In Germany, one is legally obliged to register somewhere within 2 weeks of moving in (except for tourists up to 3 months) however, it has proven extremely difficult in Berlin to find a place to live let alone register your address. It appears to me that the German bureaucracy is preventing multiple registrations on the same address, however I have yet to receive clear answers as to why and how.

Given the circumstances, I think I can easily find myself officially homeless even though I have a job, health insurance and pay taxes.

What do people without a home do?

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    Would you be actually homeless? German citizens can register as homeless, foreigners (including most EU citizens) not so much (they need a home to stay legally). Or would you sleep at a hotel/friend/sublet which does not give you the paper to register you there? That's a problem you are supposed to solve with the one giving the living space, not the authorities.
    – neo
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 16:03
  • Thanks @neo, That is curious, so EU citizens would be homeless in Germany illegally? Mine is the "hotel/friend/sublet which does not give you the paper to register you there" situation. I've been trying to ask the "why?" question enough times to give it up. They never answer that. So I'm wondering if there is a bureaucratic/financial pressure that forces them or motivates them to limit or deny registrations. Commented May 4, 2016 at 7:28
  • "It appears to me that the German bureaucracy is preventing multiple registrations on the same address" - what makes you think that? Almost everyone shares their address with others, such as family or neighbours (unless you happen to live alone in a house).
    – sleske
    Commented Mar 25, 2020 at 8:49
  • @sleske, I got the impression from the hints of the landlords as they are clearly uncomfortable handing out papers for sublets. As a result, people in the middle - like a friend who let me use their flat while on long holidays - would hesitate to even ask. This was a repeated experience. Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 11:55
  • Usually, a renting contract explicitly does not allow sublets. Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 7:41

2 Answers 2


All residents in Germany need to have a registered address. The reasons for that are numerous:

  • no need for a separate voting registration,
  • it gives a place to deliver legal notices,
  • it helps enforcing tax regulation (though tax law has another definition of "residence"),
  • certain taxes are assigned to the municipality where you are registered,
  • no need to do a utility bill or credit report dance when trying to prove your address to third-parties,
  • it was always done like that.

The last is reason enough as far as bureaucracy is concerned.

As far as your question goes, there are a few wrong assumptions.

First, nobody is trying to limit or deny registrations. Municipalities actually get money for every resident they have registered through tax allocation.

Second, if you (semi-)permanently live at some place you are not considered "officially homeless" but as someone has didn't properly register themselves (which could result in a fine).

Third, multiple people can be registered at the same address. How else could people register themselves in huge apartment buildings? Or even a family living together? If there is a suspicious amount of people registered they might want to check whether other regulation (such as minimum space per person) is adhered to.

Fourth, to register somewhere you need proof that you actually live there. This is where you probably ran into problems. This proof is usually a letter given by the person allowing you live at a place. Note that this is not necessarily the owner of the place but literally the person allowing you to stay (the authorities can check with the owner though). Often subletters won't sign that piece of paper, either because they think they are not allowed to or they don't have permission by the owner to sublet the place to begin with. If that happens you are supposed to tell that to the authorities (§ 19 Abs. 2 BMG) who then can choose to fine the one providing the place for refusing to sign the paper. (The need for proof was recently reintroduced after it was noticed that there was a huge amount of people who registered at an address where they didn't actually live.)

Fifth, if you never have been registered before you can't actually properly pay your taxes as you need a tax ID for that. This is automatically assigned when you – surprise – register for the first time. If you are not an EU/EEA/CH citizen you also need to register yourself before they can change anything about the residence permit within Germany.

To end with an answer to your question if taken literally: German citizens can register themselves as homeless (ohne festen Wohnsitz) if they really are. For foreigners this is a bit more complicated. EU citizens usually don't have freedom of movement rights if they can't properly support themselves, a living space is supposed to be part of that. Other foreigners likely violate their residence permit.

  • Thanks, @neo, I just hope you're correct :o) So if someone let's me stay and then denies registration, he's at fault and I can make him through the authorities (considering this may upset our relations). Two more details please: 1) Which authority to turn to? 2) Where can I find the minimum space per person requirements? Commented May 4, 2016 at 17:16
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    @RobertCutajar-Robajz 1) The same were you register, in Berlin it's called Bürgeramt, bring any proof (contract, emails, ...) that you actually live there 2) That's complicated. Best is not to worry about it.
    – neo
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 17:38
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    "Huge apartment buildings": each apartment is a separate address. Also, after living in Germany for five years, EU/EEA/CH citizens acquire a right of permanent residence, in which case they are no longer required to show that they can properly support themselves; they can go on the dole and presumably they could become homeless, and therefore ought to be able to register themselves as such.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 21:31
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    @phoog: No, appartments don't have distinct addresses. In the appartment house where I live, we have two different appartment numbering systems. One numbering system is used by the registration office and the other is being used by the house administration company. In both cases, the appartment number doesn't show up on my letterbox, it doesn't show up on the intercom panel and it doesn't show up on any letter I receive. Postal service identifies appartments by name, and if I move within the building, I just need to move the sign on the letterbox and the door bell. My address stays the same.
    – erebus
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 19:12
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    Regarding the multiple registration thing, it is quite common that several people share the same appartment, either as a flat-share or as a family. I registered my residency in flat shares several times and I never got any strange looks for sharing the unit with someone else.
    – erebus
    Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 22:15

The answer is quite straight-forward:

If you have a home, you have to register. If you have more than one home, you have to register the full list with all of your homes.

If you have no home, you don't register.

Edit: Homeless people living in a homeless shelter are - for registration purposes - not considered homeless because the homeless shelter is considered a home. However, if you're living on the street, in a tent, in a tree house or if you're switching the places you sleep at frequently, then you're excempt from resident registration.

§ 17 BMG: Registration, Deregistration
“(1) Those who move into a home must register with the registration authority within two weeks. (2) Those who move out of a home without moving into a new home within the country, have to deregister with the registration authority within two weeks. A deregistration cannot be done earlier than one week before moving out; The registration register shall be updated on the day the person moves out. (3) The registration for a person under 16 years shall fall to those into whose home the person under 16 years move into or out of. Newborns living within the country only need to be registered if they move into a home other than the home of the parents or the mother. If a caregiver or custodian with the capacity to determine the abode has been appointed for a person of full age, that person shall be in charge of the registration or de-registration. (4) The registration office (Standesamt) shall report the certification of the birth of a child and any change of the civil status of a person to the registration office (Meldebehörde). [TRanslators remark: The words Standesamt and Meldebehörde are usually being used interchangeably; THe process described in this paragraph is internal to the registration office.]

§ 20 BMG: Notion of the home
For the purposes of this law, a home is any enclosed room that is being used for living or sleeping. Living quarters on bord a ship of the navy shall also be considered a home. Camping trailers and house boats shall only be considered homes if they are not or just occassionally being moved.

And this is what a typical registration form looks like: https://bravors.brandenburg.de/br2/sixcms/media.php/69/23-Anlage%201-%20Bild%201.GIF

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    Standesamt is the registration office for births, marriages and deaths. It is a completely different office than the Meldebehörde and is not interchangeable. Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 1:59
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    If you have no home, you can register in the community where are regularly. An entry ofW (ohne festen Wohnsitz) will be placed where normaly the address would be. Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 2:13

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