How to find an apartment in Los Angeles 101: Tips & tricks

Learn how to find an apartment in Los Angeles in just 8 steps. We've got you covered, from defining your priorities to moving into your new home.


7 minute read
12 Jun 2024

Are you ready to dive into the thrilling adventure of finding your dream apartment in Los Angeles? From the glitz of Hollywood to the laid-back vibes of Santa Monica, LA offers endless possibilities. In just 8 steps, we will guide you from starting your search for homes for rent in Los Angeles to moving into your new home. We also have the burning questions you need to ask yourself (and your future landlord) during apartment hunting in LA.

Best way to find an apartment in Los Angeles

Finding an apartment in LA might seem overwhelming if you don't know where to start. Do you pick a neighborhood first or start exploring homes for rent in Los Angeles? To help you organize your search we've come up with 8 simple steps. Here is overview of how you can find an apartment in Los Angeles.

  1. Define your priorities
  2. Determine your budget
  3. Find your neighborhood in LA
  4. Gather your documents
  5. Start looking for apartments
  6. Reach out to landlords
  7. Sign the rental lease
  8. Plan your move

Let’s dive deep into them and answer all the questions you might have.

Step 1. Define your priorities

Your priorities are the first thing you need to figure out during your apartment hunting in LA. Narrowing down what you’re looking for will make your search much easier. This includes deciding on what type of property you’re looking for, where you want to live, and how much you can budget for rent will help your search. The best way to define your rental priorities is to answer these 16 questions:

  1. How important is the apartment’s location for you?
  2. What’s your budget?
  3. Is commuting to work or the city an issue?
  4. What type of apartment are you looking for? A studio or 1 bedroom? Is it furnished or unfurnished?
  5. Do you want to have the utilities included or excluded from the rent?
  6. Do you want to live by yourself or with roommates?
  7. Do you own a car? If so, does the apartment have parking or a parking space nearby? Are the parking costs included in the rent?
  8. Do you mind sharing facilities with your roommates?
  9. How long do you plan on living in the apartment?
  10. Is making changes to the apartment important to you? (e.g., hang things on the wall or repaint the walls?)
  11. Are you looking for a pet-friendly apartment?
  12. What amenities do you want the apartment to have? (e.g., washing machine, parking, air conditioning.)
  13. How is your credit score? Will you need a guarantor or a co-signer of the lease?
  14. When do you need a new place to live?
  15. Is your eye set on a specific neighborhood/area to live in LA?
  16. What type of neighborhood are you looking for? Do you want a lot of greenery, scenic views, the beach, or the hustle and bustle of Downtown?

Once you’ve answered these questions, ask yourself which are the top 3 things that are non-negotiable for you. The rental market in LA is competitive, so you might need to compromise, and it’s better to be prepared on what you’re willing to give up and what you won’t.

Step 2: Determine your budget

After you’ve set your priorities, it’s time to budget. Consider how much you can pay monthly for rent and utilities. We suggest coming up with a range you’re willing to spend on rent as it will make your choices more flexible. Check out our guide to the cost of living in LA to see what you can expect in terms of monthly expenses.

You can try the 50/30/20 method, where 50% of your monthly income goes towards expenses, 30% goes towards things you want to buy for yourself, and 20% goes into your savings.

Let’s say you make the city of LA average of $7,293 monthly. Following the 50/30/20 rule, you can spend around $3,647 monthly on your expenses. With such a budget, a place that costs between $1,500 and $2,000 monthly is perfect. If the utilities aren’t included, we recommend looking for a place on the lower end of your budget so that you can use the rest to cover the bills. This will allow flexibility in looking for a place and leave you with enough money to cover food, healthcare, and transportation.

Other costs of getting a new apartment are brokerage fees and security deposit. Brokerage fees vary between companies, but the security deposit always equals 1 month’s rent.

Step 3: Find your neighborhood

Each neighborhood in LA has its unique charm. You can live in the trendy Silverlake, the eclectic Koreatown, or the charming Loz Feliz with its breathtaking city views. Santa Monica has the beach in your backyard. Long Beach or Larchmont Village will give you beach views and a calm atmosphere if you're looking for a more affordable neighborhood.

Other things to consider when it comes to choosing a neighborhood in LA are your budget, the proximity to your work or university, safety, and the things you can do nearby. The Los Angeles metropolitan area is quite large, and in peak traffic hours, it can take up to 4 hours to get from one side of the city to the other. This is why it’s better if your home is relatively close to your work.

Step 4: What do you need to rent an apartment in Los Angeles?

