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Types of accommodation

It’s very important to start your search for suitable accommodation as soon as possible. Finding the right accommodation in a major city can take some time.

Private student hostels

In private student hostels or residences, you usually have your own room and often your own bathroom. Common areas such as kitchens are often shared with other students living on the same corridor. Private hostels are usually furnished and sometimes offer extra amenities such as separate study rooms. Prices start at around €600 per month. Most tenants in student hostels are students, so hostels are a great option if you’re new to Frankfurt and looking to meet people. They’re also the easiest option if you’re moving to Frankfurt from abroad, even if you just plan to stay in the hostel temporarily.

Flat share (Wohngemeinschaft - WG) 

In a flat share, you have your own (bed)room and share the rest of the flat – kitchen, bathroom, lounge and so on – with your co-tenants. Depending on the flat’s size, amenities and location, rental prices for a room in a flat share start at around €400 per month. Rooms in shared flats are usually unfurnished, but you can also find furnished rooms if you’re looking for temporary accommodation (known as “Zwischenmiete”). The number of co-tenants can vary from 1 to 4, depending on the size of the flat. Flat shares are also a great way to meet new people, but you do need to be sure you don’t mind sharing a bathroom and kitchen. It’s probably best to meet your future flatmates for a coffee before moving in, to find out if you get on and whether your lifestyles are compatible.

Renting your own flat

If none of the above options appeal to you, you should probably find a flat of your own, either for yourself or for you and your partner. On average, renting your own flat is more expensive than sharing a flat, with rental prices starting at around €500 a month. This is the best option for people who like having their own private space. But it’s also the most challenging option, as finding a flat in Frankfurt can take a while and the market is quite competitive.

What to look out for

When searching for a flat to rent, be aware that quoted prices are usually just for basic rental (“Kaltmiete” in German). On top of this, you’ll have to pay additional costs such as electricity, heating and water. All these costs added together comprise the flat’s full rental price or “Warmmiete”. Normally, you’ll have to arrange any electricity and Internet services (e.g. via Vodafone) for yourself. Total costs will be based on the options you agree in your contract. Be aware that after the first year, utility costs will often be adjusted according to your actual usage, which could mean you end up paying more at the end of the year or when your contract finishes.

Applying for accommodation

First contact

When searching for accommodation, it’s easier to do it by coming to the city in person. Landlords are more likely to agree to let their accommodation if they’ve met you in person beforehand. But if you’re unable to visit the city, you can always ask them to join you on a Skype call. During the peak period before the start of the academic year, a lot of people are looking for flats or rooms, so you may not get a reply from landlords when you message them because they’re inundated with requests. Landlords usually only answer applicants who match their preferred tenant profile. 

If you’re interested in a flat and have already been to view it, you need to be very quick in getting back to the landlord and providing them with all the documents and information they need, otherwise you’ll probably lose the flat to someone else. Check rental accommodation websites regularly for new ads, and sign up for e-mailed updates. When you first contact a landlord, you should introduce yourself, tell them what you’re doing in Frankfurt, and ideally explain how you’ll pay your rent. Landlords can be picky when renting out to students, because they expect them to be noisy and reluctant to pay their bills. Reassure your landlord that you’re not like that! Landlords will often accept your parents as guarantors or primary tenants if you won’t be paying for the flat yourself.

Viewings

If possible, go to view flats or rooms with someone who speaks good German and can support you. Very probably the landlord will invite you to a group viewing, so you won’t be the only person there. Take the opportunity to ask all your questions during the viewing and if you’re interested in the flat, let the landlord know without being too pushy. If you notice any damage to the flat while you’re looking around, you should ask the landlord politely what they intend to do about it - and as soon as you get the keys for the flat, record any defects in the handover report ("Protokoll"). Otherwise you might find yourself saddled with unnecessary costs when you move out.

