Renting in SF Bay area
June 7, 2012 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Moving to SF Bay area from Canada (most likely SJ). Wondering - is first + last months rent + damage deposit normal, or just first + damage deposit?
posted by burhan to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Very normal, although it varies. Some will ask for first+last+deposit and others will ask only for last + deposit (it's also not unusual for the deposit to equal a month's rent, although that too varies).

I'm apartment hunting in the Bay Area right now too, although it isn't my first rodeo.
posted by smirkette at 7:47 PM on June 7, 2012

Response by poster: What are the best ways to avoid being ripped off when renting. I'm a little worried as it's my first time renting in the USA and I don't know what the laws/rules are around rental units.
posted by burhan at 7:55 PM on June 7, 2012

I've been renting apartments in the Bay Area for 20-plus years, and every one of them has charged first+last+security deposit. It's totally normal around here.

As far as not getting ripped off, the Nolo Press book on Renters' Rights is a good resource. The Nolo website is useful too.
posted by Lexica at 8:05 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

burhan, just make sure you shop around. There are a fair number of landlords charging ridiculous amounts despite bad neighborhood/crappy apartment/etc. because we're going through yet another rent bubble here. Shop around; get a feel for what your budget will get you across multiple listings. Take note of what seems to be standard at your price range (is water & garbage included, approx. square footage, appliances, amenities, etc.). Maybe there are some Mefites in San Jose who would be happy to answer your questions about specific locations?

When moving in, take pictures of your entire apartment. Get double prints: one for you, one for your landlord. That way if they try to charge you for pre-existing damage, you'll have the pics to prove otherwise.
posted by smirkette at 8:11 PM on June 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: That's great advice about the pictures. I'm moving from being a homeowner the past 10 years to renting.. I have 30 days to find a place. I was told that you can begin mid month rentals in SF.. is that normal? I'm used to rentals starting on the 1st.
posted by burhan at 8:28 PM on June 7, 2012

San Jose is a very spread-out city, with little downtown but multiple neighborhoods. Weather is not a problem, but commute times may be. Where will you be working?

Even though it's the second largest city in California, it feels like a suburb.

You might consult the various "neighborhood guides" real estate agents put on the web. Even if you aren't buying, you get ideas of good & bad areas. (crime is very low throughout the Silicon Valley.)

Good luck!
posted by blob at 8:33 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

It varies. Mine have been first + deposit, or just first. But I tend to live in house shares where someone paid the deposit back in 2001.
posted by salvia at 8:44 PM on June 7, 2012

If you want to move in mid-month, ideally they should pro-rate the rent for that month (i.e., you move in June 15, you pay half a month's rent for June 15-June 30, full monthly rent is due on the 1st for July 1-July 31st.) Hopefully this will be explained in the rental agreement.

Leases can be month-to-month (you only do the paperwork once, but it's the same every month. Benefit to you is that you can move out with only 30 days notice. Benefit to the landlord is that they can raise your rent when ever they want.). I think some places will offer a discount on the rent if you sign a 6-month or year-long lease.
posted by sarahnade at 9:13 PM on June 7, 2012

Note that 2 months rent is the maximum allowed security deposit by CA law. So the most you can be expected to pay is 3x your monthly rent (1st month rent + 2month deposit).
posted by bitdamaged at 9:14 PM on June 7, 2012

Response by poster: Great feedback everyone! Thank you.

Blob: I'll be working in Menlow Park. Most likely taking the Caltrain and Shuttle. There's 6 of us in our family, and I'm trying to find a nice neighborhood for the kids with nice schools. (I don't even understand the school system.. 1 in Kindergarten, 2 in Gr 6, 1 in Gr 9)

I've done a lot of googling, but until I'm there, I'm kind of feeling around in the dark. :-(
posted by burhan at 9:51 PM on June 7, 2012

Caltrain stations in San Jose are fairly spread out. Make sure you will be able to get to one easily from your new place. Parking at many of them is basically impossible during rush hour.

I don't know about the schools, but it sounds like Mountain View would be an ideal location otherwise.
posted by twblalock at 10:42 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Regarding schools: your oldest will be in a high school (grades 9-12), the two 6th graders in middle school, and your youngest in a K-5 elementary if you send them to public schools in this area. Some, but not all of the local private schools go from K-8. Public schools are required to post their state standardized test scores, you can find them along with some parent input here. The Greatschool's site is probably more useful than getting the data from the Calif Dept of Education because Greatschools gives you the option to plug in a street address or zipcode and see all the schools nearby.
posted by jamaro at 10:46 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's always been first + deposit for me out here. I haven't run into anyone asking for last month's rent. When I lived in Boston that was universal.

If you're working in Menlo, why not look for places there, Palo Alto, or Redwood City?
posted by MillMan at 11:13 PM on June 7, 2012

2nd Mountain View, or maybe something mid-peninsula. San Jose isn't a city... it's exactly the same as everything else around it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:47 PM on June 7, 2012

I don't know about the schools, but it sounds like Mountain View would be an ideal location otherwise.
The problem with Mountain View is that rents there are ridiculous. Palo Alto is also very expensive for what you get. Proximity to Google and Stanford drives up rents quickly. Menlo Park is pretty far up the peninsula; you might have good luck in Redwood City or further north, up to, say, San Carlos.

