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The Los Angeles renters’ guide

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Everything you need to know about renting in LA

The exterior of an apartment building, the El Royale, three archways in the front of the building, that is white and has beautiful detailing on the facade.
Before starting an apartment search, zero in on a neighborhood or two.
Chris Mueller

With the cost of a typical LA home inching up toward $640,000, a growing number of locals are priced out of buying. If you’re one of them, you’re not alone. More than half of Angelenos rent—the Los Angeles metro area has the fourth-highest share of renters in the nation. Below, we outline everything you need to know about the rental process, starting with a step-by-step guide on how to find an apartment. Welcome home!

How to find an apartment

1. Set a budget. For reference, the median cost of a one-bedroom is $1,369. For a two-bedroom, it’s $1,759, according to Apartment List. In addition to the cost of monthly rent, you’ll probably have to put down a security deposit, first (and maybe last) month’s rent, plus an application fee, which is usually around $25 to $50. Heads up: Some will stipulate that your income is at least three times the rent.

2. Zero in on a neighborhood. Pick a ’hood close to where you work. At rush-hour, it can take two hours by bus or car to get from one side of “town” to the other. Having a shorter commute can make or break your daily life in Los Angeles. If you’re having trouble choosing among the more than 470 neighborhoods, this fun quiz will help.

3. Set expectations. Apartment hunting here is not as intense as New York, but at certain price points, you might find you have some stiff competition. That’s because, across all of Los Angeles, the vacancy rate is pretty right now. It’s 3.9 percent, according to the latest Census data. With apartments in short supply, bidding wars aren’t unheard of. Yes, renters sometimes choose to pay more than the list price.

4. Search for an apartment. You likely don’t need to hire a realtor. In most cases, you won’t need one. Renters here typically find spaces on their own. The best way is to scour neighborhoods on foot. Since landlords like to rent to locals, you’re likely to to stumble upon a pad that’s not listed online. The internet is the second-best resource. The most reliable listing sites for rentals in Los Angeles include: Apartment List, Apartments.com, HotPads, Rent.com, Trulia, Westside Rentals, Zillow, and Zumper.

5. See the place in person. Once you find a place you like, call or email and ask to set up a time to view it. You’ll very likely deal directly with the property owner, on-site manager, or a management company. This is a key to ensuring you will not get scammed or deceived by an online listing. P.S. If you don’t see a fridge or stove, don’t be alarmed. Not all landlords in LA supply them, and you might have to get your own.

6. Having a pet will make your search more difficult. Many landlords don’t allow them, and if they do, restrictions on the size or breed are common. At the very least, expect to put down a pet deposit.

7. Apply right away. When you find a place you like, submit an application immediately. Because the market is tight, landing your dream apartment often comes down to being the first one to apply. (You’ll need a solid credit score too). Have key pieces of information—like bank statements and phone numbers for your employer and former landlords—handy.

How does rent control work?

In an expensive city like Los Angeles, a rent-controlled unit can be a golden ticket for renters. Rent-controlled units have limits on how much rent can be raised every year. (Everyone in LA calls it “rent control,” but it’s technically rent stabilization). Right now, in the city of Los Angeles, the rate is 4 percent. That means, over the long term, tenants pay much less than they might have otherwise. Other cities in LA County have rent control too, but the rules vary.

Another key advantage is that most rent-controlled units have robust protections for tenants who are evicted through no fault of their own. Here’s a full breakdown on how rent control works in LA.

How to find a rent-controlled apartment? In the city of Los Angeles, enter your address into ZIMAS, the city’s property database. In the “housing” tab, if it says “yes” next to “Rent Stabilization Ordinance,” your building is rent-controlled.

Living in a rental

You’ve found your apartment, and you’ve signed the lease. Now what? Know your rights. We’ve detailed the 10 most essential renters’ rights here. The most important thing to know is that you have a right to clean and habitable housing.

If there’s a problem with your apartment, experts recommend you tell your landlord verbally, then send a dated later detailing the issue. They also encourage tenants not to withhold rent. If you live in a multi-family building in the city of Los Angeles, file a complaint with the housing and community investment department, which will investigate code violations. To file a complaint, click here or call 1-866-557-7368.