Contract

When you’re offered a contract, you should read through it very carefully - especially if it was drawn by the landlord themselves. A rental contract should contain the following details:

  • Monthly basic rent (i. e. the "Kaltmiete", excluding additional charges) 
  • Monthly charges for amenities (such as water, heating, taxes, gas and garbage collection)
  • Tenancy start and end dates (in case of fixed-term rental agreements)
  • Notice period in the case of open-ended rental agreements (statutory notice period: 3 months)
  • Other rights of use (e.g. access to cellar, communal rooms, garden etc.)
  • Agreed redecoration/ refurnishment work when tenant moves out
  • Be aware that once you’ve signed the rental contract, you have no right of withdrawal. It’s best to ask someone local read through the contract first.
  • Landlords have the right to adjust rental costs by certain percentage every year, in line with the rate of inflation ("Staffelmiete")

If you’re going live in private student hostel or residence, the application and contracting process is usually much easier and faster.

Finding accommodation - the A-Z guide

Fraud

Please be aware that fraudulent offers regulary appear on the internet. Signs that an offer is fraudulent include e.g. poor German or English, and very cheap prices for large flats in very popular locations. Often these offers will tell you that the landlord has moved abroad, so is unable to meet you in person. Another obvious sign is asking you to send money before you can view the flat - an invitation you should always ignore. If you’re not sure whether an offer is fraudulent, ask someone for a second opinion.

Application documents

When you apply for a tenancy, you’ll have to provide the landlord with various documents. Usually this includes a completed "Mieterselbstauskunft" form (application form with personal details), your last three wage/salary slips (or proof of your parents’ financial status), proof of university enrolment and/or employment contract and some landlords may also ask for a SCHUFA (credit rating) report.

Deposit

Landlords usually require a security deposit equivalent to three months’ rent before allowing you to move in. This security deposit will be returned to you once you move out, provide you keep your room or flat in good condition.

Registering your address in Germany

Once you’ve found the right accommodation and signed the contract, you must visit the Bürgeramt (Citizens’ Registration Office) within two weeks and register yourself at your new address. This is compulsory in Germany and if you fail to register by the deadline, you’ll have to pay a fine.

Rundfunkbeitrag

The Rundfunkbeitrag is a compulsory tax for public-service broadcasting paid by everyone living in Germany. This tax is separate from your rent and must be paid directly to ARD/ZDF/Deutschlandradio. It currently costs €17.50/month per household, so should be shared between all the co-tenants in a flat share. You will be contacted directly by ARD/ZDF by post once you move in. Students in receipt of a federal German student grant are exempted from paying the Rundfunkbeitrag.

Unfurnished accommodation

Because most accommodation in Germany is unfurnished, you’ll need to buy your own furniture. You can either buy new from shops like IKEA, or you can look for cheap (or even free) second-hand furniture. The best places to find used furniture are flea markets, second-hand furniture shops, in personal or classfied online ads, or on Facebook (Free your stuff groups).

Redecorating clause

When you move out of a flat, it is not unusual for your tenancy contract to require you to repaint it before you can reclaim your deposit. So always check whether the previous tenant repained the walls before they moved out, and make sure you find out what your landlord expects.

Good luck with your search!

German language

Frankfurt School and most cities of Germany are extremely cosmopolitan, so fluent German is by no means a must. However, knowing a bit of German can help with everyday tasks like grocery shopping, ordering drinks or going to the cinema. 

Here are a few words to get you going:

Hello Hallo
Goodbye Ciao / Tschüss
Thank you Dankeschön
Thanks Danke
Please Bitte
You’re welcome Bitteschön
What is your name? (formal) Wie heißen Sie? 
What is your name? (informal) Wie heißt Du? 
My name is… Ich heiße…
I would like… Ich möchte…
I need… Ich brauche… 
I am looking for… Ich suche… 
Do you know where… is? (formal) Wissen Sie wo…. ist?
Do you know where…is? (informal) Weißt Du wo… ist?