Offering housing to refugees from Ukraine: Legal information

Up-to-date information on the legal aspects you need to consider if you would like to offer accommodation to Ukrainian refugees.

Wunderflats and thousands of its supporters are assisting refugees from Ukraine with a housing initiative offering safe shelter.

This article provides up-to-date information on the legal aspects you need to consider if you would like to offer accommodation to Ukrainian refugees. The article is updated on a regular basis.

If you would like to offer accommodation (entire apartment, house, private room, or shared place), you can post it here.

I’m renting an apartment and would like to take in someone who has fled Ukraine. What authorization do I need?

It depends on whether you want to let the person use your entire apartment or just parts of it.

· Letting someone use a part of your apartment or an individual room

If you are a tenant in a rental apartment and would like to take in one or more persons for a longer period of time (more than 6–8 weeks), then according to Section 540 of the German Civil Code (Bundesgesetzbuch, or BGB for short) you will need to obtain permission from your landlord. This is also the case for people who have fled Ukraine. 

It’s different if you want to let a refugee use part of your home for free on a short-term basis. If someone stays in your home for 6–8 weeks, then this is usually considered to be a visit and does not require specific authorization, so you do not need permission from your landlord. The same applies if you have close family members staying with you, such as spouses, children or parents (Section 553 of the BGB).

· Letting someone use your entire apartment

If you want to let a Ukrainian refugee use your entire rental apartment, you will generally require permission from your landlord.

I would like to take in refugees for a longer period of time. Should I sign a contract with them?

If you want to take someone in for a longer period of time (for longer than 6 weeks), we recommend putting a contract in place. Wunderflats can provide you and refugees with rental agreements that are available in German/English, Ukrainian and Russian. If you want to take in people without charging them rent, you might consider signing a gratuitous loan agreement with them. We would be happy to put together a template for you. If you’re interested, please contact us at support-ukraine@wunderflats.com or use the contact form at the bottom of this page.

I own an apartment. What do I need to consider if I want to let a Ukrainian refugee use my property?

· Does it matter how much space I can offer?

Generally speaking, the amount of space being offered is of no consequence. However, you should avoid overcrowding in the space being offered as this could lead to complications regarding the status of your property as a residential dwelling. As a rule, overcrowding occurs when a person is no longer able to withdraw to a private space; the standard example is if a person has 5 m² or less of space available to them.

· What about the amount of time I let the person use my property?

If those you take in are only staying in your apartment for a relatively short period of time, then this can lead to complications regarding your property’s status as a residential dwelling (as with overcrowding). However, a “short stay” is not specifically defined and this depends on the specific case. We at Wunderflats would like to ask that you offer your property for at least one month.

We can provide you and refugees with rental agreements that are available in German/English, Ukrainian and Russian.

· Do I need to obtain approval regarding a change to the purpose of my property?

If you own an apartment that is located in a residential area, generally speaking, you can let others use your apartment without having to obtain planning permission. In this case, no changes that require approval are being made to the purpose of the property. 

I own property that is approved for non-residential usage. Can I let people who have fled Ukraine live in my property?

As a rule, any change to the purpose of a property (e.g. to usage as a residential property) requires approval. You should refer to the building regulations of your federal state. To change the purpose of your property, you need to apply to your local building authority.

Do I receive any financial support from the government if I let Ukrainian refugees use my property?

If you take in Ukrainian refugees, then you may be entitled to financial support, depending on your circumstances.

· Refugees and eligibility for benefits

If refugees have been granted a temporary residence permit under Section 24 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz, or AufenthG for short), then they will receive benefits in accordance with the German Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz, or AsylbLG for short). According to the relevant federal ministries, Ukrainian refugees may be entitled to benefits before they are granted a temporary residence permit if they claim asylum. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community, any request for support is sufficient here, for example by requesting accommodation or food.

From 1 June 2022, Ukrainian refugees will be financially supported as recognized asylum seekers. This means that they will receive the same benefits as those receiving Unemployment Benefit II (also referred to as “Harz IV”).

