German lease agreements must be concluded in writing. In most cases, the lease specifies the rent amount exclusive of heating. There is usually an additional charge for ancillary costs, which is paid to the landlord each month along with the base rent. What is considered an ancillary cost may vary from one lease to another. Electricity, gas and water are often included, but not always. Before signing a lease, it is therefore important to ask the landlord what the ancillary costs include and what other charges you may incur.
A successful move-in
Registering with the power and water utilities. If your landlord does not take care of electricity, water or gas, you will have to make your own arrangements with a provider. Your landlord will probably be able to give you contact information for your regional provider.
Arranging for telephone, Internet and (cable) television service. Germany has a variety of telecommunications service providers. It pays to compare them, and online portals can be helpful. Many providers offer discounted packages that include both telephone and Internet service. There are also options tailored to mobile use, for example using UMTS technology (3G). A tip: Since it may take several weeks for your telephone and Internet to be connected, it is a good idea to contact a provider before you move in, if possible.
Fees for television and radio. In Germany, fees are charged for radio, television and Internet use. If you use these media, you are required to register with the German licensing office, called Gebühreneinzugszentrale or GEZ. This can be done either online or using the registration forms that are available at most post offices and banks.
Put your name on your mailbox and doorbell (if your landlord has not already done so). Your mail will not be delivered unless your name is on your mailbox. There is no need to register with the post office.
Change of address order. Don't forget to have your mail forwarded from your home country to your new home. And if you go away for an extended period, you can ask the German post office to forward your mail, even abroad.
Registering with the local authorities
Anyone who lives in Germany is required to register with the local authorities. You should do this no later than two weeks after moving in. To do so, you need a valid identity document. If you are renting, you must submit a completed certificate of the landlord (Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung). Generally you can find the form and the address of the responsible registry office on the website of your new city.
Marie-Ange from France
"Shortly after moving here, I went to register my address at the Citizens’ Registration Office in Berlin. I tried to get an appointment with them but the assistant told me there was no free slot for the next three weeks. That posed a problem for me, because you have to register within two weeks. My tip: enquire in plenty of time – on the city's Web site, for example – and make an appointment in advance. Without a registration certificate, you might have problems, e.g. in opening a bank account. I’ve often heard that it’s easier to get an appointment in other towns."