an Übergabeprotokoll.
  • Punish you
    You only pay for the real cost of repairs. Your landlord can’t make you pay a fine or a convenience fee.

If you have liability insurance, it covers most of those repairs, so you can get your whole Kaution back.15 Everyone should get liability insurance. Household insurance covers damage to appliances. Pet liability insurance pays for damage caused by your cat or dog.

After you move out, the landlord has 6 months to find what must be repaired.12 After 6 months, they can’t find more things to repair.

The landlord can only use your deposit to make repairs or pay your debts. They can’t keep your Kaution to punish you. If they make repairs, they must give you a detailed invoice with the cost of repairs.10

If your landlord won’t return your Kaution

If you don’t get your deposit back, send a request by registered mail. Use this template.

How to mail a letter — from your computer, without a printer

If that does not work, get help from your tenant association or a lawyer. Your legal insurance might cover the cost of a lawyer.

Where to get help ➞

Need help?

Where to ask apartment questions ➞

What’s next?

How to move out of an apartment ➞

How to move into an apartment ➞

Sources and footnotes
  1. mietrecht.org 

  2. §551 BGB 

  3. mietrecht.org 

  4. karaenke.com 

  5. mietrecht.org, umziehen.de, berliner-mieterverein.de 

  6. test.de, karaenke.com 

  7. berliner-mieterverein.de, promietrecht.de, welt.de, mietrecht.org, bmgev.de 

  8. the-red-relocators.com 

  9. mietrecht.org 

  10. mietrecht.org, mietkautionsbuergschaft.de 

  11. mietrecht.org 

  12. Welt.de, §548 BGB, tarif-testsieger.de 

  13. sueddeutsche.de 

  14. evz.de 

  15. focus.de, cosmosdirekt.de 

  16. sueddeutsche.de, mietkautionsbuergschaft.de, reddit.com/r/berlin 

  17. §551 BGB, berliner-mieterverein.de, mietrecht.org 

  18. kautionsfrei.de, kautionsfrei.de 

  19. mietrecht.org 

  20. kautionskasse.de, test.de 

  21. bmgev.de, karaenke.com 

  22. bmgev.de 

  23. karaenke.com 

  24. test.de 

  25. kautionsfrei.de 

  26. sueddeutsche.de