For members


How much deposit do I have to pay when renting in Germany?

Whether it's buying new furniture or obtaining a recent credit report, moving to a new rental property in Germany can often involve splashing some cash. But did you know there are some key rules around one of the biggest outlays - paying your landlord a deposit?

A new tenant signs their rental agreement.
A new tenant signs their rental agreement. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Kloset

Do I have to pay a deposit? 

Under German law, landlords have no automatic right to a deposit, but generally you will have to pay one. That’s because landlords tend to include the deposit in legally binding rental contracts that you’ll have to sign before you move in.

“Tenants usually have to pay a security deposit at the beginning of the tenancy,” the German Tenants’ Association explains. “This is to protect the landlord in the event that the tenant does not properly fulfil his obligations under the tenancy agreement, fails to make payments, and so on.” 

However, there are some laws that govern how much landlords are allowed to ask for and how long tenants should be given to pay. So if your deposit seems unbearably high or they’re asking for it upfront, you may have options.

Here’s the lowdown on the rules.

How high should my deposit be?

It’s common to be asked for around two months’ rent as a deposit, though under German rental law, your landlord is entitled to ask for a maximum of three. 

Crucially, this refers only to what’s known as the Kaltmiete – or cold rent – which is the sum you pay for use of the property without additional costs like service charges, hot water and electricity. 

So if your new apartment costs €500 ‘cold’ and you’re expected to pay €100 extra per month for bills and services, you landlord will still be able to charge you a maximum of €1,500 as a deposit in total. If they’re asking for €1,800, that’s too high. 

It’s worth noting here, however, that this rule only applies to residential lets – in other words, to properties you want to live in. For commercial lets such as offices, there’s no maximum deposit, since these facilities often come with expensive equipment like computers and printers that the landlord will want to protect. 

READ ALSO: Six confusing things about renting a flat in Germany

Do I have to pay it all at once?

No. If you need to, you should have the option of paying the option in three monthly instalments. The first of these would be due on top of your first month’s rent, and the next two would be paid alongside your rent over the subsequent two months.

The crucial thing about this is that, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to pay your landlord a deposit before you move in – and you certainly don’t have to pay it all in one go. If your landlord is asking for an upfront lump sum in your contract and you’d prefer to pay gradually, it may be worth asking for them to change that in the contract before you sign it, referring them to this clause of the German Civil Code (§ 551, paragraph 2, BGB). 

This will instead mean that you pay twice your usual rent for the first three months of living in the building, with half of the money going towards the deposit. 

Of course, the landlord also has some important rights here, especially if you don’t pay the deposit as arranged. Under § 569, paragraph 2a of the German Civil Code (BGB), letting agents and other landlords can terminate a rental contract without notice if the tenant falls into arrears within these three months.

In other words, paying in instalments shouldn’t ever be used as a way of avoiding paying the deposit. It may be tempting to hope your landlord will forget all about it once you move in, but if you miss a payment, you could unfortunately end up hunting for houses yet again. 

When do I get the deposit back? 

All being well, you should get the deposit back at the end of your tenancy once you’ve completed your handover of the keys and moved out of the property.

Be aware, though: if the walls need repainting or there’s any other wear and tear to the property that need fixing, you may not get the full amount, so be sure to leave the apartment as close to its original condition as possible.

A tenant fixes a door handle in their rental flat. To ensure you get your full deposit back, it’s best to leave the flat in good condition. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get a rent reduction for problems in your German flat

What else do I need to know? 

When you give your landlord a deposit, always make sure you get a receipt of some sort – especially if you pay in cash. This should confirm that you have paid the deposit and detail how much it was. If you transfer the money to the landlord, keep the corresponding account statement until after you move out. This evidence will come in handy when you ask for your deposit back as you’ll likely need to prove that you paid it in the first place. 

Another important rule to be aware of is that the landlord should never keep your deposit in the same bank account as their private or business income, but rather in a special account for tenants’ deposits. 

“In most cases, tenant and landlord agree on a so-called cash deposit,” writes the German Tenants’ Association. “In this case, the landlord receives the deposit amount in cash or, as a rule, it is transferred between bank accounts. He must then invest it in a special account, separate from his other assets, so that it is insolvency-proof.” 

Legally, it’s important to note that the security deposit remains legally yours for the duration of your tenancy, but your landlord has stewardship of it as a means of ensuring that you abide by the terms of your contract. 

If you have any questions or concerns about your deposit or any other aspect of your rental contract, it could be worth joining a Mietverein (renters’ association).

Read our helpful explainer to find out more:

How to join a Mieterverein (renters’ association) in Germany

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For members


What to do when a foreigner dies in Germany

It is not something anyone wants to spend too much time dwelling on, but as we all know bereavements are the only certainty in life other than taxes. This list aims to take you through the paperwork that comes with a death in Germany.

What to do when a foreigner dies in Germany

Death is a tragic and disorientating part of family life whenever it hits. But living in a foreign country can make things more complicated.

In the event that the deceased lived to a good old age, they have hopefully made arrangement for what to do next. In the event of a more unexpected bereavement though, this panning might not be in place. Should the deceased be buried in Germany or repatriated to their homeland? If they are to be buried in Germany, what type of funeral would they have wanted?

The following article gives some information on what everyone needs to do in the event of a death on the family in Germany, as well as some tips on the special circumstances of dealing with a death abroad.

