If you are not planning on getting an agent to help you you can always look at http://losangeles.craigslist.org/sfv/ which is free to search for rentals. Owners will list their units on Craig's list because it is free and a highly trafficked website. Many other rental websites allow a listing to sit for 30 days without having to renew it. Craig's List will expire the listing in 7 days if it is not renewed, so there is a better chance the listing is still active.
Jessica M. Acker
Wellman Realty Company
1415 Stanford St., Suite #4
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Direct (310) 828-3132
DRE License # 01894323
Above are the top 3 ways to ensure you don't get scammed. #3 still be careful you're dealing ONLY with the Legal Owner!
After doing both of those things, if you're still not finding a good property, then look online. I strongly urge you to read my 2 recent blog postings called "RENTAL SCAMS - RED FLAGS - PUBLIC BEWARE". If you ever get a response to your inquiry to an online rental posting that sounds ANYTHING like my blog posts, RUN DON'T WALK.
Be careful out there, I hope my information helps you to avoid being scammed.
Realtor Since 1996
Main Street Realtors