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.
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.
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.