There are two main ways to look for an apartment to rent: on the internet and through a real estate agent. The main website for looking for apartments is yad2: http://www.yad2.co.il/Nadlan/rent.php. Another website you can search on is http://www.homeless.co.il/rent/. When looking for an apartment in Israel, it is important to know that the number of rooms listed is the total number of rooms in the apartment (not including kitchen and bathrooms), not just bedrooms. For example, an apartment listed as 3.5 rooms could have two bedrooms, a living room, and a small study.
Real estate agents also post apartments for rent on the websites mentioned above, so you can find an agent by searching those sites. You can also find an agent in the phone book or by walking around the neighbourhood you are searching in and looking for real estate offices, or if you know someone who already lives in the neighbourhood, they can give you the phone number of an agent. When receiving information from real estate agents, keep in mind that some agents exaggerate the apartment they want to show you, in order to increase the chances that you will come take a look, and the apartment might not end up being appropriate for your needs. If you go through a real estate agent, you have to first sign an agreement saying that whatever they find for you, you have to go through them. If you end up signing a rental agreement for an apartment that you found through an agent, the standard pay is a cheque for the equivalent of one month’s rent to the agent (in some cases the landlord also pays the agent for their services). Make sure you are clear with the agent in advance about what the payment will be, so that there are no misunderstandings later – make sure to agree whether you need to pay one month’s rent plus VAT or just one month’s rent (preferably the latter), and whether you can pay in installments.
It is recommended to see a number of apartments before making a decision and not just taking the first apartment you look at that seems decent, so that you have something to compare to and make a decision about, and so that you can know through market comparison if the price is fair.
When looking at apartments DO NOT GO ALONE! You should ideally go with someone who is experienced in apartment shopping, who understand your needs, and who can speak Hebrew.
When looking at an apartment, you should come with a set of questions that you intend to ask and information to find out, which should include:
- Will the apartment be partially or fully furnished? Find out exactly which pieces of furniture or appliances will be staying in the apartment. Make sure to include the cost of buying furniture for an unfurnished apartment when comparing prices.
- How much is the Arnona (city apartment tax) bill?
- In an apartment building, do you need to pay a Va’ad Bayit payment, and if so, how much? (Va’ad Bayit is the “building committee” which organizes payment for shared expenses in the building, usually for the cost of electricity and maintenance of the elevator and a cleaning person in the stairwell and/or lobby).
- Is there a solar water heater or just an electrical water heater? (the electricity bill will be higher if it is not a solar heater)
- Find out which rooms have air conditioning.
- Is there a gas connection in the kitchen?
- Check the water pressure in the shower/faucets.
- Make sure you find out exactly who the owner of the apartment is, and whether there were previous tenants or what the space was used for previously.
- Find out about the neighbourhood – is it safe? Etc.
Signing a contract
Yay! You decided to rent an apartment. Now the fun begins: signing a contract. We know it can be very scary because it’s all in Hebrew, so always make sure that a fluent Hebrew speaker (ideally someone who has experience dealing with contracts) reads through it. You can also purchase a copy of a standard contract at Stiematzky book store.
Make sure that all the relevant information is included in the contract:
– The rent amount. Make sure that the rent is written as a specific number amount in shekels, and not based on some kind of price index.
– How many months you pay for at a time (every month, every two months)
– A list of the furniture, appliances, air conditioning units, etc. that will remain in the apartment
– Whose responsibility it is to repair or replace damaged items. Make sure that the contract states that reasonable wear and tear (בלאי סביר) is the responsibility of the landlord to repair or replace, and that any problems with plumbing or electricity are the responsibility of the landlord and not the renters.
– What collateral the landlord is demanding. Reasonable forms are:
– a שטר חוב (shtar chov) – a signed document (you can get a blank שטר חוב from the post office) saying that if you infringe on the contract, the landlord has the right to demand a certain amount of money listed on the שטר חוב from you or to take legal measures to get that amount of money from you
– a cheque for an additional month’s rent, with the understanding that the landlord is only to deposit it if you don’t fulfill your side of the contract
– ערבים (arevim) – guarantors, like relatives or friends who guarantee that if you don’t pay rent or if you break the contract in some other way, they will be held financially responsible.
No matter which method you agree on with the landlord, make sure that the contract states that in case of any problem, the landlord must first approach you and give you a reasonable amount of time (at least seven days) to fix the problem before taking more drastic measure. Do not agree to ערבות בנקאית (bank guarantee) as a form of collateral, because this involves setting aside a large amount of money from your bank account that you will then not have access to for the duration of the contract.
– The number of people who will be living in the apartment.
– That if the landlord wants to come look at the apartment occasionally, s/he must contact you in advance to coordinate a time that is convenient for you. Do not agree to a landlord suddenly showing up at the door unannounced.
– Most rental agreements in Israel today require that the renter purchase renter’s insurance, including third party liability insurance. It is recommended that the insurance also include ביטוח מבנה (insurance for the building) and ביטוח תכולה (insurance for your belongings).
– אופציה (optional additional year): the contract should include a section stating that the renter has the option of continuing the rental for a second year, and stating what the price or percentage increase will be in the second year.
– The proposed contract is not set in stone! Feel free to negotiate regarding the terms of the contract and change whatever seems necessary or consult with people before signing it, and that the contract contains elements that protect the renter and not just the landlord.
Before signing the contract – check the apartment
Before signing the contract, check the apartment carefully during daylight. Take a look at all furnishings, electrical outlets, plumbing, walls and paint, etc. and make note of any damage. Request that the landlord repair the damaged item at his/her cost, or at the very least, have a written record attached to the contract and signed by the landlord saying that you are not responsible for repairing these damaged items.
You should also have the apartment reviewed by several people. Everyone has a different perspective.
In Israel, most apartments don’t come with refrigerators, stoves, ovens, etc. For your first apartment in Israel, you might want to consider searching a little longer for a place that has these items and maybe even some furniture. Keep in mind that even if the place has a relatively higher rent, it can offset the cost of buying all these things.