· Reimbursement of accommodation costs

Refugees who are entitled to benefits may claim the basic benefits outlined under Section 3 of the AsylbLG. This includes benefits that cover the need for accommodation. If Ukrainian refugees stay in private accommodation, the social security authorities will assume the costs of essential and adequate accommodation. The social security authorities will decide on a case-by-case basis whether the relevant requirements are met, taking into account specifications such as the size of the apartment and the cost of rent.

Any further questions from refugees or from you as the landlord are best directed to the social security authorities before the property/space is rented out.

· Exemptions where costs are not covered

If a refugee has their own income or assets, they must use these before they claim any benefits under AsylbLG. If Ukrainian refugees are in the position to pay their own accommodation costs, you as the landlord will not receive any financial support from the government.

I would like to provide accommodation. How can I cover myself to protect my belongings and the accommodation?

We recommend that all landlords take out third-party liability insurance and household contents insurance that protects you as the provider of the accommodation against potential damage.

If you sign a rental agreement with Ukrainian refugees, then you can agree that your tenants will give you a security deposit or a rental bond, in line with the provisions set out under Section 551 of the BGB. However, don’t forget that most of the refugees won’t have the necessary financial resources for this and social security authorities will not cover this either.

If the refugees from Ukraine have friends or family living in Germany, you as the landlord may decide to accept a suretyship, guarantee or collateral promise from the friend or family member. A template guarantee can be found here.

Here at Wunderflats, we have heard of cases where refugees have (already) found employers in Germany and their employers have provided a guarantee both for the security deposit and for any potentially unpaid rent. A template for this can be found here.

If you do not want to sign a rental agreement with a refugee directly and would prefer to enter into the agreement with a city or municipal authority, you should ensure that the city or municipality, as the contracting partner, is liable for any damage.

At Wunderflats, we are currently working on developing more solutions that will allow you as the provider of accommodation to protect yourself. 

Can I take in Ukrainian refugees who are younger than 18?

This depends on whether the young people in question have fled Ukraine with a parent or legal guardian. If you take in young people or children with their parent(s) or legal guardian(s), then there are generally no legal aspects to take into account.

On the other hand, you may not take in minors or young people who have arrived in Germany on their own. They will first be taken under the care of the local youth welfare office (see Section 42(1)of Book VIII of the German Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch – Achtes Buch, or SGB VIII for short)). 

Can Ukrainian refugees choose the location of their accommodation and place of residence themselves?

Refugees from Ukraine may not choose the specific federal state or location where they will be housed (see Section 24(5) Clause 1 of the AufenthG). They must also make sure to take up habitual residence in the location to which they are allocated (see Section 24(5) Clause 2 of the AufenthG).

Under certain circumstances, the relevant authorities may demand that the family moves to another location allocated to them. This also applies if the family has already found (private) accommodation. 

If they have a relative or friend in a specific city, they may request to be allocated to that city (e.g. if they are at the Tegel allocation center, they may request to be allocated to Berlin).

I have taken in Ukrainian refugees. How long can they stay in the accommodation before the rental agreement is legally considered to be for an indefinite length of time?

First of all, you need to consider whether you have taken in the people on a temporary and free-of-charge basis or whether you are receiving payment from them.

· Taking in refugees free of charge

Your relationship with the Ukrainian refugees can be considered a relationship of goodwill if you have taken them in free of charge and temporarily. In this case, no contractual relationship exists. 

Please keep in mind: A relationship of goodwill that is not subject to the law is ultimately dependent on the circumstances of the individual case – particularly the legal and economic significance of the case for those involved.

For example, if you provide accommodation free of charge, you may wish to sign a gratuitous loan agreement that is valid for a limited period of time. The lease will then end once this agreed period has passed.

· Taking in refugees for a fee

If you rent out your property for a fee, a rental agreement will come into play. You can limit this rental agreement to a specific period of time in line with the statutory requirements set out under Section 575 of the BGB. If the statutory requirements are not met, the statutory regulations for terminating the lease will apply. You can read more about rental agreements for temporary accommodation here.

 Please keep in mind: This article does not constitute legal advice – the content of this page has been compiled to provide you with information only. We would like to thank the law firm Sozietät Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek for reviewing the German version of this article for legal accuracy pro bono!


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