Tales From an Apartment Renter’s Hell, A.k.a. Tel Aviv

Ads list $1,000 apartments without a bathroom, without a kitchen sink; demands that the renter purchase the furniture, the floor - yet it’s strictly, always, a landlord’s market.

If you think that the housing market in your city is rough, that the prices are impossibly high, take a look at the hell that is better known as the rental apartment market in Tel Aviv. This is a city in which landlords and landladies can do whatever they damn well please, and where those who rent apartments must learn how to survive without rights and without any rent monitoring system. A new Facebook page, “Apartments in Tel Aviv that depress me” leads its visitors to apartment rental ads that look as if they belong in some sort of real estate Twilight Zone.

The ads that the Facebook page’s operator, a 22-year-old Tel Aviv University student named Judy, has herself collected, along with the many ads sent to her by the more than 8,000 members of this Facebook group, range from the audacious to the downright bizarre. For instance, one CEO said he wanted a female roommate who would also clean the apartment and do the laundry. Another ad was looking for a roommate who would not live in the apartment, while other ads offered apartments that are vacant only on certain days of the week.

Among the real bargains are an apartment that lacks a bathroom (until the renovations are finished), for the fantastically low price of NIS 3,500 (about $1,000) a month, and an apartment that rents for only NIS 50 (about $15) more, but has one tiny drawback: no kitchen sink. Obviously, a lot of people in Tel Aviv have not heard about the Swedish standards for apartment rentals.

One Web surfer went one step further and uploaded two photos, one of a Tel Aviv apartment and the other of a Norwegian prison cell. The photos were accompanied by the question: “What would you prefer: A Norwegian prison cell or an apartment in Tel Aviv?” Judging by the pictures, the answer to that question is by no means obvious.

‘But I don’t want 
to join a gym’

In a brief interview, Judy told Haaretz that what really made her flip were not the ads posted by apartment owners. “The ads that really knocked me off my seat were not those posted by landlords and landladies who laid down all sorts of conditions, but the ones posted by people who were renting the apartment now and were about to vacate. About half of them included the condition that whoever took the apartment had to buy this or that piece of furniture in it,” she says. ”Sometimes the demands were really weird. For instance, someone wrote me that she was told that in order to rent a particular apartment, she would have to buy a subscription to a gym. If you are unwilling to pay the current occupants what they demand, they will simply refuse to pass on your details to the lessor, which means that you will not be able to sign the lease.”

In one ad that Judy received while being interviewed, the condition for renting the apartment went as follows: “The apartment is available for rental only on condition that the lessee purchase all its contents, including the parquet floor, which would then belong to the lessee. The price for the entire contents, including renovations to the apartment, is NIS 35,000 (about $10,000).”

The question arises: “Why fight so hard for the ‘privilege’ of living in Tel Aviv?” Judy’s reply: “This is a topic that is often broached in our Facebook group. When people argue, ‘Well, nobody is forcing you to live in Tel Aviv,’ I have plenty to say, and I’m speaking from the standpoint of someone who has lived outside of Tel Aviv for most of her life. This city has a lot to offer and there are good reasons why people flock to Tel Aviv. I love Tel Aviv, too, but I certainly would not live here at any price. However, if things work out, I will definitely make it my business to stay here.”

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