Initial Reception Centres (Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung)

After your arrival in Hamburg, you receive a proof of arrival (Ankunftsnachweis) or a notice of place to go (Anlaufbescheinigung) and a place in the central initial reception centre (ZEA, Zentrale Erstaufnahme) at either Bargkoppelweg 66a or Bargkoppelstieg 10-14.

Here you are registered, undergo a medical examination and apply for asylum. You will find out quickly whether you are to stay in Hamburg or be transferred to another German state.

If your asylum procedures take place in Hamburg, you will usually be taken to another initial reception centre (Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung) after a few days.

During the initial reception process, you live with other refugees and always receive non-cash benefits (meals, clothing, etc.) and medical care. You can find more information here: https://we-inform.de/portal/en/financial-support/.

Due to the corona pandemic, you will spend a few days in quarantine in a different accommodation. You will receive the proof of arrival (Ankunftsnachweis) or notice of place to go (Anlaufbescheinigung) afterwards. You can find more information here: https://we-inform.de/portal/en/asylum/.

When you are applying for asylum, you must first live in an initial reception centre (Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung), usually for a maximum of 18 months.

Public Secondary Accommodations

After your stay in the initial reception centre (Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung), you will move to a secondary accommodation (Folgeunterkunft). This will probably happen after you received a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis: a positive decision regarding your asylum application) or after up to 18 months.

You will continue living with other refugees in a secondary accommodation (Folgeunterkunft). Hamburg residents who have lost their apartment live in public accommodations as well.

There are residential containers, modular houses, pavilions and permanent dwellings.

Families (and couples) stay together if possible.

There are also accommodations that are structured like proper apartments: six people live in three rooms with a refrigerator, cooker, shower and toilet. Those travelling

alone share rooms as they would do in a shared apartment.

A secondary accommodation (Folgeunterkunft) offers a little more privacy than the initial reception centre (Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung) and there is counselling available onsite. You can also get in touch with your neighbours and volunteers.

During the stay in the secondary accommodation (Folgeunterkunft), you shop for yourself and take care of your household. Children and adolescents go to day care or school while adults take German and integration courses.

You can find more information on the topics “Learning German” (https://we-inform.de/portal/en/learning-german/) and “Work and education” (https://we-inform.de/portal/en/work-and-education/) on our website.

The Sozialmanagement (social management) in your accommodation help you find the correct office and contact person. Volunteers and neighbours often are happy to come with you to the offices and help you out.

Please contact the Sozialmanagement in the event of a problem in your accommodation.

Moving into your own apartment

When am I allowed to move into a private accommodation?

You have unrestricted access to the housing market like all Germans if you have received a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis). You do not have to stay in a secondary accommodation (Folgeunterkunft) if you find a suitable apartment. Finding an apartment in Hamburg can be difficult in Hamburg.

If you are still living in an initial reception centre (Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung), it is only possible to move into a private apartment in special cases (for example for health reasons). You have to apply to the Leistungsrecht (department responsible for granting you benefits). You can apply in the Ankunftszentrum (arrival centre; Bargkoppelweg 66a) or via the Sozialmanagement in your accommodation. You need a doctor’s certificate and suitable accommodation.

If you live in a secondary accommodation (Folgeunterkunft) and do not have a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis), you are usually allowed to move into your own apartment after 18 months in Germany. An earlier move is only possible in special cases. Such cases are health reasons, a job or an apprenticeship (Ausbildung). You have to apply to the competent Grundsicherungsamt (Fachamt für Grundsicherung und Soziales, Office for needs-based pension supplement in old age and in the event of reduced earning capacity and for social affairs).

The ÖRA (“Öffentliche Rechtsauskunft”, “public legal advice”) can give you advice: Dammtorstraße 14, you need to make an appointment: +49 40 428433072 (Monday to Friday: 8 am – 2 pm), www.hamburg.de/oera/.

Where can I look for my own apartment?

