Moving sucks. The searching, the looking, the packing, the moving, the leasing—it all takes time and effort. If you want to live with roommates, coordinating with others can be a headache, no matter how solid your friendship.
This guide seeks to take you through the process of renting in a city with 4 million people and the highest rental rate in the country. As long as you do your homework and ensure a spot closest to the nearest In-N-Out, you will find the place that’s best for you.
There are some things to consider if you haven’t rented in Los Angeles before. The window to rent is short—anywhere from 2-4 weeks. If a good place pops up, people will swoop down and snatch that up like a greedy cousin taking over your dead grandma’s estate. That might seem like a short amount of time, but if you know what you want and hone your search, you’ll find a good place.
Pricing and the Lay of the Land
Your dollar goes a lot farther if you have roommates. The $1600 one-bedroom in Santa Monica might scare you away. But if you have a roommate, you can get a two-bedroom for $2200 split in half. It’s still expensive but manageable. I’ve paid $725 for a crappy studio in DTLA; $940 for a 3-bedroom house in Culver City (roommates); and $1200 for the best bedroom in a 3-bedroom apartment in Hermosa Beach (roommates).
Area and access affect price. The beachside condo in Venice will be significantly higher than the condo in Palms. And, you might not necessarily get more bang for your buck. Some places are run down, but a sought-after location creates that premium.
Curbed released an article on Los Angeles rent prices. Check it out.
As stated above, living with roommates greatly increases your ability to live in a nice place. Aside from cost, make sure you get along with your roomies. I’ve always found that dishes and basic upkeep go out the window. That’s usually the case with guys. When the lowest common denominator is in effect, everyone else slacks in cleanliness.
Consensus and compromise work best in a living environment. Don’t fall victim to passive-aggressive tactics. If there is an issue, just hash it out.
There are a variety of neighborhoods with different moods and activities. Be careful because some places are gateways to the underworld. Ask yourself “What do I value?” Beach? City? If it’s your first time in the City of Angels, you’ll likely be forced to find whatever you can get, just so you have a roof over your head. But as you explore LA, you’ll find what fits you.
Whatever your situation, I recommend focusing on one part of town. Given the window is relatively short and your time is precious, concentrate your search.
Factor in your work commute as well. You might spend two hours a day in the car. Sometimes, that’s unavoidable. A great place is a great place, no matter how far it is from the office.
I’ve found places through friends, Craigslist, and Westside Rentals. You can be successful with any. There are good options on Craigslist but there are some pitfalls to avoid: make sure there are pictures; make sure there is an actual contact name, and if there are multiple postings of the same place in succession, that’s usually a scam. Trust your instincts. If it feels shady, it probably is.
Westside Rentals is your best bet. Most landlords who post here are good landlords. They’ve invested resources to have a good public face for their property.
Westside Rentals is a paid service. Go with the $30/month for 2 months. You do not need to pay $120 for 6 months. You’ll find a place before you’ll need that. And, if you have roommates, just share the same login info. Price ranges are good and you get a healthy amount of options.
Also, I recommend searching management companies in your respective area. They might not advertise on Westside Rentals and have their own listings site.
Checking out the Place
So, if you narrowed down your options, it’s time to go see these places. If you have roommates, I recommend all of you going at once. That way, everyone has a say and the landlord knows all of you are serious.
If you’re working, the best way to see these properties is on the weekend with an appointment or during an open house.
To reiterate, keep your search limited. You don’t want to waste gas by driving all over the city, going from place to place.
If you’re meeting a manager for an appointment, dress up a bit. Landlords do judge others like everyone else. Show them you’re serious and you’re going to be good tenants. Guys—collared shirts. Ladies—simple dresses.
Try to fill out the rental applications beforehand. Ask the landlord if he or she can email them to you. They’re a hassle to fill out and no one uses the same format. So, it’s a pain but at least you can get them done quickly.
Make Your Move
When you get good vibes from a place and you want it, have your deposit and rental applications ready. Take the initiative. It takes a few days for the credit checks to clear, but you can get the ball rolling and secure a place.
I was in a 3-bedroom and we had to give the deposit that day. They had an open house from 12-1pm and 20 applicants showed interest. We got the place because we made our decision before anyone else.
Proof of income, rental application, and credit check are needed. I’m surprised they don’t ask you for a blood sample. Landlords do their due diligence and so should you. Read through the lease in its entirety.
I had a landlord who didn’t include all utilities in a lease and we had to edit the lease right then and there. Be careful and comb through every clause.
You signed the lease. Great! Make sure you and your landlord fill out a move-in inspection. Be thorough. Check anything that needs to be fixed so the landlord won’t tab you for it at the end of your lease. Protect your hefty deposit.
Moving is dreadful. I recommend packing everything up before you rent a moving truck. And, if you can, pack a few days before the moving day. Chip away at it rather than doing it all at once.
If you rent a U-Haul van, reserve one in advance because they can go quick on the weekends. You will pay for time, gas, and miles driven. Depending on the size, you might spend $100-$200 for that day. If you’re moving across town, drop the van off at a location close to your new place. There’s no need to drive all the way back and use gas. (You’ll have to return the van with a certain amount of gas in the tank).
If you enlist your friends to help, please buy them pizza and beer.
Depending on utilities, you’ll need to set up gas, Internet, and electricity. Trash and water are typically covered. With gas, you don’t need much heat for your home during the winter. Temperatures dip as low as 50 degrees. “Chilly.” Watch out for using air conditioning. That can rack up the costs… FAST.
If using LADWP, set aside $200 for a deposit. They’ll check your credit when you initiate service. Depending on your score, they’ll request a deposit.
The Next Move
There is a healthy turnover of rental properties from year to year. One great aspect about Los Angeles is that you can sample every neighborhood and settle on what you love. Be adventurous. Take a risk.
If you’re having trouble and get frustrated, keep searching. You will find the right place. Good luck!
* Create a spreadsheet of the properties. It keeps the search organized.
* Landlords know the turnover rate is high and they know people are out there who are always looking to rent. You might not be able to negotiate down the price.
* Renters’ Rights. Educate yourself. Los Angeles is tenant-friendly so it’s very difficult to get evicted. But pay your rent so it doesn’t reflect badly on you for the next place.
* For rental applications, don’t fill out your banking info. There’s no need for it. If the landlord insists, declare privacy. I’ve never done it before and it’s never been a problem. (It’s astounding how much documentation you need for some places).
* Designate a roommate as the rent-payer and/or utilities-payer.