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German Federal Registration Act: Register and re-register correctly

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When do tenants in Germany have to re-register after moving, what can happen if they miss the deadline? And what actually is a home owner certificate? These things are regulated in the Federal Registration Act.

Registration is mandatory in Germany. Anyone moving within the country must inform the local registration office of their new place of residence. The address is saved and noted on the identity card. Until November 1, 2015, this was regulated by the reporting laws of the federal states. Since then, a new reporting law has been in effect that standardizes the reporting system. If you move, you must therefore obtain a confirmation from your landlord and submit it to the office in order to re-register. This is to prevent bogus registrations, and also the forms of crime that are often associated with them. The Federal Registration Act still raises many questions.

The Federal Registration Act – the most important points in brief

  • In Germany there is an obligation to register : everyone who moves must notify the responsible residents’ registration office of their new address within two weeks of the move 
  • In addition, anyone who re-registers their place of residence must submit a written certificate from the landlord to the registration authority
  • The landlord is not necessarily always the landlord. In shared flats, the main tenant takes on this role; if someone moves in with their parents, they become the home owner. If you move into a condominium, you have to issue the certificate yourself
  • The obligation to register also applies to second homes
  • If you do not change your registration in time, you risk a fine of up to 1,000 euros 
Federal Registration Act

The Federal Registration Act in detail

The Federal Registration Act regulates the registration system for Germany and came into force on November 1st, 2015. Before that, it was state law, which means that each federal state had its own law, which made the cross-border exchange of registration data difficult. That has changed thanks to standardization. 

For example, security and law enforcement authorities across Germany can now access the data required for the investigation. In addition to administrative authorities, private persons and companies are also allowed to access registration data, but advertisers or address traders, for example, are only allowed to do so with the consent of the person concerned.

An overview of the Registration Act:

  • Section 1 of the Federal Registration Act regulates which tasks and powers the registration authorities have and which data may be stored about them.
  • Section 2 contains the property rights of the citizens affected by the law. This also includes the right to information from the register of residents about the data stored, how they may be stored, corrected and deleted.
  • Section 3 of the Federal Registration Act contains the general reporting requirements, i.e. when and how registration or deregistration must be carried out at the registration office.
  • Sections 4 and 5 concern the special reporting obligations of, among other things, accommodation facilities and seafarers as well as the type of data transmission between registration offices and other authorities and the conditions under which private individuals and companies may receive information from the registry.
  • Sections 6 and 7 of the Act mainly contain the provisions on fines for violations of the reporting obligation or of protective regulations.

There are also other regulations that regulate the details of how data is handled, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR for short).


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The home owner confirmation

When tenants register at a new address, according to the Registration Act, they must submit the confirmation of the accommodation provider within two weeks. It is issued by the home owner, i.e. usually the landlord. For those who sublet, the main tenant is the owner of the apartment.

In the certificate, the owner of the apartment confirms that the tenant actually lives in the apartment. According to Section 19 of the Federal Registration Act, the confirmation of the accommodation provider must contain the following information:

  • Name and address of the landlord
  • Move-in date
  • address of the apartment
  • Names of the new residents
  • Information as to whether it is moving in or moving out
Federal Registration Act

Important: Obligation to provide information between the landlord and the registration office

The Federal Registration Act provides landlords with a so-called obligation to cooperate with the registration authority. This means that not only tenants are obliged to report, but also landlords are obliged to issue a landlord’s certificate for their tenants. If you do not do this, you risk a fine of up to 1,000 euros (Section 54 (3) BMG).

Conversely, the landlord can also ask the registration office whether the new tenant has registered or de-registered.

Fulfill the obligation to register: Re-register after moving

After moving, tenants have two weeks to register with the responsible residents’ registration office. When registering, you should have your identity card or passport with you, as well as the confirmation of the accommodation provider. Even those who only move into a second home must register this with the competent registration authority within two weeks.

Tenants usually do not have to deregister at their old place of residence , because the registration office at the new place of residence automatically requests the registration data of the previous registration office at the old place of residence during registration. This data comparison is possible using the ‘pre-filled registration form’, which has been mandatory in all federal states since 2018.

Exceptions to the reporting requirement

According to the Federal Registration Act, registration is not necessary if someone is already registered with a registration authority and is moving into another apartment for a period of less than six months. After the six months, however, registration becomes mandatory within two weeks.

Consequences of violating the Federal Registration Act

In the event of a violation of the Registration Act, there is a risk of a fine if the regulations are not complied with. Anyone who does not report to the registration office within two weeks or who, as a landlord, refuses to issue a landlord’s certificate, risks a fine of up to 1,000 euros . Whether a fine is imposed or, if so, how much, depends on the goodwill of the local authorities. Those who offer someone a residential address without actually moving in or wanting to move in there are even more severe penalties: they can expect a fine of up to 50,000 euros. This is to prevent bogus registrations.

Registration law and re-registration when moving abroad

The Federal Registration Act does not only play a role if someone changes residence within Germany. It also contains regulations that relate to moving abroad.

The general rule is: Anyone who moves out of an apartment and does not move into a new apartment in Germany must deregister at the registration office within two weeks . According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, moving out is understood to mean “finally leaving the apartment”. In practice this means: If the tenant wants to return to his apartment, there is usually no move-out. However, if he has taken his furniture with him or is absent for more than a year, this is usually considered a move out. Even if the lease remains in place as normal.

Registration information: stored data and data protection

When the transmission of data is permitted and who receives information from the register of residents is regulated in several paragraphs of the Federal Registration Act. The exact information that is disclosed depends above all on the questioner or his intentions.