READ ALSO: ‘Behind all the numbers there are human fates’: Germany mourns 80,000 pandemic victims at memorial

Immediately after the death

The bureacratic side of dealing with a bereavement can differ from state to state in Germany. Like many things in this federal republic, the laws on death are written in state parliaments.

But there are some things you’ll have to do wherever you are.

If the person dies at home, the next of kin will have to immediately notify a doctor. You can call your local GP or a Notarzt (emergency doctor). They will come and evaluate the cause of death and the time of death. They’ll then fill out what is called a Todesschein or Leichenschauschein (death notice), which is important for later stages of the bureaucratic process.

Emergency doctor

An emergency doctor’s van arrives at a house in Heidelberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa//Pr-Video | R.Priebe

You actually have a legal duty to notify a doctor and to see to other things such as employing a funeral home.

If the death takes place at a hospital or care home, the administrators there will take care of the initial formalities.

In the hours after the death you will also need to bring together all the important documents that you will need over the coming days. You will need the deceased’s identity card or passport, their birth certificate, marriage certificate (and divorce papers if relevant), and will.

Contacting an undertaker

The next important thing to do is to find a funeral home. Employing of funeral home is part of your obligations and next of kin. Generally you have to do that within 36 hours of the death, although some states might even require this to happen sooner.

The good news is that the funeral home can basically help you with all of the subsequent arrangements including the bureaucratic stuff. 

It is not rare in Germany for the deceased to have already made contact with a funeral home before their death.

The costs of German funeral homes can be high, meaning that many people have already made arrangements before they die so as not to burden their families with the costs.

Even a simple funeral can cost between €3,000 and €5,000, according to the Verraucherzentral consumer watchdog. Many Germans are therefore prepare for their own death by taking out a Sterbegeldversicherung.

According to the Verbraucherzentrale though, one often ends up paying more into a Sterbegeldversicherung than the actual costs associated with dying. And, as opposed to other types of insurance, one is insuring oneself against something that will definitely happen. This means that it can make more sense to put money aside or to set up a contract with a funeral home before one’s death.

As next of kin, it’s important to know what financial planning the deceased put in place so that you can then access these funds to pay for the costs of burial, a gravestone if necessary, and the rental of a burial plot among other things.

If they have already found a funeral home then your job is made easier. If not, it is best to get a Kostenvoranschlag (cost estimate) from a few undertakers.

The US embassy lists English-speaking funeral homes in Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. The British embassy has also published a list of English-speaking funeral directors. If you don’t live in one of those cities you can look online for a Bestattungsinstitut (funeral home) or you can ask around among friends and colleagues for a recommendation.

Notifying the authorities

Another thing that needs to happen quickly is that you need to notify the local registrar, or Standesamt (registrar’s office) in German. You general have to notify them within three working days, but the funeral home can do this for you (at an extra cost).

The Standesmant will issue the deceased with a Sterbesurkunde (death certificate), which is an important document for dealing with life insurance and the will, for example.

The cross of the Mariensäule in Rheinland-Palatinate in the morning fog.

The cross of the Mariensäule in Rheinland-Palatinate in the morning fog. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Harald Tittel

To obtain the death certificate, you will need to provide several important documents. These include the Todesschein, the deceased’s birth certificate and marriage certificate. If these are in another language, you need to present the Standesamt with the original as well as a German version that has been translated by a certified translator.

For a small additional sum, the Standesamt can provide an international death certificate that is written in English and should be valid for legal issues related to the death abroad.

READ ALSO: Ehegattensplitting: How did Germany’s marriage tax law become so controversial?

Graveyard obligation

If it was the wish of the deceased to be buried in Germany, then there is an important element of German law that you should be aware of.

The deceased’s remains have to be placed in a graveyard, regardless of whether they have been cremated or are buried in a coffin. This law, known as the Friedhofszwang dates back to Prussian times. Some states have tweaked it around its edges, so you will have to inform yourself about the specifics where you live. Generally though, keeping an urn at home is streng verboten (strictly forbidden).

There are two exceptions to this rule, however: the person can be buried in a forest in a specially designated Waldfriedhof, or their cremated remains can be scattered at sea in a Seebestattung.

People can be laid to rest in a designated forest in Germany. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Informing embassies

There is no need for you to inform an embassy of the death of a citizen of that country. But, if the person has a next of kin at home whom you do not want to inform personally or cannot inform personally, the embassy can usually take over this work. Meanwhile, you can register the death in the home country through the consulate, a step that means there will be a record in their native country of their death.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about German inheritance law


One issue that makes a death abroad that much more complicated than dying at home is the question of whether to repatriate the remains or not.

Repatriation can be pretty expensive and it is also made more complicated by various legal requirements that vary from state to state. The British embassy advises you to discuss repatriation with your funeral home, which will generally be able to make the arrangements for you.

In some circumstances it could be possible to take an urn by hand luggage, but in other parts of the country you need to fulfill stricter criteria.

Repatriating a corpse for burial back home is much tricker and more expensive than repatriating cremated remains. That is especially the case during the pandemic.

The US embassy warns that people who have died after suffering from Covid-19 cannot be repatriated unless they are cremated first. That is because Germany does not allow for the embalming of people who died from a communicable disease. The US meanwhile does not allow corpses to enter the country which have not been embalmed.