Brief overview of renting a home in Israel
by Dvorah Rut Weidner
OK, so you’ve decided to take it easy and not rush into the exciting world of home buying. OR, you are still trying to decide where you want to be in Eretz Yisrael. No problem. Renting is a great idea for the first year if you are not familiar with the cities and villages of Israel, or are just not ready to commit your funds to a home purchase.
Be prepared, renting an apartment or house in Israel is very different from renting abroad. First, as is the case with purchasing a home, a landlord is not required to provide you with anything…. not air conditioning, not a stove, refrigerator, washing machine… nothing. Many apartments are rented empty, and you must bring or purchase your own appliances. Most apartments do have air conditioning, and you can certainly ask to have one installed, but don’t take it as a required component of the lease.
Most lease periods are for one full year, but it is possible, in rare circumstances. to obtain a 4-6 month lease. Most leases require you to notify the landlord 2 months before the end of the lease as to your intentions to stay beyond the lease period or to vacate. It is possible, then, to go month to month after the lease period expires, but doing so allows the landlord to ask you to leave the apartment with only 30 days notice. Also, the landlord can raise the rent during this month-to-month period. It is important to include in the lease a provision that gives you the right to extend the lease for another year-long period. If the language says that both you and the landlord have the right to renew the lease, then you might find yourself in a situation where you want to stay and the landlord wants you to vacate. Be sure to include language that allows you to leave before the end of the lease period. Without such a provision, if you need to break the lease, you will be responsible for paying the rent until the end of the lease period, even if you are no longer living in the same city. It is imperative that you have your lease reviewed by a lawyer BEFORE you sign it. Many landlords have their own “simple” leases, but you should never sign this without a lawyer’s review.
Most landlords require the full year’s rent at the time of signing the lease. You will need to provide 12, post-dated checks in the amount of the monthly rent, plus one check for security. This security check is left undated. In rare cases, a landlord will accept cash payment by the month. You can certainly pay in cash for the entire year… the landlord will be very happy! Security deposits vary, but tend to run around 5,000 NIS. If you are renting a furnished apartment, you can expect the security deposit to be more like 10,000 NIS. If you are using the services of an agent, then you will need to pay to the agent the equivalent of one month’s rent, unless you have negotiated some other arrangement. But, this is the normal procedure. Rent does not include city taxes or utilities. So, in addition to rent, expect to pay the arnona (city tax) (olim chadishim receive a discount; varies by city), utilities, and the va’ad bayit, if there is one. This fee is for the maintenance of the building.
The landlord is responsible for all repairs to damages or system failures in the apartment due to normal aging and useage. If the tenant damages something due to neglect or intent, then the tenant must pay for repairs. The apartment must be returned in the condition in which it was rented, so if you make any changes, such as hanging photos, then you will need to fill in all the holes and re-paint. If the apartment was freshly painted before you move in, then you must paint it when you move out. But, this is something that must be included in the lease. If there is no provision for repainting, then you are not required to do it and do not let the landlord threaten to take the painting expense from the security check. Any repairs to the building or improvements to the building are the responsibility of the landlord. If you are renting a garden apartment, be sure to have an agreement with the landlord as to who is responsible for landscaping and upkeep.
Scary language in rental leases
One standard provision in all rental leases that usually causes the most anguish is a provision that states that the apartment is an “unprotected property,” and then refers to a statute regarding protected tenant. Do not be put off by this provision. There was a time when tenants could not be removed from a property, even if they were not paying rent. It was an extremely difficult process for the landlord to regain possession of the premises, sometimes taking years. This statute is merely stating that you do not have the right to become a squatter in the apartment. At the end of the lease period, you must either agree to extend or move out.
Landlords must hold homeowners insurance on the property, but this does not cover your possessions. You should obtain your own renter’s insurance to insure your possessions in case of theft or damage. Be sure to include third-party liability insurance for the duration of your lease period.