This article is going to be a short one but it pertains to a very important aspect of renting a home here in Germany. Just like renting a house in the states, you must provide a security deposit. This fee can range from one to three months cold rent. For some rentals, that can be a very large sum of money. Luckily, the Government will give you these funds for the duration of your tour.
Once you have found your house and agreed on a contract you will go to your local housing office to finish your paperwork. During this time they will file the necessary forms to receive your first months rent and security deposit. Because the military pays back, you get that first months rent as a one time advance. The funds for the security deposit will also be transferred to your account. These funds must be returned upon your PCS stateside. You can elect to return the funds all at once to your local finance office or the military will take it back from your paycheck over twelve months. It is important to note that this automatic deduction from your paycheck will start upon your first DEROS date. That is the date that you were originally supposed to PCS back. If you are like some families, and extend your tour, they will begin deducting your security deposit on that date. I am sure you can file some extra forms to extend this date as well should you wish it.
After receiving your security deposit you have a few choices. What you choose can be a very large headache for you at PCS time. You can be sure to hear horror stories from other families about terrible landlords that tried to keep all of the security deposit. Unfortunately, this often happens because those families simply gave the landlord the entire deposit in cash and hoped for the best. I also gave my first landlord the deposit when I moved in. Luckily there were no issues and I received the entire amount plus interest back. However, if you carefully read your rental contract you will see a few options. Simply giving your landlord the deposit should not be one of them.
You will have to study your contract for the area you live in but most housing offices use the same one. In that contract it states a few options. You can place the funds in a joint account with your landlord or you can place the funds in a special account under your name only but the landlord has to agree to any withdrawal. Both of these options require a trip to the local German bank of your choice. A third option that is normally not written is simply keeping the funds in your own account. This may seem like blasphemy to some but it has worked wonders for me. After my first rental I simply showed my next landlord that I had the funds set aside and told him they would remain in my account. This option obviously takes some strong negotiation but it does work. Since that contract I have always kept my own security deposit.
Keeping the funds in your own account lets you stay in control. If you really do break something, you can step forward and pay to fix it. So many families come here and hand over a huge amount of cash only to have their feet held to the fire when PCS time comes. No matter what option you choose to take, you should never simply give them your deposit. This probably happens because people don’t want to take the time to go down to the bank but I assure you that the time and effort is worth it.
Have you used another option? What about one of the options above? Do you have a horror story to share about rent and security deposits? Leave us a comment below and help others avoid trouble.