If you’re about to rent an apartment in Israel you’re bound to have a few questions about the legal side of things. Below you’ll find 12 of the most common questions, together with the answers you need.
- How long is a lease usually for?
That really depends on you and your landlord. Whatever you decide, make sure that the length of the lease is written into the rental contract, together with the start and end dates and the total number of months.
- What if I don’t know how long I want to rent for?
If you’re not sure how long you will want to rent, you should make sure that the lease includes an option clause that gives the tenant (and only the tenant) the choice to extend the lease for another term or part of a term. An option clause that leaves the decision to both parties i.e. the tenant and the landlord, essentially gives the landlord veto power on whether or not the lease will be renewed and is not recommended.
- What if I want to leave the apartment before the lease ends?
If you may want or need to terminate your lease before the end of the lease period, it would be prudent to add an appropriate clause to the rental agreement. Failing that, you will be liable to pay rent until the end of the lease, whether or not you are living in that apartment.
Sometimes a landlord will request that a similar clause be added which allows him to terminate the contract early. You do not need to agree to this and if the landlord insists upon it you may wish to reconsider renting from him.
If you would like the option to sublet your apartment, this needs to be stipulated in the contract too.
- When is the rent due, and in what currency is it paid?
The rent is payable according to the terms agreed in the rental contract. You may pay monthly, quarterly, every 6 months or even yearly.
If the rent is quoted in dollars in the contract, then it is usually paid in shekels according to the rate of exchange of the dollar to the shekel on the day the rent is payable. However, if you and your landlord agree, the rent can be paid in dollars.
- Can the landlord put the rent up without my agreement?
Your landlord cannot increase the rent unless the lease gives him that right. Usually a raise in rent is dealt with in the option to renew clause. Sometimes the rent will be increased by a percentage and sometimes by a set amount agreed by the parties in advance. If the lease does not mention a rent increase, then the rent stays the same.
- Can I make changes to the apartment?
Usually there is a clause in the lease prohibiting the tenant from making changes without the landlord’s consent.
Essentially the apartment needs to be returned to the landlord in the same condition that you received it at the beginning of the contract. You can, for instance, hang pictures on the walls, but you will need to fill any holes in and brush up the paintwork before you leave.
If your rental apartment was freshly painted before you moved in, you may need to repaint it when you leave. However, the lease must stipulate this, and if it does not, then you are under no obligation to paint the apartment.
- Who is responsible for repairs in the apartment?
It is the landlord’s responsibility to repair anything that breaks down in the apartment due to normal wear and tear. It is the tenant’s responsibility to repair anything that the tenant (or any visitors) breaks by a willful act or by negligence.
You should ask the landlord how to report when something needs to be repaired and you should leave yourself the option in the contract to make repairs yourself if the landlord fails to do so. If you make the repairs yourself, the landlord must reimburse you. It’s prudent to add a clause in the rental agreement enabling you to deduct any expenses for repairs from future rent payments.
- What additional expenses, other than the rent, should I expect?
In addition to the rental payments, the tenant is usually responsible for paying utility bills, municipal taxes on the property (arnona), home owners association fees (va’ad bayit) and ongoing maintenance expenses.
It is important to note that new immigrants (olim) can claim an exemption or discount from arnona for the first year after Aliya. To take advantage of this, go to the offices of the municipality and request the reduction.
If the apartment you are considering has a garden, it’s a good idea to hire a gardener agreed to by the landlord and have the lease state that you fulfill your obligations in this respect by making the payments to the gardener for the maintenance of the garden. If you don’t use a mutually agreed upon gardener, your landlord can blame you for anything that goes wrong in the garden even if you did your best to maintain it.
- What about insurance?
You should always take out insurance against theft or damage to your personal property. You should also have third party liability insurance for the duration of the term of the lease. The structure of the apartment should be insured by the landlord.
- Do I have to agree to the Protected Tenant Law clause?
The Protected Tenant clause refers to an old law from the 1950s whereby tenants, under certain circumstances, received special rights in the apartment and could not be made to leave.
All rental contracts include a clause that the Protected Tennant Law does not apply. Don’t let this scare you. All landlords will want this clause in the contract even though the Protected Tenant Law does not apply in a standard apartment rental situation. Leaving this clause in does not affect your rights.
- What kind of security deposit is usually required?
It is customary in all rental agreements for the tenant to give the landlord some form of financial security to ensure compliance with the rental agreement. This security can take the form of a promissory note (shtar chov), bank guarantee, or security deposit. These documents are usually held by the landlord’s attorney and returned to the tenant shortly after the end of the term of the lease when the tenant shows that he or she has paid all bills and complied with the terms of the lease.
- Do I need a lawyer to review my rental contract before I sign?
Always have a rental agreement reviewed by your attorney to make sure there are no loopholes or pitfalls to trap you. The rental laws in Israel may differ from your country of origin and it is wise to protect yourself from any legal oversights which could affect your living situation.