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Rentals in Israel

By Eric Hammer - 2011

At the moment of this writing, a housing protest is currently being held in Israeli cities and the results of that protest are as yet unclear. Therefore, the following advice may or may not be entirely accurate for those interested in rentals in Israel. In general however, rentals in the major cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are extraordinarily expensive and a little bit difficult to find as well. Here's what you need to know:

A Lack of Rental Buildings

The most important issue regarding rentals in Israel is that, unlike in the United States, there are almost no buildings which are devoted exclusively to rentals. A handful of government funded public housing projects located in far flung communities are all that currently exist as far as exclusive rental buildings (note: as a result of the recent housing protests, the Knesset, Israel's parliament did pass a reform requiring some land tenders to be for rental buildings exclusively, though it remains to be seen if these reforms will actually be implemented). Instead, apartments in Israel are almost exclusively condominiums where owners own the individual apartments and pay a monthly common fee to the condo board, called a "vaad bayit" in Hebrew.

Individual Owners

Rentals in Israel then are generally individual condos which are located in various buildings and rented out by the owners. Such apartments are often poorly maintained because there is no superintendent to call for immediate repairs the landlords often don't live nearby. Because the rental market in Israel is so fragmented, prices also tend to be rather high with rents in central Tel Aviv or Jerusalem easily reaching $1,500-$2,000 or more per month for a two bedroom apartment.

Measured by Rooms, Not Bedrooms

Another important difference between Israel and the United States regarding the rentals in Israel is that Israeli apartments are always measured in terms of the total number of rooms available. This means one may see an apartment advertised as having three rooms. It is generally assumed that the three rooms will include two bedrooms and one living room/dining room, though there are exceptions to this rule.

Half Rooms

Another common measurement in Israel for rentals is the "half room." Apartments may be rented out with 1½ rooms, 2½ and so on. The half room is generally left up to the interpretation of the owner of the apartment. Sometimes it refers to an extension of a larger room which may consist of an enclosed balcony and other times, it may refer to especially small rooms which are complete but which can often measure as small as 6'x8'.

No Furniture or Appliances

Another shock for many Americans wishing to rent an apartment in Israel is that they often don't come with any furniture or appliances. Most Israeli apartments in fact come with nothing but the bathroom and the kitchen sink and cabinets. It is also worth noting that built in closets are extremely rare in Israel and most Israelis make use of giant armoires to take care of hanging clothes. Apartments listed as having full or partial furniture will generally include more furnishings, though even here, it's important to check on the details of what will be included. Refrigerators and ovens are generally not included either, unless specifically noted.

Cosigners Generally Required

In the United States, a cosigner is generally only required if you are attempting to rent an apartment with damaged credit. In Israel however, rentals are rarely available without a cosigner and often several cosigners guaranteeing the payment of the rent. This can be an especially large problem for new immigrants looking to rent an apartment since they often don't know anyone who is working and able to cosign their rental agreements. Some Israeli landlords will offer to "solve" the problem by having people pay for the entire year of rental payments in advance, though this option should generally be avoided. It is however common for Israeli landlords to demand post dated checks for the entire period of a rental contract.

Where to Live Cheaply

While Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are always going to be expensive, those willing to go further afield will often find rentals in Israel which are a little more appealing for those on a modest budget. In both of those cities, rentals can be found in suburbs which, while not necessarily cheap, are cheaper than the rentals in major Israeli cities.

It is also possible to go to other Israeli towns where prices aren't quite as high and find apartment rentals for less money. Haifa and Beer Sheva for example both offer rentals which can be a little as 1/3 the price of rentals in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas, though even those cities have more desirable areas which are more expensive.

Going even further afield to smaller towns such as Safed in the north and Dimona in the south can yield significant savings for those able to commute or find work in the areas, with rents often being less than ¼ the total cost of rentals in more popular Israeli cities. However, in such cities, a car is almost a requirement since the infrastructure in town is often not very good, which accounts for the fact that they are so cheap compared to other rentals in Israel.

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