12 Rookie Mistakes People Make When Renting Their First L.A. Apartment

November 15, 2015 by Mallory Carra

I remember the day I signed the lease to my very first Los Angeles apartment five years ago. My heart was pumping like crazy and I was super nervous, because I had no idea what I was getting into — literally. I was signing the lease while I was 3,000 miles away in New York City.

But that’s only one of many rookie mistakes newbie Angelenos make when they rent their first apartment in Los Angeles. After all, apartment searching is an insane process — it’s not easy and it’s by no means perfect. We all take a misstep or two on the way to finding that elusive dream abode.


That said, here are some more mistakes people commonly make while looking for that perfect L.A. apartment.

Hopefully it helps you in your search!

1. Starting Your Apartment Hunt Too Early

I like to get a jump on things right away. A few years ago, I started my hunt for a new place three months before I was looking to move… and people laughed at me. While other cities (like NYC) start their searches way in advance, Angelenos tend to look for rentals the month they’re looking to move and landlords look to fill vacancies right away. Keep that in mind when you start your preliminary search.

2. Paying Full Price For A Westside Rentals Account

Westside Rentals can be really great. In a rental market where you must act fast, Westside Rentals’ constantly updated listings can benefit you for the money you pay for the account. But if you’re short on cash, there are other ways to find a place. I found my current apartment by walking around the neighborhood I wanted to live in and calling up all the vacancies I saw. I kept in touch with my current landlord until a place opened up.

3. Thinking It’s Purely First-Come, First-Serve

It’s definitely not. I actually got an apartment here because I was the first non-smoker applicant he had at the open house. Another landlord offered me a place because he liked my “strong legs.” Ahem, I did not go with that apartment.

4. Get Talked Into Renting A Place You’re Not Sure About

Look, landlords want to fill their vacancies as much as you want a place to live. Some landlords can be really eager to fill the vacancy — sometimes too eager. I got approved for several apartments in LA that I was a little unsure about — including one in a unsafe neighborhood — but the landlords seemed to not want to take no for an answer and kept pushing me to sign the lease. That answer soon made my answer a firm “no.”

5. Assuming Street Parking Availability

They say assumption is the mother of all mistakes, and when it comes to parking in L.A. this is especially relevant. If you find yourself in a scenario where the apartment you’re considering doesn’t come with dedicated parking, make sure you know the street parking situation around your area backwards and forwards. That means permitting issues, overnight restrictions, street sweeping times, congestion and overall availability. Even if you have a dedicated spot, it’s still important to be aware of these things if you ever want to have guests come over and visit.

Crazy L.A. parking sign

Not all L.A. street parking situations are created equal. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

6. Thinking You’re The Only Applicant

Don’t get your hopes up that you’re the first to arrive at a great apartment. If a place as been listed for even a day, there’s a good chance an apartment has a ton of applicants already — especially if it’s on Westside Rentals. I once showed up to an open house of an okay apartment and upwards of 50 people showed up. As we waited to go in, folks were filling out the application sight unseen. Get ready to get competitive.

7. Assuming Apartments Come With Fridges And/Or Certain Appliances.

In my experience, this seems to be a purely Los Angeles thing: Most apartments don’t come with fridges. That was the case with my first apartment here — I had to go half-sies on a fridge with my roommate at the time. My previous apartment had a microwave — albeit one from the 1970s. You can’t assume all apartments are equal when it comes to appliances.


8. Settling & Making Too Many Compromises On What You Want

The search can be long, hard, and tiring. There will be points where you want to give up and just take that weird Santa Monica studio with a closet and a hot plate for $750 a month (true story). Make a list of things you want in that dream apartment and don’t settle for less. Sure, you might have to make some compromises — maybe you won’t get hardwood floors this time — but have faith that you will find (most of) everything you want.

9. Not Testing Your Commute

Do some testing with Google Maps or Waze to understand the reality of your commute. Google Maps now features a really cool feature: You can ask it to predict your commute at various times during the day and you should use it. People underestimate their commute time in L.A. — remember how Clueless joked that everything is 20 minutes away? — and this is a key factor in how happy you will be with your new place.

Traffic in L.A. on the 101

Typical day-time traffic on the 101 moving through DTLA. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

10. Not Actually Seeing The Apartment

As I mentioned above, I rented my first apartment sight-unseen from NYC. I got lucky — it was a nice place in Los Feliz — but it was also on the noisy Los Feliz Boulevard, so I barely got sleep while I lived there and overheard many drunken car accidents. So I definitely advise that you see the your new potential abode before you sign that lease.

11. Not Walking Around the The Neighborhood (Assuming You’re Able)

You really don’t know a neighborhood until you take a walk in it and make sure it has everything you want/need. If you absolutely must have a walkable neighborhood, make sure you actually walk around in it. Do you like living within a stone’s throw from bars, where you can drink the night away? Or would the noise drive you nuts? Truth is finding a walkable neighborhood is easier to do in L.A. than you would think, assuming you do the (no pun intended) leg work.


12. Not Using ALL The Tools At Your Disposal

It would be a major mistake to only rely on one single source of information when it comes to your apartment hunt. But don’t worry, We Like LA has got you covered with this handy list of 10 Must Use Tools For Apartment Hunting In Los Angeles. Perhaps most important of all these, make sure you read  L.A. County FAQ on living and renting an apartment in Los Angeles. Know your rights!

Last Word

Most of all: Don’t give up! Apartment hunting can feel like a full time job, but don’t worry, it’ll over before you know it and you’ll have the apartment of your dreams.

Do you rent in Los Angeles? Do you have any experiences prospective renters might be able to learn from? Let us know in the comments below!