4 dirty tricks Berlin landlords might try to pull on you

With so much demand for housing in Berlin and an offer that simply cannot provide for everyone, pressure has increased tremendously for tenants when looking for a flat. It requires more organisation, more perseverance & more flair than ever. It also requires speed as you have to be fast to make decisions.

When there are 30 other applicants waiting in line for the same flat,some people may sometimes take advantage of your weakened position and trick you.

This increasingly competitive environment has led some individuals with loose moral to trick unaware flat-hunters into some bad schemes. Here is a quick best-of, provided by our friends at Wunderflats.

#1 : The Classifieds Fairy Tale

One of the oldest tricks in the books, brought to you by the same person working for “a Nigerian prince that is prepared to give you all his money for a small upfront cost” ;). The fake landlord is posting an offer about an apartment that is not real. The offer often looks great (too great perhaps?) and the owner’s Facebook profile looks definitely clean too. You already subconsciously know that something must be wrong but you hope it is not. You contact the advertiser anyway. The scammer is really nice and writes a little too much asking for personal details as well as deposit before even signing the contract, just to make sure you are interested. Definitely stay away from those people ! This is clearly an attempt at stealing your data and/or your money. Others signs that should trigger red-alert : a Western Union account & a landlord claiming he lives in Germany but currently staying abroad.

If the landlord manages those things him-self, then there is no doubt he would be on location to handle contracts, keys etc.

#2 : The Nebenkosten Ticking Bomb

It is often custom for offers to be published with the cold rent price as a way to attract more applicants. That’s fair practice but what comes next is not. The devil hides in the details with this trick because it is all about Nebenkosten. The Nebenkosten cover all collective utility bills of the building like cleaning, sewer & garbage service or sometimes heating costs. The landlord might make you sign a contract with relatively low Nebenkosten which then turn in a pretty pricey deal for you with time. It might look like this : Landlord says you pay only 1€ per sqm the first year, and an additional 1,50€ after a year. You sign the contract thinking no further. However it does make a sour bill in the end.  In a 100m2 flat : 12 month x 100m2 x 1,50€ = a 1800€ payment waiting for you. Not such good deal after all, ain’it ?

And gone is your money


#3 The Rent-One Renovate-One

Some landlords are lazy, some are rude & not available and some are downright cheap. This last category might offer you what looks like a sweet deal in the first place. It’s pretty straightforward; if you renovate the flat doing such and such things, you can live in there for free for 1 or 2 months. Seems decent enough doesn’t it ? Except it’s usually not a good deal as in many contracts, you are legally binded to renovate it again. If you did it in the beginning and expect not to have to do it at the end, you have to have a written document with your landlord on that.

#4 The Small Repairs, Big Bill

This can never be stated enough; always proof-read the contract before you sign and check that it doesn’t contain anything suspicious. Of the conditions to pay attention to are the small repairs (“Kleine Reparaturen“). This term defines all the things that are reasonably expected to be repaired by the tenant, as they are used in the every-day-life, like the sink faucet for example. The cost of small repairs during the year should be capped in the contract. E.g : landlord writes in the contract that you should pay all small repair bills that are about 40€. This is only legally correct if it states that you have to pay max. 120€ a year. If the landlord asks for 120€ on a 300€ bill (your share so to speak), that’s simply bullcrap, you don’t have to pay anything. If you discover this in a contract you already signed and get pressure from your landlord because of that, you are protected by law and you can’t get in trouble or pushed out of the flat.

What about you ? Have you ever experienced any dirty tricks ? Did that lead to any conflict ? How were they resolved ? Let us know in the comments.

About Wunderflats:

wunderflats logo

Wunderflats truly wants to enable everyone to live anywhere they want. It became relatively easy to go from Paris to Berlin for the new chapter of life but you encounter so so many challenges really arriving there. One of which is scammers. It is disgusting to see how expats are taken advantage of. Wunderflats provides safety for people on the move by putting together a website with furnished apartments, studios and verified landlords in Berlin and other cities. This how it goes:

Go on, select Berlin, choose an apartment that you like and book it. Within one day you get a response whether you can book it, visit it if you like or an alternative if it is not available anymore. The rents include everything – WiFi, electricity, utilities and sometimes a cleaning service. A huge benefit for internationals is that there is no need for paperwork like Schufa statements or guarantees from relatives (“Bürgschaftsurkunde“). They check up with your employer and you are good to go.

Many of their tenants are job starters e.g. from Mercedes or Microsoft in Berlin who just moved there. They take a furnished apartment für 3-6 months until they find something permanent. The others are expats or freelancers who just stay for a limited time.

