The Best Tips for Renting an Apartment in Los Angeles

Find your next digs with this handy guide.

lechatnoir/Getty Images
lechatnoir/Getty Images

Apartment hunting is a necessity in most cities, but in a place like Los Angeles, it feels like a rite of passage. Every Angeleno has felt the highs and lows of the search. Our sprawling landscape of neighborhoods holds infinite wonders, both known and unknown, glimmering in every direction you turn your head. And because of LA’s massive size, each one of these neighborhoods can feel like its own city.

In other words, it’s not easy to find the right place. And if you’re new here? With so many neighborhoods, so many factors, and so many questions, the process can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What are you looking for and what do you need?

Well, it’s your lucky day because we’ve broken down 10 of the best tips for finding an apartment in Los Angeles, featuring everything from advice on your commute to your rights as a renter. Happy hunting, folks.

Take your time

Finding a great apartment in Los Angeles is a lot like Tinder. You may be ready to delete the app right away if the first option you come across seems like a winner, but it’s always worth another swipe. The relief of wanting to wrap up the search can impair your judgment, and it can cause a real blinded-by-love situation where you might find yourself overlooking small (but salient) details. Sure, the parking situation is hard to beat, but don’t ignore that street light shining so brightly into your bedroom that you can’t sleep.

Know your neighborhoods

One of the single most daunting things about moving to LA is the seemingly endless amount of neighborhoods to choose from. Vibe, culture, priorities, and demographics can shift within a matter of blocks, so it’s necessary to understand the area you’re moving to. It’s also nice to keep in mind that gentrification becomes a bigger and bigger issue across our city, and everybody’s footprint makes a difference. What does your presence mean for this neighborhood? Know your history, learn about your local businesses (you can always choose to hit up the neighborhood coffee shop instead of Starbucks), and support them as best you can!

Understand your rights as a renter

Unfortunately, we live in a world where people intend to swindle you. What magnificent, complicated creatures we are, eh? There are countless Los Angeles horror stories about nightmarish landlords, so knowing your actual rights as a tenant is huge. If you’ve got an archnemesis landlord standing in the way of a comfortable living situation, information about what you’re entitled to is of paramount importance. Did you know, for example, that your landlord actually has to fix things? Anything that prevents your home from being fully livable is something they must take care of. Problems with your ceiling, plumbing, doors, and windows all fall under that umbrella, so make sure you’re informed (This Curbed resource is super helpful).


Keep your commute in mind

Moving here for the first time? We live in a city where a drive to work can take 15 minutes or an hour, depending on the time of day. If your job is in Santa Monica, moving to Eagle Rock is probably not in your best interest, unless you’re looking to spend nearly four hours of your day sitting in traffic. It’s not just about work, though—where do your friends hang out? What grocery stores are you used to going to? Will it be time for you to find a new rotation of taco trucks? These are all things worth considering.

Walking is important

Conversely, since Angelenos do spend so much time in their cars, we highly recommend moving somewhere that will provide ample opportunities for walking with the actual legs attached to your body. A grocery store within walking distance is one of the most quietly rewarding experiences you can have. If you’ve got a supermarket down the street, suddenly running over there for just one ingredient is a lot easier to swallow. Is there a park nearby? There’s no better excuse to walk through it on a Saturday morning than living a few blocks from one. Is your local watering hole just down the street? Leave the car keys at home and have some fun. Right above a late-night corner store? Midnight gummy worm cravings are no longer an issue. Hey, you’re moving around, and that all counts as exercise.

Check your unit meticulously

This one’s big. There’s nothing worse than unpacking your last box, kicking back on the couch, putting your feet up, and noticing a scary pentagram scratched into the ceiling. Once you’ve accepted the unit after your initial visual inspection, it can be an incredibly bothersome process to get a landlord to do anything about problems (which is why tip three is key). Beyond the usual flipping on and off of lights and looking through pantries, it’s important to look at the little things. Does the oven smell like gas? Bad sign. How long does your water take to get hot? Nobody wants to wait 15 minutes for the shower to heat up. Do your windows seal all the way when you close them? LA can get some distressingly large bugs flying around in the summer, and you’re gonna want those suckers sealed up tight. Take your time. Make sure the place isn’t falling apart.

Figure out what matters most

Not many neighborhoods “have it all.” If you’re going to be settling into a certain spot, it should have the things that matter to you. Koreatown, for example, has the benefit of being in an extremely centralized location and an abundance of delicious, late-night food. It also might be the hardest place to park on the planet. Atwater Village is a beautiful area full of friendly people and fun cafes, but it’s nowhere near any sort of public transit. Santa Monica’s weather is always 10 degrees cooler and absolutely perfect, but to have visitors, you’ll need to convince them to drive to Santa Monica. Figure out what your priorities are, and hone in on your apartment from there.


You're gonna need air conditioning

You never know how severe Los Angeles summers are going to be, but they can be devastating. Are you moving to the San Fernando Valley, oftentimes lovingly referred to as “The Center of the Goddamn Sun?” You’d be a lunatic to get an apartment without air conditioning, as temperatures can reach the 110s. Many an Angeleno has lived a life of trying to escape their apartment in a grocery store or a movie theater, and you don’t want to be one of those people who are afraid to go home. A life of tossing and turning through our summer nights with a box fan blowing at your face isn’t for you, either—make sure your apartment has AC.

It’s worth searching beyond the internet

Though finding an apartment online is far easier, not every great building in the city has a listing. Maybe the landlord just didn’t want to deal with the internet, maybe they haven’t had time to set it up yet (which makes you the early bird), or maybe there’s just been some sort of oversight. Whatever it is, taking a stroll through a prospective neighborhood not only gives a flavor of where you might be living, but also allows you to nab something you might not have seen online.

New Africa/Shutterstock

Be ready to move fast

While taking your time to select the right place is crucial, it’s just as critical to be ready to spring into action when you’ve found the one. We’re talking about a highly, highly competitive town when it comes to finding an apartment. This is Hollywood, baby, where people from all over the world come to chase their hopes and dreams. In addition to native Angelenos looking for a new place, you’ve also got to beat out all of the transplants. Make sure you’ve got every document and application ready to rock and strike while the iron is hot.

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Wilder Shaw lived in an Atwater Village house without AC for six years, and he most certainly developed some sort of brain damage because of it. Don’t be like him. You can check his pulse on Twitter and Instagram.