If you know me at all you know I absolutely detest renting. But, being a landlady, I do know something about renting. And let me tell you, renting in Israel is very different from renting in the U.S.
First let me describe the housing one will find. As you might expect, most housing here is multiple-family. While they may exist, I have not yet seen any multi-family buildings that are solely rental units. It is basically a lot of condominiums, with units in the building being in varying condition, due to having various owners. Some buildings are mostly inhabited by renters, some mostly by owners, and others are mixed. Even if there are mostly renters, there is not high turnover since 12 month contracts are standard.
Can you say, "IN ADDITION TO THE RENT," four times really fast? No, it is not a tongue twister, just a pocket-book buster; read on.
In most cases there is no building superintendent, so building issues are handled by a building committee. It is similar to a condo association board, and collects a monthly fee (similar to condo dues). And, "Why," you may be wondering, "would a renter care about such things?" The renter, not the landlord, pays the monthly fee (called va'ad bayit) to the committee. This fee is paid by the renter, in addition to the rent.
Taxes are also different in Israel. Rather than county property tax paid yearly, there is municipal tax (arnona) that is usually paid monthly but in some areas bimonthly or quarterly. Again, you may be wondering, "Why would a renter care?" And, again, I must tell you that this tax is paid by the renter, in addition to the rent. I was initially told that the arnona included trash and water, but later found out it only includes trash. Water is a separate bill, and of course, water is paid by the renter, in addition to the rent.
One consideration, in looking for a rental is trying to find a landlord who speaks English. I mean, really, what if your Hebrew is minimal and you need to explain that your toilet is overflowing and you need it fixed asap? The landlord's English language ability, or lack thereof, will not matter in this situation. What you need is a plumber who speaks English, because you, the renter, will be calling the plumber - and more importantly, paying the plumber yourself, in addition to the rent.
As you might imagine, looking for a rental while one is unemployed is a little tricky. Many landlords ask for a cosigner. Many people who make Aliyah have Israeli relatives who will do this for them, but some of us do not. I know several non-working olim who were not required to have a cosigner. One of them suggested that if the landlord started talking about a cosigner I should offer to pay a few months in advance. At my last meeting with a potential landlord, the Hebrew speaker who was helping me out, made just such an offer on my behalf. Then the landlord explained that he would already be requiring four months in advance WITH a cosigner, but if I could not get a cosigner he would need 12 months in advance. And that was just the beginning; he wanted a lot more, which I may write about in a future post.
And, as it happens, that landlord and his wife were divorcing but claimed they would still manage the rental together. That could be a little touchy, I thought; I might call one of them about an issue, but then get referred to the other, then get referred back to the first one, and so on - with neither of them agreeing to talk to me. Of course, there is probably no reason to call them anyway - certainly not for plumbing or other maintenance issues, since those would be my responsibility.... in addition to the rent.