Rent in Germany: hot & cold

35 Comments

You finally convinced a landlord to let you a flat in Berlin. You! Among the 100 people that applied for the same flat, he has chosen you. Take time to say thanks to the Big Guy up there and ask yourself the question :

“How much I going to pay my landlord every month exactly ?”

rent in germany

Rent in Germany is usually presented as “kalt” (cold) or “warm”

Kaltmiete + Nebenkosten = Warmmiete

Kaltmiete is cold rent in Germany. It represents the base rent with no additional costs included. This is really what the landlord will get in their pocket, in exchange for renting the place. When looking at different areas or apartments, Germans will often use this figure to compare prices.

Warmmiete is warm rent in Germany. It represents the basic rent with other additional costs on top (Nebenkosten). It varies depending on the property but it often includes city/communal services such as garbage disposal & water supply. It also include any expense related to maintenance of the common parts in the building (stairs, entrance, backyard, etc).

If there is central heating, fuel supply would also be listed. Depending on what you have signed up for, it can also include internet or/and TV, although it is not usual.

Landlords don’t make money on Nebenkosten. It’s just to pay for expenses.

Nebenkosten – the devil is in the details

Some other extra-costs “Nebenkosten” can be paid in the rent; by you or the landlord. Every tenant in your building pays its share to cover them. Non exhaustive list:

  • Grundsteuer – covers up costs for local taxes
  • Beleuchtung – covers up costs of lights in the corridors and stairs
  • Hausreinigung / Hausmeisterdienst – covers up costs for having a janitor
  • Gartenpflege – covers up costs for garden and private outdoor spaces maintenance
  • Abwasserung – covers up costs for waste water – sewers
  • Fahrstuhl – covers up costs  for lift maintenance
  • Schornsteinreinigung – covers up costs for chimney sweepers
  • Straßenreinigung / Müllabfuhr – covers up costs for path walk and trash maintenance/management

You should be paying those extra-costs only if they are justified in your case. If you don’t have a chimney in your flat, it is probably not fair for you to pay those.

Every year, you will receive a so called Nebenkostenabrechnung. It’s a document listing exactly how much you have paid towards those expenses. Each landlord has to send you this for full transparency. It’s a good idea to check with document. Many landlords tend to pass on costs to tenants, when it’s illegal. People just don’t care and don’t check, so landlords keep doing it. It has happened to me.

How to pay less rent in Germany

Rent often represents 20% to 40% of total net income in Germany. In Berlin for example, people give out 38% on average of their income towards paying rent. It’s a big dent in your costs of living.

However, Germany has a tenant-friendly legal framework, which means you often have the possibility to lower your rent or deny to pay some of the costs billed to you.

Other indirect costs to consider

I would not paint a complete picture if I didn’t include some common sense insurances you should consider as a tenant. They protect you from damage or theft. When something goes wrong with your washing machine or during a party, you don’t have to pay damages out of your own pocket. Home contents insurance & liability in insurance in Germany are highly recommended.

In a nutshell, rent in germany is often what you agreed to pay in your tenancy contract, so be sure to read that one through before signing anything ! 🙂


I hope this short explanation on what is included in rent in Germany was useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Bastien