Even after the approval of a residence status, you must maintain your residence in the state responsible for your asylum procedures (for example in Hamburg) for three years. The residency requirement (Wohnsitzauflage) may be waived under special circumstances. This may be the case if you or a family member gets a job, starts an apprenticeship (Ausbildung) or attends university.

If you want the residency requirement (Wohnsitzauflage) to be waived, you have to apply to the Amt für Migration (Office for Migration, Hammer Str. 30-34, Referat M 32) or your competent Ausländerbehörde (foreign nationals authority): https://www.hamburg.de/behoerdenfinder/hamburg/11253817/, type your address (search term: „Ausländerangelegenheiten, Bezirke“).

The ÖRA can give you advice about this as well.

How do I pay for my own apartment?

If you earn enough money – that is, when have your own income – you are responsible for paying the rent for an apartment or room.

If you do not have an income, you can apply for social benefits for your livelihood and rent at the Jobcenter (Jobcenter team.arbeit.hamburg, job centre) or at the Grundsicherungsamt. To qualify for this, the apartment cannot be too large or too expensive. After your approval, you must comply with existing limits for rental prices. You can find these here: https://www.hamburg.de/leistungen-hilfen/1016372/kosten-der-unterkunft/.

Sometimes the rent will be paid for refugees with a permission to remain while the asylum decision is pending (Aufenthaltsgestattung) or a suspension of deportation (Duldung). There are specific regulations for this. The person responsible for you at the Jobcenter or Grundsicherungsamt (your case worker (Sachbearbeiter) will explain everything to you).

If your application is rejected, it is best to request a written justification.

Here you can find the Jobcenter that is responsible for you: (www.hamburg.de/behoerdenfinder/, type in your address (search term: “Arbeitslosengeld II, für Personen über 25 Jahre”, https://www.hamburg.de/behoerdenfinder/hamburg/11253252/]))

Here you can find the Grundsicherungsamt that is responsible for you:

https://www.hamburg.de/behoerdenfinder/hamburg/11253346/, type your address and then your last name (Search term: “Sozialhilfe, Leistungen für Asylbewerber” or “Sozialhilfe, Grundsicherung im Alter und bei dauerhafter Erwerbsminderung”).

Finding a Place to Live

Your first point of contact for finding an apartment is the Sozialmanagement in the accommodation. They will help with contact addresses, tips and guides and have a great network of volunteers who can guide you through the required steps on request.

Generally, the first step is to go to the Fachstellen für Wohnungsnotfälle (Office of Emergency Accommodation). Among other things, this office provides homeless people with publicly sponsored accommodation in private housing. In a personal consultation, the office will develop an assistance plan with you and offer support in the search for housing, which includes the provision of an acknowledgement of urgency (Dringlichkeitsbestätigung) at no cost. This guarantees you an advantage when looking for a place to live.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to find an apartment in Hamburg. There are few empty apartments and at the same time many people who would like to move in.

Private Accommodation

Of course, you can look for an apartment on your own as well. To do so, you can use either online portals for finding accommodation or the mediation services of Hamburg institutions.

When using the online portals, you contact the landlords directly. A short request is sufficient for the first contact. Here is an example:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am interested in the flat. When is it possible to see the place? I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

First Name Last Name

Before the visit, request a list of documents that you need to bring. When looking for a flat on your own, be sure to comply with the rental price limits. When you and the landlord are in agreement, ask them for a confirmation. Take this to the job centre, where they will ensure that the conditions are met, and provide you with a separate confirmation for the landlord. This lets you and the landlord conclude a tenancy agreement and your landlord can hand over the keys.

You can find an overview and check lists here: https://die-insel-hilft.de/wp-content/uploads/1707-27_Infomappe_englisch_ML-V2.pdf.

