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The Temporary Rental Blog from Berlin

Subletting an Apartment in Berlin - the complete Guide

Christine Kandler Von Christine Kandler
Private flat in Berlin Schoeneberg

We often see private apartments offered as sublets, that is, apartments that will be rented out for a specific period of time because the owner or primary tenant will be away temporarily for some time — this can be years, or just a few months. Whether you are an owner or tenant, watch out: f you want to sublet your own apartment for a considerable legnth of time, you should advertize it at an early stage. Despite the general housing shortage in Berlin, it is not always easy to find a sub-tenant. And agencies are not always the right people to talk to.

Which apartments sublet and let easily?

Most apartments offered on a temporary basis are apartments that have been furnished for temporary rental. Please note that this means temporary rental, and not vacation accommodation. These apartments are rented to people who come to Berlin to work or to further their education (e.g. through a language course.) This is very important, because renting to tourists is (mostly) illegal.

These apartments are available without any time limit. This does not mean, however, that tenants can rent for an unlimited time. But with these apartments, it is possible to conclude a lease for a certain period of time and perhaps extend it later, often even several times. The temporary tenant therefore should be flexible. Projects often take longer than expected, or you may not find your own unfurnished apartment in Berlin all that quickly.

Previously, about 6 years ago, it was reasonably easy to find a tenant for a private apartment which would only be rented for a certain period of time. Since then, however, the market has changed. Nowadays, one finds almost only “temporary rented apartments.” And since the prohibition on vacation apartments, there has even been an oversupply of temporary-rented apartments, since many apartments now offered for temporary renting were offered as vacation accommodation in the past. So oversupply should again be considered in context. There are many offers, but quality is still in high demand and good apartments at a reasonable price still rent out very well.

Apartments that are easily rented are:

  • equipped and furnished in such a way that a particular target group will be interested.
  • modern, tastefully and stylishly furnished — no mix of old and new furniture.
  • or, as in the example above, a style that is not necessarily considered modern should be uniformly revised. There is also a demand for high-quality accessories, as shown here. Less, however, than for modernly furnished apartments, which appeal to a younger audience.

Disadvantages for tenants renting a sublet

Limited-time availability

From a prospective tenant’s viewpoint, the time-limited availability is a disadvantage. Tenants want to be flexible. For this reason, they often rent for a shorter period of time, e.g. for 2 or 3 months, but with an extension option. If an apartment is only available for 4 months, most tenants will not be interested, since no tenant wants to move more often than necessary.

For example, if you go away for exactly one year and are looking for a sub-tenant over exactly this period, it can also be difficult to find someone who is looking to rent for a year as from exactly the month in which your apartment becomes available, and then also wants to rent specifically your apartment. If they want to rent your apartment one month later for one year, your apartment will not be available, because it is only available for 11 months. Therefore, it is always better if the landlord is flexible and offers the apartment for shorter letting periods as well. This implies that more effort will be needed. The handover, final cleaning, etc., need to be organized, and you will need someone who will take good care of your apartment.

Sublets lack “neutral” furnishing

Typically, apartments furnished for temporary rental look more like hotel accommodations: modern, furnished in a uniform style, clean, elegant, without personal items (e.g. books, CD collections, plants etc.) Nothing against books and CDs, but these do not necessarily add value for the tenants during temporary renting. Rather, they make the tenant feel more like a guest living in another person’s world. Not everyone likes that. Especially if there are enough other alternatives.

Extra “processing” work

Suppose a landlord offers a private apartment for subletting for 4 months, from December 1st to March 31st. Many people spend the winter months in regions with a warmer climate.

The problem is as follows:

  1. December is the worst month. There is still some demand, but significantly less than during the rest of the year. Almost nobody starts a job in Berlin in December, because before the middle of the month, everything and everybody is already in the Christmas and end-of-the-year mode. For this reason it would be more realistic to find a tenant from the beginning of January.
    If, however, the landlord has already left at this time, someone in the vicinity has to take care of the apartment and do some checking in. Then questions will follow, and possibly the landlord is also still in a place without reliable internet connection. In doing so, the person responsible for the apartment must be able to reach the apartment during the entire rental period. For example, if there is water damage (not that the tenant should be to blame), the landlord has to act quickly.
  2. There usually is more to discuss than for a “neutral” apartment — bed linen, towels, etc. Does the tenant bring their own, do they use the landlord’s (then everything must be new and unused), or must everything be bought new? Which items have to be removed, bought or supplemented? Often, the mailbox must also be emptied or plants watered.
    In addition, the landlord rents their own home and has a more emotional connection to it than to an apartment which serves only as an investment object.
    All of this makes the processing work more time-consuming.

Opportunities: sub-renting a private apartment

Of course, how easy a sublet apartment can be rented depends on the apartment. In most cases, only the following private housing can be sublet as temporary housing:
– family apartments with several bedrooms in a good location, especially centrally in the city
– preferably in summer months (then also for a shorter period)
– high-quality, rather designer-oriented furnishing
– apartments without private linen, towels, etc.

Lower rental price

The disadvantages from the tenant’s point of view have already been mentioned. For these reasons, for most private apartments, it does not necessarily make sense to include a profit on or to add a surcharge for the furniture. The goal should be to cover your own costs. With a short sublet of only a few months, this is sometimes not possible. Here you should decide whether you want to rent out and to minimize your own costs and possibly not offer your apartment for sub-letting for a few months. During the winter months, it is always more difficult — the chances of renting your apartment are much higher in the summer. We get many requests in January or February for apartments in June or July, usually just for a rental period of a few months, from professors, language students, etc.

Other platforms

If a temporary renting agency tells you that it cannot not find a sub-tenant for your apartment, we recommend you try platforms. For example, home exchange websites, student platforms, etc. These sites have a different target group than agencies.

Offering rented accommodation

In case of a very long absence, do not rent as a temporary apartment but as a rented apartment. Perhaps empty. And find the right tenant for it. Less effort, regular rent. You can specify true reasons for limitations.

Renting for shorter periods

You can also try to rent out the apartment for shorter periods of time and plan for frequent tenant changes. This may be difficult, however, if you are a tenant and you need the landlord’s approval for subletting. Often the landlord does not want a change of tenants during the absence of the main tenant.

If you are renting to several tenants, however, you need someone who will take competent and reliable care of the apartment, do the handing- and taking-over, and will be the contact person if something does not work (and will fix it.) Professional administrative agencies usually do not work with private apartments, or only in exceptional cases (if the apartment is to be rented for several years, the accessories and furniture are such that the apartment can be easily rented, the location is good, etc.)

Conclusion

There are more than enough temporary rental apartments offered in Berlin. There are good opportunities for private apartments that are suitable for families and are well equipped, if the price is right. Of course, the information given here is very general, intended to explain the peculiarities and possible difficulties with renting a private apartment.

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