We are finally out of our house. We have been sleeping at a hotel for the past week while the movers and packers were packing our things. Overall the movers seemed to do a good job and my husband and I worked our tails off cleaning the house to leave it in a much better condition than when we moved there 3.5 years ago.
I know some Americans have had good experiences with German landlords but we have heard of some horrible stories as well. Sadly, we were unlucky and got a bad landlord who was very cheap and was very slow to repair broken things in our house. I don't want to speak badly for all Germans because we have some wonderful German friends and I know if they were landlords they would not be like this. But here's a warning to other expats as they move into a German house.
1. Document everything! Every dent, every crack, everything. We're staying at a hotel right now and the owner said we should have spent a day going over every inch to document. Many Americans stay at his hotel and he hears all the horrible stories too.
2. Talk to previous owners before renting. This is not always possible. Or you find out things after you're already living there. We found out after we signed our lease and were living there that the previous tenants had a lawsuit against our landlord, that was a huge red flag that we wish we knew about beforehand.
3. Take pictures. While you document damage, even what you would think is normal wear and tear, take a picture of it as well as write it down.
4. Stand up for yourself and fight for what's right. If you feel taken advantage of, go to someone higher up for help. Someone in the company you're working for or other people who can help.
5. Ask for your deposit back in cash. We got most of our deposit back in cash, thankfully. But our landlord is wanting to keep over 1000 Euros. He wants 300 Euros to re-grout the shower, which I found out should be done every 3 years anyway, and 700 Euros for a new but old shell shaped sink that matches the other one for a small hairline crack that was there when we moved in. We found a nice Villeroy and Back sink for 75 Euros that is much nicer than the old one. We are going to offer to pay for two and installation in hopes of getting at least 450 Euros back (almost $600). At least by getting your deposit back in cash, you don't have to worry about them holding it for up to 6 months.
Overall I'm glad we lived where we did in Germany because of the location and more importantly our wonderful neighbors. Some of our closest friends in Germany were our next door neighbors both Germans, Americans, and a Slovakian. However, being cheated out of quite a bit of money at the end of our 3.5 year stay has been disappointing. Which is why I hope to help future expats when they move to Germany or anywhere else and rent from someone. Hopefully they will have a better experience than we did.