When renting an apartment in Los Angeles, landlords typically require several documents as part of the rental application process. While specific requirements may vary depending on the landlord or property management company, the following documents are commonly asked:

  • Proof of ID (valid passport or US-issued driver’s license)
  • Visa and immigration documents
  • Proof of income
  • Credit check report
  • Social Security number (SSN) and Individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN)
  • Letter of employment
  • Rental history
  • Bank statements
  • Personal references

What credit score do you need to rent in LA?

In terms of credit score, to rent in Los Angeles, you need an average credit score of 650 for the household. This means that if you’re renting with another person, your combined credit score has to average more than 650. If you’re renting by yourself, you have a higher chance of getting approved if your credit score exceeds 650. Some landlords are more flexible than others and won’t require such a high credit score.

For people with lower credit scores, you can use your salary slips or savings as proof you’re a reliable renter. Another thing you can do is find a guarantor or a co-signer to sign the rental agreement with you. This guarantees to the landlord that rent will be covered, even if it’s not by you. Check out our guide on renting with a bad credit score to learn more ways you can get an apartment.

Step 5: Start looking for places

The rental market in LA is quite competitive, so it’s best to start your apartment hunting 3 to 6 months before your move. This gives you ample time to find what you’re looking for without compromising on costs or amenities too much.

If you’re already living in LA, you can take a walk or drive around the neighborhood you’ve set your eyes on and see if there are available rentals there. You can go to open houses or schedule viewings with the real estate agents. When you visit the potential homes, pay attention to details such as the condition of the building, amenities, and the neighborhood.

If this isn’t an option, you can explore apartments in LA online. You can check out your options on Facebook or Craigslist but this makes you more succeptable to rental scams since you can't visit the place before your move.

This is why it's better to book with a trusted platform like Housing Anywhere. With us, you can explore thousands of listings from verified landlords and book one immediately. We have a 48-hour safeguard on your first month’s rent and security deposit, ensuring you get your money back if the apartment you’ve booked doesn’t match the photos.

Keep in mind that renting in LA is seasonal, with summer months being more expensive than winter. Most people prefer to move between May and September as school is off and the weather is better. Yet, one thing you’ll learn living in LA is that the weather never gets too cold. So, if you’re looking to save some money on rent, schedule your move between October and April.

Step 6: Reach out to landlords and apply for an apartment

Once you have your eyes set on an apartment, it’s time to reach out to the landlord or the property management firm. You can call, email, or message them to introduce yourself. Have a paragraph ready with your name, credit score, where you’re from, why you’re moving to LA, and why you’re interested in the apartment. Keep the text short and structured, highlighting only relevant information.

Applying for apartments can get expensive as you need to pay application fees for each property you’re applying for. In Los Angeles, the maximum amount you can be charged is $62.02 per application.

Booking through HousingAnywhere takes care of that, as you don’t have application fees. All you need to pay is a one-time booking fee in case of a successful booking. You can reach out to as many landlords as you want, but you only have to pay when you book the apartment.

Step 7: Sign the lease

Your application has been approved. Congratulations! Now it’s time to sign the lease. Make sure you pay attention to several things before you make it official. Here’s a list of things you need to know before signing the lease:

  • The term of the lease
  • Rent amount and date rent is due
  • Cost of utilities (if included in the rent)
  • Who is responsible for repairs and maintenance
  • Entry and privacy
  • Termination of the lease
  • Eviction policy
  • Pet policy
  • Security deposit terms

These should be outlined in your rental agreement in detail. Renters in LA also have a list of rights they’re entitled to, even if they aren’t included in your agreement. These cover things like anti-harassment laws, rights to fair housing, rent control, and the right to live in habitable conditions. It’s very important that you are aware of them as they protect you as a renter. Check out our guide to tenant rights in LA to learn more about them and what responsibilities you might have as a renter.

Step 8: Arrange your move

Now that you have an apartment in LA, the only thing left is to move there. You need to figure out how you’re going to get to LA and what you’re packing. If you’re flying, it’s best to buy the tickets as soon as possible and arrange for a moving company. Don’t overpack too much, as you’ll probably end up buying new things for your new home. You can check out our guide on moving to LA to see what other items you need to add to your relocation checklist.

How do I find an apartment in LA?

Before you explore homes for rent in Los Angeles, let's ensure you've got all your bases covered! First things first, nail down your apartment priorities and set a budget that fits your lifestyle. Consider what matters most to you: location, amenities, or your monthly expenses. Then, explore different neighborhoods to find your perfect fit – think about commute times, safety, and what's nearby. When you're ready to apply, gather up those docs and reach out to landlords. Once you've got that lease signed, it's time to plan that epic move to the City of Angels!

This article is for informational purposes only.

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