Once you decide to make Los Angeles your base, finding a place to call home is your second step. Your first step would most likely be renting a room or an apartment of your own.
Rental process for a house or an apartment will go something like this;
1A) To find a house or an apartment for rent, you can drive/walk around the area you want to live in – this ensures that the prospective home is in the neighborhood you desire and you can see what the building looks like. If it has a sign “open house”, there should be an agent that can give you a tour. If it’s an apartment building and it has a vacancy sign, you should take down the phone number and call for an appointment. Vacancy signs usually indicate the number of rooms such as 1+1 for 1 bedroom + 1 bathroom, or 2 + 1 (2 bedrooms + 1 bathroom), and possibly the price. A “furnished” apartment will have a stove and refrigerator included.
If you have a camera (or a camera phone), take some pictures of the building; they could come in handy later especially you are looking at many possibilities. If the sign also says “Manager on premise (Manager on site)”, call the manager’s phone number; you may be able to see the apartment on the spot. You can use your mobile phone, or most apartments are equipped with a gate phone with manager’s number displayed.
Some of the companies such as Westside Rentals ( http://www.westsiderentals.com ) now have a text message number on their signs displayed at vacant apartments they deal with. Simply send a text message as instructed, and you will get detailed information on the particular property.
1B) You can also find a house or an apartment by searching online or magazine by criteria. Many websites are available now that let you search by price, location, number of rooms, amenities, Pets OK/NOT, etc. This method ensures that all your criteria are met before going out to see the place. Call the contact number to make an appointment to see the place.
2) Once you meet with the manager and take the tour of the place, you will receive an application if you are still interested in the accommodation. Take home one form for per each adult renter, fill it out and submit it to the specified manager/company with the specified amount of money for a credit check. See “Application” below for more information.
An owner or sub-renter of a house or condo may accept negotiations, but apartments for rent usually do not involve negotiations.
In some cases, vacant apartments are left open for any prospect renters to come and take a look inside on their own. (Signs may say so, or the managers may tell you so.) In this case, the application and credit forms are left for you to take.
3) Remember to:
- Ask questions before you decide regarding move in terms such as deposit (how much to move in), amenities such as parking, laundry room (laundry hours), neighbors, area safety, nearby stores, etc.
- Visit the building at night and inspect the area for any questionable neighborhood activities. (Noisy neighbors, drug dealers, etc.)
4) Once the owner or management company reviews the application, runs the credit check and decides that you are the desirable tenant for the prospective property, they will get back to you within 2-3 days to a week. They will call you back to sign the contract, bring the deposit and the first month rent in most cases and they will hand you the keys.
There are a few rules that MUST be followed if you want to rent an apartment in Los Angeles. The first one is that you must be able to show proof of your earnings (income). Larger rental companies require earnings of three times that of the rental price of the property, and are pretty strict about it in most cases. The documents required for proof of earnings are bank statements, pay slips, and/or proof of employment with your employer’s contact details. Smaller or private rental companies give room to negotiate if for instance, you don’t yet have a job but your bank balance is substantial, or if you have minimal credit. In those cases, the landlord will probably ask for double the initial deposit.
One has to have already applied for and received a social security number in order to have a credit check. It is very rare for a landlord to rent a property without first obtaining a credit check even if the potential renter has a substantial bank balance, but since the drastic turn in the economic climate, some landlords may be open to negotiate. A credit check costs around $25.00 (non refundable) and often times the landlord will check your credit online with a national credit agency. Some rental companies require clients to carry out the credit check themselves and it is always good to have the paperwork with you to save time and to ensure your odds of actually getting the apartment are high. Most new expats have little or no credit history, but it is still imperative to apply for a social security number in order to rent property. If the landlord is a little uneasy by a non-existent credit history, you may want to show whatever paperwork you can get from your U.S. employer, (references, wages slips, etc.) and show them to the rental company. Getting references from important professionals you know is also a good idea because it would show good character on your behalf and may help you in your quest for a place of your own. A letter of reference from your previous landlord as well as their current contact info may help as well, although foreign references won’t mean much to a landlord in Los Angeles.
The following credit agencies provide credit reports. You must have a social security number to receive one, and the first report in a twelve-month period is usually free (any additional copies require a small fee).
P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374 (800) 685-1111
P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 30374
Deposit and Lease Agreement
Once you get the “OK” from your credit check, you will need to consider how much of a deposit or down payment you will have to give to secure your stay. All landlords require a deposit and first month’s rent up front, some require a deposit with first month and last month’s rent up front. This will vary from place to place. The Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) requires landlords to pay the tenant 5% interest on the deposit refund if the tenant vacates the property after 12 months. Not all landlords are part of RSO so make sure to check your tenant agreement for your own sake.
The lease agreement may be 1 page up to 5-7 pages long and spells out the landlord and renter’s terms, plus a little legal jargon for good measure. In most cases, any repair that needs to be done in the property is the landlord’s responsibility. Lease terms are usually for six or 12 months but can be renewed for longer stays. The tenant pays for electricity and gas, for the most part and landlord pays for water and garbage removal, although there occasionally exceptions to this standard.
- Los Angeles Housing Department website ( http://lahd.lacity.org ) provides valuable information on tenants’ rights. Both landlords and tenants have legal rights under California law.
- US Department of Housing and Urban Development has information on California tenants’ rights, law, and protections. http://www.hud.gov/local/ca/renting/tenantrights.cfm
- California Department of Consumer Affairs has landlord/tenant rights in booklet form. http://www.dca.ca.gov
For rental properties, check out the housing section on Craigslist to get a feel for the kind of rental options out there and what you get for your dollar. http://losangeles.craigslist.org
Los Angeles.com also provides a popular real estate section for buyers and renters, and even lists foreclosures. http://www.losangeles.com
- 1 bedroom – $1,100 – $2,500
- 2 bedroom – $1,600 – $2,800
- 3 bedroom – $2,500 – $4,500
- 1 bedroom – $800 – $2,000
- 2 bedroom – $1,600 – $2,600
- 3 bedroom – $2,700 – $5,000
- 1 bedroom – $1,200 – $4,000
- 2 bedroom – $1,500 – $4,500
- 3 bedroom – $2,000 – $5,000
- 1 bedroom – $1,100 – $3,500
- 2 bedroom – $1,700 – $4,000
- 3 bedroom – $2,400 – $6,500