Flat handover checklist – remember this when moving in

Finding a flat in Berlin or any city in Germany is a great big step. You have just achieved that! It was not easy beating those other 34 applicants!

If you are reading these lines, you have probably already signed a contract, paid for the deposit and paid for the first month of rent.

Another step is still missing before you can take possession of your keys: a flat handover, otherwise known as “Übergabe” in German.

This post clarifies what you can expect from it and what to pay attention to.

What is the point of a flat handover at all?

It is a recording of the current condition of the property, before you move-in. With the help of a document called “Übergabeprotokoll”, you and your landlord will take note of any existing damage. This can be done in writing and with pictures.

The purpose of this exercise is to determine what damages were made by past tenants. When you move out, any new damage that was not recorded in the Übergabeprotokoll will be attributed to you. In this case, it will probably impact the amount of deposit you get back.

You should therefore take a lot of time, a lot of pictures when doing a tour of the flat. This avoids any conflicts in the future. Both parties obtain a copy of the document.

What should be documented in the Übergabeprotokoll?

Apart from notes on the general state of the flat and any visible damage on walls and floors, it should also include notes on the following:

  • Amount of keys given to the tenant, and what each key does.
  • Colors of walls or condition of wallpaper.
  • Whether appliances themselves work, when applicable.
  • Whether water taps, flushes & radiators are working.
  • Whether furniture are in good condition, when applicable.
  • Condition of floors & tile work.
  • Conditions of doors & windows
  • Whether mildew has been detected.
  • Electricity, gas & water meter readings.

Tips for a good handover

  • Do not yield to pressure by the other person to go fast. This takes time and it’s normal.
  • Only accept to do it in broad daylight. Remember that night falls early during winter
  • Do not accept request by the landlord during that process (e.g: agreeing to paint a wall). Those things should have been done by the former tenant.
  • Take a German-speaking friend with you to make sure what is recorded in the Übergabeprotokoll reflects reality.
  • Take a golf ball or something similar with you to detect any uneven floors. A slight difference in level is normal in older houses, but it should not dramatic. Just let the ball loose to see if it rolls somewhere too fast.

What happens when damages are not identified during handover

Some issues are not immediately visible, even if you spent a lot of time documenting it all. If you move in during summer, it might not be possible to check if heaters work. Mildew might also appear first during colder/wetter days.

In this case, do report this issues right away in written form to your landlord. You won’t be in trouble and your landlord will have to solve it. German tenancy law protects you but it also states that you should let your landlord enough time to fix the issue.

Steps to take after a flat handover

  1. If you have not done so, book an appointment at a local Bürgeramt to do your Anmeldung.
  2. Consider home contents insurance to cover your belongings in the flat and liability insurance to protect yourself from accidents related to the flat.
  3. Make sure to sign a contract with an internet service provider asap. Technicians take weeks to come open a line. You can also notify your current ISP of your new address.
  4. Check if your rent is too high and enforce your rights if it is. You can read how I reduced my rent here.
  5. Sign-up for a cheaper electricity provider and/or a cheaper gas provider, as the default provider is probably expensive.
  6. Furnish your flat on the cheap and decorate. 🙂

Flat handover Übergabeprotokoll FAQ

Is a Übergabeprotokoll required by law?

No, it’s not required by law but the document is still legally binding when you sign it. If your landlord is not mentioning the handover process at all, or is not recording anything in written form, you should ask for it or do it yourself. It’s best practice and protects both parties.

How does a Übergabeprotokoll document look like?

You can refer to this template by the national German tenancy association. It includes section for each room with space for annotations. It also has dedicated section for keys and meters.

When should a flat handover take place?

You should receive your keys at the latest on the first day stated on your contract. It is common that it takes place a few days before. Doing after that is actually a violation, as stated in § 535 Absatz 1 BGB.

When I move out, am I responsible for damages occurred because of normal usage?

A tenant may not be held responsible for damages related to the normal wear and tear related to simply living in the place.