San Jose is far more of a city than the rest of the South Bay and Peninsula cities. It's a shame that Willow Glen and some other nice neighborhoods are a long drive from a Caltrain stop.
posted by base_16 at 6:53 AM on June 8, 2012

(I don't even understand the school system.. 1 in Kindergarten, 2 in Gr 6, 1 in Gr 9)

I believe Canadian grades map to US grades pretty well. One of my best friends in high school moved to the US from Canada before 9th grade. The one issue she had is that the school insisted she be in the bottom math class because she hadn't taken a class called 'algebra' because the Canadian math classes were structured differently. She ended up doing two years of math simultaneously in 10th grade to get out of the bottom math track. The moral of this story is be prepared to push hard for appropriate placement for your kids. Schools are not so interested in appropriately placing kids who move from elsewhere, particularly gifted kids and that likely goes double for those moving from another country. (On the other hand, I don't think my friend's younger sister had any issues with placement, though they didn't know what to do with a kid who had had that much French.)
posted by hoyland at 7:52 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

My experience is first+deposit and not last. Then again, you must be looking for a house and I've lived in apartments, so it may be different for you.

As others have noted, Silicon Valley is in an enormous rent bubble right now, so prepare for that. I can't comment on schools, but as far as neighborhoods go, the South Bay and Peninsula are essentially all the same. If you're looking specifically at San Jose, Willow Glen and the Rose Garden are nice, centrally located for commuting and at least have a few things to walk to. Realistically, you're likely going to have to drive everywhere anyway, so pick based on your commute and the schools. I'd suggest checking out the City Data San Jose forum, as there are dozens of recent posts from people in similar situations as you who are moving to the South Bay.
posted by cnc at 12:59 PM on June 8, 2012

Correcting one thing said above - Downtown Willow Glen is 2.2 miles from Diridon (Caltrain) Station. It's really close and there's a parking lot.
posted by cnc at 1:02 PM on June 8, 2012

Response by poster: Guys, this is incredibly helpful. Without being there, all I know is what I google.

Lots of kids, so my primary drivers are school and budget. I'm willing to commute some distance.

When I was there for my interview(s), traffic was really light. What is it like driving up and down the peninsula to get to Menlow Park? I lived in Toronto for some time, so I'm used to some commuting in heavy traffic, but is it as bad as you see on TV?

Also, someone told me to get a hybrid car just so I can travel in the carpool/hybrid lanes, and that it's money well spent. Thoughts?
posted by burhan at 8:05 PM on June 8, 2012

The program that allowed most hybrids into California carpool lanes ended last July. The only single occupant vehicles allowed in the carpool lane now are motorcycles or run on electric, hydrogen, or compressed natural gas with two exceptions: the Chevy Volt and the plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius (not to be confused with the regular Prius hybrid which can't be plugged in). Here's a list of qualifying vehicles, note that the green sticker program—which covers the plug in Prius and the Volt—ends in 2015, after which those stickers will be useless. If someone tries to sell you a Toyota Prius with yellow carpool stickers and tells you that the car can be driven in the carpool lane as a solo without risk of a (very expensive) ticket, they are misinformed.

What time was your interview? Peak commute times are very congested but if you leave very early or wait until after 9:30ish am, it's usually a quick blast up 101 from SJ to MP. Same for coming home: leave late and you can usually beat the worst of it.
posted by jamaro at 9:17 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might also want to look at housing in Fremont. It's across the Dumbarton Bridge and will drop you right onto Willow Road in Menlo Park. The commute isn't any shorter than coming up from the south bay and can be much worse if there's an accident on the bridge because it's only two lanes in either direction + you pay a toll going west but the schools are somewhat less hit or miss than much of San Jose.
posted by jamaro at 9:46 PM on June 8, 2012

3 apartments in the bay area now, all only first and security (less than a months rent). Your mileage will definitely vary.

Traffic on 101, the main freeway between Peninsula cities, CAN BE basically what you're imagining 'as bad as you see on TV.' In general, this is a very traffic heavy area. Someone else mentioned Willow Road- from Facebook HQ in Menlo Park to Palo Alto (3 miles) has taken me as much as 45 minutes sometimes, but that's rush hour.

I'd probably say check this immediate area unless there's some reason you're dying to move to San Jose- Atherton, Menlo Park, parts of Redwood City are all really nice (I live in a not super nice part of RWC). Atherton/MP have MUCH better schools than Redwood, I hear. Mountain View and Sunnyvale to the south are nice too. Belmont- just to the north of MP/Redwood, also seems quite nice.

Palo Alto is really profoundly nice with great schools. But as the street-parked Maseratis and Ferraris might suggest- super, ultra expensive.

I used to commute in from Walnut Creek for a while, and passed through Hayward/Fremont area often. It's much more affordable than the Valley, but it is distinctly second (or third, or fifth) rate in area feel- frankly, I find it pretty sketchy, lots of transients, something of an ominous vibe. What I picture Fresno or any other meth-infested place to be like. There are PLENTY of dodgy parts of Redwood City but not like Hayward. Also the bridge commute would just be a drag (and cost $4 per day for a solo traveller, IIRC).
posted by tremspeed at 11:07 PM on June 8, 2012

If I were you, I'd look in Redwood City or San Mateo. Both have CalTrain stations, both will generally be cheaper than Menlo Park, Palo Alto, or Mountain View. Redwood City has some dodgier neighborhoods, but some nice ones, too. Don't live across a bridge, at least anywhere on the Peninsula you have multiple ways to get home. Once you add a bridge, your commute can completely suck if something goes wrong.

This website has some helpful overviews of Peninsula cities (it's really not SF if you are going to be in Menlo Park).
posted by oneirodynia at 4:10 PM on June 9, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you so much everyone!
posted by burhan at 9:59 PM on June 12, 2012

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