Online Portals and Hamburg Mediation Services

Hamburg mediation services:

Wohnbrücke Hamburg: http://www.wohnbrücke.de 

Zusammenleben Willkommen: http://www.fluechtlinge-willkommen.de

Online portals:

Immonet: https://www.immonet.de/

Immowelt: https://immowelt.de/

wg-gesucht: https://www.wg-gesucht.de/

Additional information: ”Ankommen” app: http://ankommenapp.de/APP/DE/Startseite/startseite-node.html.

The Dialogforum Wohnen: https://www.hamburg.de/dialogforen/7686866/dialogforum-wohnen/.

You can find a list of what to keep in mind when looking for an apartment here: https://www.verbraucherzentrale.de/sites/default/files/migration_files/media248957A.pdf

Everything to know about rent in Germany
  1. What is rent?

If you occupy an apartment for a limited period of time, you are the tenant of that residence. The person with whom you entered into the tenancy agreement is the landlord. You can rent a room in a shared apartment as well.

Renting an apartment means that you have a right to use the residence for the duration of the agreement. The room or apartment does not belong to you, however. Before moving in, you should therefore learn about the house rules and any responsibilities you may have as tenant. This could include a heating requirement. You usually have to speak to your landlord before converting or renovating the apartment.

In return, however, you also have rights as a tenant. For the duration of the rent, the landlord may for example only enter the apartment with your permission, except in special cases. Additionally, the landlord has to ensure that you can live in the apartment. Therefore, they have to solve some problems that may occur in the apartment.

  1. What should I pay attention to?

When you enter into a tenancy agreement, you should check whether or not it is temporary, i.e. specifies a fixed date for the end of the tenancy. In addition, you should check the apartment for any existing defects and document them together with your landlord, so that you cannot be held responsible for these later.

If you want to end the rental of the apartment, you must submit a notice in writing to your landlord.

You pay money to your landlord in exchange for being allowed to use the apartment. This amount is called rent.

Before you move in, you may have to pay an additional sum to your landlord that they will return to you after the rental period (Deposit (Kaution)). The landlord is allowed to keep part of the money if you damage the apartment. If you receive money from the Jobcenter or Grundsicherungsamt you can apply for them to pay the deposit for you.

In addition to rent, you will likely have to pay for power and an internet connection and pay a licence fee (Rundfunkbeitrag). The Rundfunkbeitrag (Rundfunkbeitrag) finances a number of radio and television programmes.

The licence fee (Rundfunkbeitrag) amounts to 17.50 € per month for each apartment. It may be possible to get an exemption from the fee: for example if you receive social security benefits such as the employment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II) from the Jobcenter or the Grundsicherungsamt.

You can register and apply for an exemption here: https://www.rundfunkbeitrag.de/.

You can find more information here: https://www.rundfunkbeitrag.de/welcome/englisch/index_ger.html#exemption_and_reduction.

  1. Important terms

Rent (Miete):

  • the contractually regulated use of a place of residence for a period of time.
  • rent also refers to the money that the tenant pays to the landlord for this use.

Tenant (Mieter): the individual who has the right to use the place of residence, as specified by the contract. The tenant may live in the residence for the duration of the rental period but does not own the residence. A tenant may be any person of any gender.

Landlord (Vermieter): generally, the owner of the property. You enter into the tenancy agreement with the landlord and they let you reside in the apartment. The landlord is also your point of contact in the event that there are problems or defects in the apartment. A tenant may be any person of any gender.

Contract (Vertrag): the tenancy agreement is a contract that authorises you to use the apartment. The contract represents the agreement that you, as tenant, pay rent and the landlord makes the apartment available to you.

Fixed-term agreement (Befristeter Vertrag): a tenancy with a fixed end date that is specified in the contract.

Termination (Kündigung): if you do not have a fixed-term agreement but want to move out, you must terminate the rental contract in writing. You have to give or send this notification to your landlord. Usually, the contract ends three months after the end of the month during which you terminated the contract.

Deposit (Kaution): An additional sum that you have to pay to your landlord. You receive the whole sum back after the rental period if you have not damaged the apartment.

Last updated: 12.01.2022

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