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The essentials on renting an apartment in San Francisco

Updated January 2023

Renting an apartment is the next best thing if you’re not keen on buying residential real estate in San Francisco. Read on to learn more about the experience and how you can find an apartment that fits your lifestyle and needs ideally.

The hunt for the best apartment

Here are a few things to note as you search for the perfect apartment.

  • Budgeting is important. San Francisco may be an expensive real estate market, but you can still shell out more money than you intend. According to the rental website Zumper, the median monthly rent price for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is about $3,000. Make that the base for your budget, then add incidentals, such as an advanced payment and security deposit.
  • Decide where you want to live early on. It will narrow down the apartment search. List your top three or five and move on to the next place on your list if you can’t find an apartment in the first one. If you need help determining which part of San Francisco you want to live in, click here.
  • It’s best to walk around than search online. Many apartments for rent are listed online, but walking around neighborhoods will also help you find gems, especially in places like the Tendernob and Nob Hill. After this, count rental websites and Craigslist as only secondary sources.
  • Be ready. Build a file with your personal and financial information and keep it prepared if you come across an apartment you like. San Francisco’s rental market is competitive and fast-paced. That place you loved the other day might already be taken when you apply.
  • Deposits required. As you sign your lease, you’ll be required to pay a deposit, which will be held in escrow. The amount depends on you, so only part of what you can afford. Also, know that non-refundable deposits are not a thing. 

What are rent-controlled units?

You might come across the rent-controlled real estate as you scour San Francisco’s housing market. These properties have limits on how much they can raise the rent every year.

Effective March 1, 2023, through February 29, 2024, the allowable annual increase amount is 3.6%. , the annual allowable increase was set to 2.6 percentCalifornia also recently passed a statewide bill that limits annual rent increases (5 percent).

The following properties are covered in the ordinance:

  • Residential hotels 
  • Subsidized housing
  • Dormitories
  • Monasteries and nunneries
  • Hospitals
  • Single-family homes (except those that were moved in after January 1, 1996)

You can read more about rent control in San Francisco here. This resource is from the San Francisco Tenants Union.

Other useful resources

Sometimes, something goes awry with your apartment. Here are a couple of additional readings that will help you when that time comes:

You can also approach the San Francisco Tenants Union and the San Francisco Rent Board to learn more about your rights as a tenant. 

We hope this information was helpful.