Low-cost, publicly-funded accomodation is provided through the housing associations (Wohnbaugesellschäften -WoBauG) that are located in each Bezirke. In order to be eligible for a flat you must be earning under a certain amount. This is 23 000, - € a year for single people and 33 400, - € for couples. The WBS is the document that guarantees your entitlement to state housing. In order to get a WBS you need to fill out the two forms provided at your local Wohnungsamt. These forms guarantee that a) your income entitles you to state housing, and b) that you are able to pay rent on a regular basis. The first is the Einkommsbescheinigung, which is filled out by your employer. This gives details of your income over the past 12 months, plus information about imminent pay rises and health insurance payments. The second is the Einkommserklärung (declaration of income) which you fill out, detailing total income, including other incomes, e.g. unemployement benefits (Arbeitslosengeld) received over the last 12 months. People working freelance (Honorarbasis) only need to fill out the second form, however need to provide proof of tax paid over the last 12 months (Einkommsteurerklärung) and details of private health insurance (Krankenversicherung). If you haven't been a resident for twelve months this is no barrier to obtaining the WBS, however the Aufenhaltserlaubnis is essential.The Wohnungsamt will then process your application for the WBS. This might take up to three weeks. In the meantime you can get a note saying the WBS has been applied for. This will keep the WoBauG happy while you are looking at flats, but does not have any value when signing the contract. You may be able to apply for the WBS while waiting for your employer to draw up the contract.
The WBS is valid all over Berlin, and there are many WoBauGs, each advertising properties for rent. You can arrange a viewing (Besichtigungstermin) through the current resident, or in the case of a new property, an employee of the WoBauG. If you decide on a flat, you need to go to the WoBauG with the current occupant and sign the change-over contract. As in all lanlord-tenant contracts, there is a three month notice (Kundigungsfrist) if you want to leave the property. If the three months is too long, you have to find the replacement yourself. This is why you will see many WBG properties in Zweite Hand, for example, alongside private advertisements. As far as the quality of properties goes, it will vary according to price - don't assume that an Einbaukuche (fitted kitchen) is included, and if it is, you may have to pay a hefty Abstand to the previous occupant, to recoup his investment, which was made independently of the WoBauG. The advantage of renting a flat from a WoBauG is that rent is reasonable, standards of maintance are high and the landord isn't going to unexpectedly raise the rent or ask you to leave because the developers have been called in - surety in other words. However it involves a fairly long term commitment and a lot of paperwork!
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