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  • Reply Kaj Kloezeman 22/11/2019 at 17:51

    Sorry but if you support a company like Wunderflats who by themselves are offering limiting rental contracts that go completely against the established rental laws in Germany, you are doing your audience a huge disservice. I’m sure you make a wonderful affiliate deal but expats should be aware of their rights. I’m sure this comment might not make it through, but if it does here is a pretty good overview about everything wrong with companies like Wunderflats.

    Sorry but if you support a company like Wunderflats who by themselves are offering limiting rental contracts that go completely against the established rental laws in Germany. I’m sure this comment might not make it through, but if it does here is a pretty good overview about everything wrong with companies like Wunderflats.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/11/2019 at 12:53

      Hey Kaj. Thanks for your comment and insights. Your comment is making it through and i’m always happy to feed the debate with informed opinions. From a personal point of view, i find that Wunderflats make the initial steps in Germany a little easier for some people (against a premium price), and it should not be meant to be used as a long term solution indeed.

      • Reply Emma ROBIN 30/03/2020 at 01:01

        Hi all, I’m currently in a conflict with Wunderflats because they don’t want to make Corvid-19 a force majeur and force the landlords to reimburse already paid rent, even though our countries put us in quarantine. All other platforms (Airbnb, Spotahome…) helped their tenants get a fair deal because this IS a force majeur, but Wunderflats says there’s nothing they can do and only the landlord can decide or not to reimburse us.
        As a side note, we rented in February for one month in May, and asked to cancel in early March when everything was going south… I think this is fair timing, especially considering the crisis we’re in right now. They made us pay the rent and the deposit (which I’m not sure is completely legal since we didn’t even see the flat) directly to the landlord, so they’re no payment security from the platform. And we had to pay everything (rent + deposit) back in February for the month of May so in the meantime the landlord can use to money to invest it.
        Long story short, Wunderflats is shit and care a lot more about their landlord than their tenants

  • Reply Tallon Smith 07/09/2019 at 10:56

    Hey all, just wondering if there’s anywhere you should report scammers. My partner and I had one reply to our “wanted” ad on Studenten-WG claiming a too-good-to-be-true offer, we followed up despite that red flag only to meet multiple others when they revealed they “moved because of work and so have been searching for someone to rent the place since then.” Obviously, they “took the keys with them” and required a contract with deposit be made before they could send the keys. Scammer went by the name Kimmich Hector so avoid contact at all costs and please report anything similar to this!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/09/2019 at 15:44

      Hey Tallon. There are many of those scammers, using fake identities, located somewhere else on the planet. I doubt the police would do anything.

  • Reply sylvie 28/05/2019 at 12:56

    I would like to buy a place, Berlin is an amazing location, however long i will stay .. i need to know that i have a home to go back to in Europe .. How complicated is to buy a flat if i am a US citizen! I understand i need have 60%-70% down? Any information, any help would be very much appreciated. Thank you so much.


  • Reply muhamad khairul 12/01/2019 at 04:17

    We are 1 couple with 2 daughters (12 and 15 years old).
    We intend to stay in Hamburg.

    Is that possible to rent 2 bedroom-flat ?
    is there minimum salary to rent a flat for us?
    is there a minimum size of flat for us?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/01/2019 at 22:42

      Hey Muhamad, sorry i can’t really answer this in the comments section, and i don’t know Hamburg that well. Good luck with it.

  • Reply Lukka 19/01/2018 at 23:50

    Hi Bastien
    1)Is there any need and is it possible to rent one room in multiple flat? Like 4/5/6 rooms flats?
    2) Is there any minimum m2 per person per room?
    3) To What extend rules set by city authorities regarding Max rent per area are to be followed?
    4)Where can you find actual prices? What are prices now like?
    5)If you could direct me towards rules on minimum living conditions what are those like ? must there be a window in bathroom or kitchen etc? Thanks

  • Reply Anita 22/08/2017 at 09:19

    I’m about to move to Berlin in a few weeks, and have been experiencing tip #1 with a few landlords (they work abroad and will be in Berlin when I arrive to show me the place.) They also include the whole ‘Western Union’ statement.

    However, there is one landlord in particular who is NOT expecting payment until I see the place – is it still likely that this is a hoax? If so, what do they have to gain by not asking for payment upfront?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/08/2017 at 12:10

      Hi Anita. In this case, the offer might be a legitimate one. Just be sure to stay aware during the whole process, as something dodgy may come afterwards.

    • Reply Matteo Isaia 29/08/2017 at 14:17

      Hi Anita. My name is Matteo and I am working for Wunderflats.

      BasicaIly I agree with Bastien. The offer seems to be a legitime one.

