What happens when you change address in Germany as a freelancer?
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There are a few steps you need to take when moving house in Germany. While everyone has to register their new address and make sure their utilities and other services are informed of the move, freelancers might also have to think of changing their business address. We’ve compiled everything you need to know in this handy overview, so that you know you’ve got it all covered and can get back to enjoying your new abode.
Changing your address in Germany
When you move to a new address within Germany, you have to register the move at the local citizens’ office (Bürgeramt) within two weeks. If you don’t register, or if you wait too long to do so, you could be hit with a fine. Being incorrectly registered can also affect things like insurance and taxes, so it’s in your best interest to stay on top of this bureaucratic step.
If your new home is in the same municipality as your previous one, the process of changing your address is called “Ummeldung”. If you’re moving to an entirely different city or municipality, it’s considered an “Anmeldung”. Your new local citizens’ office will inform your old one of your address change.
How to register your new address
Changing your address (Anmeldung or Ummeldung) is a simple process, although it can be difficult to secure an appointment. Depending on the city or town you’re in, you may be able to book an appointment through an online portal (be prepared to refresh the booking page until you find an opening). However, in some cities the only option is to turn up in person and take your place in the queue.
Once you’ve secured an appointment, you need to prepare the following documents to bring with you:
- Your passport (including your residence permit or visa if applicable)
- Proof of residence certificate (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung), signed by your landlord or, if you own the property, you can sign it yourself
- If you have children, their passports will also be required
- If you’re married, you’ll need to bring your spouse’s passport and marriage certificate too
Informing your landlord and other authorities
Giving notice to your previous landlord
In most cases, landlords require written notice that you’ll be ending your lease or sublet, even if you’ve had a verbal conversation about it. The legal rental notice period (Kündigungsfrist) is three calendar months. Even if you’re subletting, your notice period can often be two calendar months. What’s considered to be standard or normal can differ vastly between countries and cultures, so make sure you’re aware of how much notice you’re obliged to give to your current landlord (preferably before you start looking!).
You’ll likely need to arrange a “handover” date with your old landlord, where you officially return the keys and vacate the premises. It’s worth noting that landlords are entitled to hold onto your rental deposit (Kaution) for up to six full months before returning it to outgoing tenants, so don’t bank on having that money back too soon.
Notifying the tax office
You’re not strictly required to notify the tax office of your change of address; this is handled by the citizens’ office. If your new address is in a different neighbourhood or municipality, your local tax office will change as well, and you’ll be assigned a new tax number (not a new tax ID number).
Nonetheless, it can be a good idea to let your old tax office know of your change of address. Things can move slowly in bureaucratic Deutschland, and your previous tax office may need to get in contact with you prior to receiving information that you’ve moved.
If your home address is also your business address—the one you used to register as a freelancer—your address should automatically update as well. Again, to be certain, it’s a good idea to inform the tax office that your business address is changing too.
Transferring utility contracts
If you’ve been subletting or living in a shared apartment (WG or Wohngemeinschaft), your utilities are usually factored into your monthly rent payments, and you won’t need to worry about giving additional notice for these services.
If you’re the main tenant, or you’re living alone, check with your phone, internet, and electricity providers about how much notice you’re obliged to give when cancelling your contract, and make sure to provide cancellation in writing. In most cases, you’ll need to provide at least three months’ notice. It can be possible to migrate an existing utility contract to your new address, but this is something you will need to check with each provider.
Informing the ARD ZDF
ARD ZDF is a fixed contribution for German TV and radio that every household must pay. One member of each household needs to register an account and take responsibility for making payments.
When you register your change of address with the citizen’s office, the information is automatically passed on to the ARD ZDF. However, if you were the account holder at your previous residence, it’s advisable to let the ARD ZDF know that you’re changing address, to avoid any confusion while you wait for the change to be processed. You can expect to receive a letter from the ARD ZDF at your new address, asking you either to register and pay, or nominate the name of the account holder at your new address.
Informing your banks and insurance providers
Make sure to notify your bank and insurance providers of your change of address to ensure all communication is delivered to you at your new address. There may be online forms you can fill out to notify of the change, but don’t be surprised if you need to send a physical letter!
Change your address on your invoices
If your residential address is also your business address, make sure to update any business-related communications. Let your clients know by updating your address on your outgoing invoice template, and ensure that any invoices issued to you go to your new address by communicating your new address to any relevant service providers. Having the correct address on incoming invoices also ensures you can claim any relevant expenses.
💡 Tip from Accountable: Invoices issued to you can be used to claim expenses against your tax. Check out these handy tax deductions for freelancers in Germany.
Other things to consider when changing address
Depending on your individual circumstances, there may be other things you need to do or parties who need to know of your new address.
Consider the following:
- Do you need to deregister or register any pets?
- Do you need to update any ID documents or driver’s licences?
- If your German address is registered in your home country for any reason, you will need to inform the appropriate registry of the change. For example, you may be registered as an overseas voter.
Home, sweet home!
Now that you’ve advised all the relevant parties about your move and successfully registered your new address, you can carry on with business as usual.
💡 Tip from Accountable: Don’t let any other bookkeeping or tax deadlines creep up on you! Check out these important dates to put in your calendar.