How to move into an apartment in Germany

After you move to Berlin and find an apartment, you must move in. This guide shows you how it works.

Before the move

Visit the apartment

Always see the apartment in person before you sign the lease. There are many housing scams online.

If you are not in Germany and you can’t visit the apartment, get short-term housing from a verified landlord. Homelike, HousingAnywhere and Spotahome have verified landlords.

Sign the lease

Read your lease carefully. It can have information about rent increases, house rules, pets, and other important things.

A lawyer or a tenants’ union (Mieterverein) can check your lease. They can tell you if your rent is too high, or if parts of the lease are illegal.

Rental contracts in Germany – Red Tape Translation

After you sign the lease, you can’t change your decision. The lease is yours. The landlord can’t change their decision either. Even if you don’t sign a lease, a spoken promise can be legally binding. If you promise that you will take the apartment, you might be forced to take it.2

After you sign the lease, you get…

Get the keys

After you sign the lease, you meet with the landlord to…

  • Fill the handover document (Übergabeprotokoll)
    It describes the condition of the apartment. You must return the apartment in the same condition. It should describe everything: scratches on the floor, holes in the wall, broken taps and other problems.
  • Get the Wohnungsgeberbestätigung
    Before or during the handover, you get a Wohnungsgeberbestätigung. You need it to register your address (Anmeldung).
  • Read the electricity meter
    When you sign an electricity contract, you need to give the electricity provider your meter number (Zählernummer) and meter reading (Zählerstand). The electricity meter is usually hidden in the basement.
  • Get the apartment keys
    You will get the keys for your apartment, your mailbox, and the cellar. You should get the same number of keys as in the Übergabeprotokoll. Some landlords ask you to pay the deposit before they give you the keys, but that’s not legal, even if it’s written in your lease.1

During the handover, take a lot of pictures. When you move out, the landlord might try to make you pay for damages that were already there. These photos can help you get your deposit back.

Apartment keys

Pay the deposit

Most apartments have a deposit (Kaution). It can’t be more than 3 times your cold rent. Short-term housing usually has a smaller deposit. You get your deposit back when you move out.

If you don’t have enough money for the deposit, there are other options.

How the apartment deposit works

You must pay 1/3 of the deposit before your lease starts. Your lease starts when you can move in, not when you sign the contract. The landlord can’t force you to pay the deposit earlier, or to pay the full deposit at once.

Pay as late as you can. It’s a good way to avoid deposit scams. Scammers always try to get your deposit as soon as possible.

When to pay the deposit

Pay the rent and the deposit by bank transfer. If you pay with cash, always ask for a receipt. You can also use Wise to send money from another country. If the landlord asks for another payment method, it might be a scam.

Pay the rent

You must pay the rent by before your lease starts. You don’t have to pay immediately after you sign the lease. Paying later helps you avoid scams.

You only need to pay rent if you can actually live there. For example, if your leases starts on January 1, but you only get the keys on January 15, you don’t pay rent from January 1 to January 15.8

Get an internet contract

Sign an internet contract as soon as possible. It can take a few weeks for the company to connect the internet. Sometimes it only takes a day.

Use Verivox or Check24 to compare internet service providers.

If you already have a contract at your old address, you can transfer it to your new address. There is usually a moving fee. For example, Vodafone charges 40€.

If your current internet company can’t service your new apartment, you can cancel your contract and find another company. If they can service your new apartment, you can’t cancel your contract. You must stay with the same company.

After the move

Put your name on your mailbox

Ask your landlord or Hausverwaltung to put your name on your mailbox and your doorbell. If you don’t do this, you will not receive your mail.

How to put your name on the mailbox

If you can’t put your name on your mailbox, you must add “bei” to your address every time.

How to write your address

Illustration of German mailboxes (Briefkasten)

Register your address

You must must register your new address at the Bürgeramt (the Anmeldung). It’s important.

How to register your address

Book your Anmeldung appointment as soon as you can. Appointments are hard to find. They can be months in the future.10 Your appointment date must be after you move in.

Connecting to the appointment finder…

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Looking for appointments...

If you move from another place in Germany, you don’t need to deregister your old address.

Get an electricity contract

Your warm rent (Warmmiete) usually includes central heating and hot water. It does not include the electricity inside your apartment (lights, appliances, …). You must get your own electricity contract.

How electric bills work in Germany

You must choose an electricity provider and sign an electricity contract. Compare options with Verivox or Check24. If you don’t speak German, Ostrom speaks English.

Most providers offer a lower price for 1 or 2 years, then the price goes up. If you switch providers every year or two, you always get the lowest price, and you save money.

If you already have an electricity contract, you can transfer it to your new address, usually for free. If you can cancel your contract, try to get a lower price from another provider.

The electricity contract is activated automatically. They don’t need to visit your apartment. You just need to tell the electricity company your meter number (Zählernummer) and reading (Zählerstand). The electricity meter is usually in the basement. You should check it when you sign the Übergabeprotokoll.

Buy furniture and appliances

Used appliances are much cheaper. Buy them on Kleinanzeigen. Professional sellers offer a 12 month warranty and free delivery. Choose a seller with old accounts. New accounts are more likely to be scammers that sell broken appliances. I bought my appliances from Wasch Max.

Where to buy furniture and house supplies

To move heavy furniture, use a Möbel Taxi, or rent a van with Miles. Find more moving services on Kleinanzeigen.