 But you definitely asked the right question. „What would be the landlord’s gain?”
      I think that first of all his intention is to rent out his flat to a reliable tenant. He probably knows that it would be suspicious to ask for the payment upfront thats why he is not expecting it. 

Actually it´s usual to not expect the payment upfront before you have seen the apartment. 

But like Bastien said, I would recommend to pay attention during the whole process and also to be aware in case something suspicious happens.

      • Reply Anita 30/08/2017 at 11:12

        Thank you Bastien and Matteo, your advice is very helpful! I am definitely still suspicious and will bring a friend with me when it comes time to view the apartment in person

  • Reply Srdjan Santic 22/05/2016 at 18:20

    Hi Arkadi! If I were to rent an apartment with Wunderflats, would I sign a proper lease, like I would with a “regular” landlord? This would be a requirement for me, in order for my spouse to be able to apply for a family reunification visa. Also, how many months’ rent are deposits, usually? Thanks!

    • Reply Arkadi Jampolski 23/05/2016 at 08:47

      Hi Srdjan! When you rent an apartment from Wunderflats you sing a proper lease that your spouse can show to the officials. The deposit sometimes goes up to the legal maximum of 3 months, especially with longer tenancy agreements. But usually it equals just 1 month rent.

      • Reply Srdjan Santic 30/05/2016 at 17:38

        Hi Arkadi. Thanks for your reply! Two more questions: 1) Where can I see on the website, for a particular apartment, how many months’ rents would a landlord be asking for as a deposit? 2) Are the prices show on the website the same for long-term rentals? Thank you!

        • Reply Arkadi Jampolski 31/05/2016 at 11:25

          Hi Srdjan! 1) When you view a listings and click on request booking/book online you see the deposit. 2) The monthly rent doesn’t change if you stay for 3 or 12 months. If you want to stay longer we can arrange that and try to get you a special rate.

        • Reply Narendra 09/06/2019 at 14:08

          Did you stay at Wunderflats? Did it work for the Family Reunion Visa with a stay at Wunderflats? I am in a similar situation and need help.

          Thank you,

  • Reply Christine Retschlag 05/04/2016 at 01:23

    I’m Australian and just wondering if the prices quoted are based on a weekly or monthly rental? How does it work in Berlin?

    • Reply Arkadi Jampolski 05/04/2016 at 08:24

      Hey Christine, it is on a monthly rental. In Germany you seldomly get weekly quotes

  • Reply Arkadi Jampolski 04/04/2016 at 18:06

    Hi Mayank, I’m Arkadi, Co-Founder of Wunderflats. The prices in Berlin for furnished apartments start at 700-800€. The thing is that you can’t get it much cheaper. Nowadays, a one-room apartment for a long-term let will be hard to find for less than 500€ in the city. Then you add furniture, utilities, internet, repairs and sometimes cleaning is included. The one month stay in a budget hotel room is min. 1.500€.
    We try to offer as many budget apartments as we can. Today we got an apartment for about 600€. You can check it out here:

    • Reply Vegard 05/09/2017 at 18:51

      Hi Arkadi,

      I’m looking currently to get a Wunderflat to ease my transition to Berlin. I was just wondering two things. First, can you please confirm that the deposit that you agree to put up is refunded after your stay? Second, am I still able to get a Wunderflat as a student?

      • Reply Matteo Isaia 07/09/2017 at 10:42

        Hi Vegard,
        thank you for being interested in Wunderflats 🙂

        Regarding your questions:
        1. if you will leave the apartment in the same condition you rent it you will get back the whole deposit you have paid 😉
        2. Yes, if you want to rent an apartment as a student we would need the following documents from you:
        – a certificate of enrollment
        – your ID
        – a financial statement to show up that you can pay the rent

        Let me know if you need some further information Vergard.

        • Reply Domenica 11/04/2018 at 20:20

          Hey! I am a student and I am wondering how should i prove my financial statement. Is it a letter from the bank or a picture of my bank account or what?

          thanks in advance

          • Maria 13/04/2018 at 10:45

            Hi Domenica,
            thank you for your question.
            In order to prove your financial statement, ideally, we would need a letter from your bank with financial status in it. The screenshot also can do the job, but the official statement is preferred.
            Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.
            Best, Maria.

  • Reply Mayank Sargoch 04/04/2016 at 16:14

    No Offence but the prices on the wunderland are crazy high. I have been in Berlin for almost a year now and know for a fact that people try to provide you a furnished place no matter how small for a sky high price. Most of the places on wunderland are similar. through various other websites as mentioned correctly it take time and perseverance but eventually you can find a better place for a lot less. But one thing is for sure no one should rush into any deal and instead take time to find out the real picture.

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