Search for an Apartment

A young man is sitting on an armchair in the livingroom

How do I look for and find an apartment in Berlin?

Sometimes, finding an apartment in Berlin isn’t easy, since many people come to Berlin and the living space is very limited. The Berlin Senate will support more social housing construction in the coming years so that everyone can find affordable housing.

There are different ways to find an apartment in Berlin. In addition to various Internet portals, you can also use the City of Berlin Apartment Search. In addition to this, the real estate sections of many newspapers, especially the Saturday edition, advertise available apartments. You can also inquire at state housing construction companies.

Once you’ve found an apartment, contact the landlord or the building manager to view the apartment. This will also give you the chance to introduce yourself to the landlord. Prepare yourself well for the appointment and bring all of the necessary documents with you.

As a person from outside the EU, you may be asked to show your residency permit. If you have one, then bring it along with you. However, a residency permit is not absolutely required.

The most important service addresses have been summarised by the Senate Administration for Urban Development and the Environment.

After moving in, it’s important to register with the citizen centre relatively quickly. You can find out where and how you can register yourself under registration requirements.

If you are looking for an apartment as an asylum seeker or as a refugee, you can find more extensive information under Accommodation during the Asylum Process.

Which application documents do I need?

Most landlords will ask you to present the following documents when applying for an apartment:

  • Identity documents like your personal ID card or passport, and a valid residency permit may be requested from persons from outside of the EU
  • Salary/wage statements from the last three months, or
    • If you are a retiree: your current retirement statement
    • As a company trainee: your last Gehaltsabrechnung (salary statement), your Ausbildungsvertrag (training agreement), Kindergeldnachweis (proof of child allowance), your Bescheid über die Berufsausbildungshilfe (vocational training statement), possibly a Bürgschaft (guarantee) and Gehaltsnachweise der Eltern (parents’ salary statements)
    • As a student: your current Immatrikulationsbescheinigung (school registration certificate), a confirmation from your parents about support payments, Kindergeldnachweise (proof of child allowance), your Bafög-Bescheid (educational grant statement), possibly a Bürgschaft (guarantee), and Gehaltsnachweise der Eltern (parents’ salary statements)
  • Confirmation from the current landlord that you have regularly paid your rent up until now
  • Schufa/Selbstauskunft (credit check/self-disclosure)

Wohnberechtigungsschein (entitlement to residency card)

A Wohnberechtigungsschein (WBS – entitlement to residency card) enables you to move into a subsidised apartment. These apartments are especially low-cost. The Wohnberechtigungsschein (entitlement to residency card) is normally valid for a year and is kept by the landlord after you have move in. All additional required documents, application form, and declarations that you need to submit are available in the service portal of the City of Berlin.

For the Wohnberechtigungsschein (entitlement to residency card), you need to prove that you will live in Berlin long-term. For this reason, you normally need to be able to prove a residency permit of at least one year. Even if you only possess a Duldung (tolerated status), then you can receive a Wohnberechtigungsschein (entitled to residency card), provided that you cannot leave the country in the long term. If in doubt, you should try to receive a certificate indicating this from the department of foreign nationals.

You can check if you can receive a Wohnberechtigungsschein (entitlement to residency card) with Wohnberechtigungsschein questionnaire.
The application for the Wohnberechtigungsschein (entitlement to residency card) must be submitted in writing to the housing department in your neighbourhood. If you don’t yet live in Berlin, you can submit the application at any housing department in Berlin. All of the responsible offices are indicated on the service portal of the City of Berlin.

What is the rent index?

The rent index is an orientation for you that indicates how high the rent in your neighbourhood in Berlin is on average. The rent index calculates comparable living spaces in Berlin that are not bound to prices. With the help of the inquiry service, renters can examine whether a rent increase by a landlord is justified.

What rights do I have as a renter, and who can help me with problems?

If you’ve rented an apartment, then you may live there. You may decorate and furnish the apartment however you wish. In case of conversions, you normally have to ask your landlord for permission beforehand.
Even if you sign the rental agreement alone, your husband or wife and underage children may accompany you in the apartment. For other people, you generally need the approval of the landlord if they plan on living with you permanently.
While you are using your apartment, you are obligated to take your neighbours into consideration. There are usually house regulations including specific rules – e.g. after what time music and other noise need to be reduced to a considerate inside volume.
You are obligated to keep the apartment in a good condition. This includes regular cleaning and ventilation. The rental agreement may also obligate you to renovate the apartment at regular intervals or when you move out, for example by painting the walls or replacing carpets. Serious damages, especially to water, gas, or power lines, and mould or insect infestations should be immediately reported to the landlord, who is responsible for repairs (in some cases, the rental agreement may specify that you are responsible for paying the costs of smaller repairs). Verband Berlin-Brandenburgischer Wohnungsunternehmen e.V. (Berlin-Brandenburg apartment owners’ association) has published an announcement that explains topics like “correct apartment use”, “heating and ventilating”, “garbage disposal”, and “living together with respect”.

If you have problems or questions about your rights as a renter, there is a variety of advice services that are willing to support you, for example Mieterschutzbund Berlin e.V., Berliner Mieterverein e.V. and Berliner MieterGemeinschaft e.V..

Can I get financial support?

The Wohngeld (housing allowance), is used as support if your own income is sufficient to cover your living expenses, but not enough to pay your rent. This is intended to ensure that no one loses their apartment and needs to move to another area, just because they don’t have a high enough income.
The housing allowance may also be applied for by people who come from outside of the EU. It isn’t important whether you have a residency permit, if you are in an asylum process, or if you have exceptional leave for humanitarian reasons.
If you receive basic financial support (SGB II, SGB XII, AsylbLG), then you will not receive the housing allowance, as in this case living expenses are paid to the full amount by the funding agency, as long as you do not possess sufficient income.

You can apply for the housing allowance at the responsible Bürgeramt (citizen’s office) or Wohnungsamt (housing office) in your neighbourhood.

If and how much housing allowance is available to you also depends on the rent that you have to pay and from the number and the income of the people that live together with you. The exact requirements and documents and forms to be submitted are available via the service portal of the City of Berlin.

The Mietzuschuss (rental subsidy) is another possibility for receiving support.

If you live in social housing, receive Arbeitslosengeld II (level 2 unemployment insurance) from the job centre or social assistance / asylum assistance from the social assistance department and the employment centre or the social assistance will not accept the complete rent, then you can apply for a rent subsidy under certain conditions. The requirements for this include:
  • You pay more than 30% of your income for rent (without utility and warm water costs)
  • Your income is below the limit of the Berlin Wohnberechtigungsschein (entitlement to residency); you can check this via the entitlement to residency inquiry.