How to move your things

Install light fixtures

Most apartments come without light fixtures. You must buy your own and install them. A Handwerker can install them for you for 40€ to 120€.13 You can find cheaper ones on Kleinanzeigen, TaskRabbit or Driller Queens.

Change your address

Tell everyone your new address. The address change is not automatic. When you register your new address, the Bürgeramt will tell some people, but not everyone.

How to change your address

Get liability insurance

Liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung) is optional, but everyone should have it. 85% of German homes have it.3 It costs around 5€ per month. I have liability insurance from Feather.

How to choose liability insurance

If you rent a furnished apartment, choose a liability insurance that covers rented things (geliehene Sachen). It covers the furniture you rent.

Your own things are not covered by liability insurance. To insure your own furniture, electronics or bicycle, get household insurance (Hausratversicherung).4 This is less important. You can sometimes get liability and household insurance together for a lower price.

Types of insurance in Germany

Defend your rights

Landlords often try to scam immigrants. You must be ready to defend yourself. There are many ways to do this:

  • Join a tenants’ association (Mieterverein
    If you are a member, you get free help from their lawyers. They can check your lease, help you with a bad landlord, lower your rent, and help you sublet your apartment. It costs around 5€ per month. The Berliner Mieterverein and Mieterschutzbund Berlin are the biggest ones in Berlin. The Berliner Mieterverein speaks English.9
  • or get legal insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung)
    It pays for your legal costs. You get free access to a lawyer. It’s more expensive than a Mieterverein, but you get better service, and you can choose any English-speaking lawyer. Feather and Getsafe sell legal insurance, and they speak in English.
  • or get help from the Mieterberatung
    This is a free service from the city of Berlin. They might not speak English.

Other ways to get help

Lower your rent

German rent prices are limited by law. If your rent too high, you can get it reduced. Use the rent limit calculator to check if you pay too much rent.

These people can help you reduce your rent:

Stop junk mail

Advertisers will put a lot of junk mail in your mailbox. To stop getting junk mail…

  • Put a Keine Werbung sticker on your mailbox. It works really well. If your mailbox is outside, get a UV-resistant sticker, or it will fade after a few months.
  • Put your name on Robinson lists to unsubscribe from most mail advertising:
  • If you still get junk mail, use the Appmelder app to report it. They will unsubscribe you. If you still get junk mail, they will send a legal warning to the spammer.5 It’s completely free.

Deduct your moving costs

If you move for work, your moving costs are tax-deductible.12 Deduct those expenses in your tax declaration to pay less income tax.

You can only deduct moving costs if:

  • You move from another country
  • or you move closer to your workplace
    You must move at least 30 minutes closer to your workplace (in one direction).
  • or your workplace changes
    For example, if you find a job in another city, or your company moves somewhere else.

These expenses are tax-deductible:

  • Visiting apartments
    You can deduct 0.30€ per kilometre when you travel to visit apartments.
  • Double rent
    If you must pay two rents at once, you can deduct one of them.
    • The rent of your old apartment, if you can’t end your lease now. You can deduct up to 6 months of rent.
    • The rent of your new apartment, if you can’t live there yet. You can deduct up to 3 months of rent.
  • Moving your things
    For example, renting a moving truck, hiring a moving company, or paying people to help you.
  • Renovations
    For example, painting your old apartment, or installing lights and kitchen cabinets in the new apartment.

New furniture and appliances are not tax-deductible. Costs that are covered by your employer are not tax-deductible.

First apartment in Berlin?

If you just moved to Berlin, you must learn a few things.

Quiet hours

Berlin has quiet hours. During that time, you can’t play loud music or disturb your neighbours. Your building can have its own quiet hours.

When your neighbours are too loud, you can make a noise complaint.

Quiet hours and noise laws in Berlin

Hard water

The tap water in Berlin is hard.6 Hard water is safe to drink, but it leaves limescale deposits on your kettle, coffee machine, clothes iron, toilet, faucet and shower head.

Limescale deposit in a cooking pot
Limescale in a cooking pot

To remove limescale deposits, use decalcifier (Entkalker), citric acid (Zitronensäure) or vinegar (Essig). You can buy them in any supermarket, or on Amazon.

To make tea, use a water filter, or boil the water 2 to 3 times. It will remove the taste of hard water.


Germans take recycling very seriously. Learn to sort your trash and recycle properly. It’s not so simple.

How to sort your trash


Germans ventilate their apartments every day, even in winter. They open all the windows for a few minutes to let fresh air in. It’s called Stoßlüften.

Ventilation is sometimes required in your lease, because it helps prevents mold.

More information – Berlin Cheap

Heating and radiators

Most German apartment buildings have central heating. It’s turned off during the warm months.

You control the heating in your apartment with the dial on your radiators. The ❄ setting prevents the pipes from freezing. The settings from 0 to 5 set the desired temperature, with 3 being around 20ºC.7

Some newer apartments have heated floors instead of radiators. You control them with a thermostat on the wall.

More information – Berlin Cheap

Sometimes, your landlord will remove air in your radiators with an Entlüftungsschlüßel. You can do it yourself; it’s very easy. It takes a few seconds, and it makes your radiators work better.

Need help?

Where to ask apartment questions

Sources and footnotes

  2. (2022), (2012), 

  3. Finanztip 

  4. Settle in Berlin 

  5. Screenshot 



  8. (archived) 


  10. Senate Department for the Interior, Digitalization and Sport (August 2022) 


  12. Finanztip,, Smoover moving company 

  13. Twitter (May 2024)