Simple registration information: for everyone

Anyone looking for a person can apply to the registration authority in whose area the person lived for simple information from the register (Section 44 BMG). Provided that he can provide enough specific information and declares that he will not use the information for advertising purposes or for address trading. If several people are listed in the population register among the information provided – for example with the same first and last name – no information is possible.
The simple information from the register usually contains:

  • First name and surname
  • Doctoral degree, if any
  • current address
  • if the person is deceased, that same information

What it doesn’t contain:

  • Birth names and previous names
  • birth date

INFO

Information is only given about current names and current address. So if a person has moved from the area of ​​the surveyed registration authority, they can provide information about the departure address. However, if the person sought has moved on again, the person searching must again ask the new registration authority for the address of the departure.

Federal Registration Act

Extended registration information: if there is a legitimate interest

Anyone who can prove that they have a legitimate interest can obtain additional information from the residents ‘register – as part of the extended information from the residents’ register (Section 45 BMG). A ‘legitimate interest’ is any legal, economic or non-material interest that is to be recognized as worthy of protection.

The extended registration information also contains the following data:

  • previous names
  • Date and place of birth; if born abroad, also the state
  • Marital status (married or in a civil partnership or not)
  • current nationalities
  • previous adresses
  • Move-in date and move-out date
  • Legal representative: family name, first name and address
  • Spouse or life partner: family name, first name and address
  • Date and place of death; in the event of death abroad, also the state

If someone asks for extended information from the register, the relevant registration authority will immediately inform the person concerned. As a rule, the person concerned also learns to whom the data has been passed on. However, the latter can also be omitted if the data recipient can credibly demonstrate a legal interest that prevails.

Right to object to the disclosure of data from the population register

A data subject can object to any of the data transfers mentioned in the previous section in accordance with the BMG (Section 50 (5) BMG). He does not have to give any reasons for such a transmission block and data is then usually not transmitted. However, there may be exceptions if, for example, a religious community under public law requests data for the purposes of tax collection law. The transmission block applies without a time limit. Anyone who has more than one apartment must object to the data being transmitted to all municipalities.

There are also cases in which a person can apply for a ban on information or this is officially entered in the register: For example, if information from the register poses a threat to the life or personal freedom of the person (Section 51 BMG). The person concerned must be able to make this credible to the registration authority. The information block is limited to a period of two years and can be extended upon request.

In addition, the registration authority can set up a conditional blocking note for the address of people who are housed in certain sensitive facilities – these include prisons, reception facilities for asylum seekers, hospitals or nursing homes. In the case of a blocking note, information from the register of residents may only be issued if it can be ruled out that this would impair an interest worthy of protection. (§ 52 BMG)

Federal Registration Act: If in doubt, speak to the office

As with all legal questions, the following also applies to the Federal Registration Act: There can always be individual special cases that are not explicitly taken into account in the legal text. Anyone who does not know when and whether to register or deregister in such a special case should always contact the responsible office in case of doubt. In many cities there are also citizen phones that can answer individual questions quickly and unbureaucratically.

FAQ Federal Registration Act

What do you need to register at the registration office?

As a rule, you will need:
• ID card or passport
• Housing confirmation

Is there a form that tenants can give their landlords?

Yes. 
The legal text of the BMG itself contains such a form.

Is a confirmation of the accommodation provider also required when moving out?

Usually not. An older regulation of the Federal Registration Act stipulated that the landlord had to certify the tenant both moving in and moving out and the tenant had to present both certificates to the responsible residents’ registration office. Since November 1, 2016, the landlord’s certificate when moving out has been history, as the legislature has determined that there is no risk of a sham registration. The tenant therefore usually only has to present the landlord’s certificate to the office to move in.

Is the landlord obliged to provide information to the registration authority?

Yes. Because according to the Federal Registration Act there is an obligation for the landlord to cooperate. This means that landlords are obliged to issue their tenants with a landlord’s certificate. Anyone who disregards this obligation faces a fine of up to 1,000 euros (Section 54 (3) BMG).

Who is obligated to register in Germany?

The obligation to register applies to every person who is 16 years of age or older when they move to Germany or move within Germany. They must register with their respective municipality of residence. Anyone under the age of 16 must be registered by their parents.

Someone just moved in with friends temporarily. Does he have to register there?

The Federal Registration Act defines some exceptions to the registration requirement. Registration is therefore not necessary if someone is already registered with a registration authority and moves into another apartment for a period of six months or less. However, after the end of this half year, registration becomes mandatory there, within the usual period of two weeks.

Re-registering without a lease – is that possible?

Yes, tenants can register their new residence without having to present a rental agreement. For this purpose, the registration authority is sufficient to present the landlord’s confirmation of the landlord.

How soon after moving do tenants have to re-register?

Tenants have two weeks to register with the relevant registration office after they have moved. You should bring your ID card and landlord’s certificate with you to register.

What happens if someone doesn’t re-register?

According to the Federal Registration Act, there can be a fine of up to 1,000 euros if someone does not register their place of residence within two weeks of moving. Whether he really has to pay such a fine and how high it is depends on the local authority.

According to the Federal Registration Act, what happens when you move out or move abroad?

If you move out without moving into a new apartment within Germany, you usually have to de-register with your local residents’ registration office within two weeks.
Exceptions are usually cases in which the tenant wants to return to his apartment and also leaves his furniture there. If this is not the case, or if the tenant has not been at his place of residence for more than a year, this counts as moving out – and the tenant has to deregister.

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