Finding a place to rent in Berkeley and most of the SF Bay area can be a trying task. Although RLA does not keep rental listings, we can provide referrals to local home-finding agencies, as well as suggestions for effective house-hunting, a tenant resume to download, and information on average rent ranges .

Are you a student at UC Berkeley? Check out the Rent Stabilization Board’s special Guide for Cal Students

Tips on Searching Effectively

1. Start searching early. You should begin at least two months before your desired move in date.

2. Consider a broad range of types of housing, and, if you are a UC Berkeley student, know what radius from campus you consider an acceptable commute. Remember that rooms and shares are more plentiful than vacant apartments, and competition is less intense for places two or three miles from campus, such as El Cerrito near the Plaza or Piedmont Avenue in north Oakland.

3. Be in the area. It is virtually impossible to secure housing via telephone. In this competitive market, it is necessary to walk around town/campus to find posters and search the local newspaper. It also always helps to meet the landlord and any potential roommates.

4. Leave a phone number when calling a rental listing. Call at a reasonable hour. Look to see if the listing indicates a best time to call.

5. Make an appointment to view the place, and arrive on time. Call the lister if you need to cancel–don’t be a no-show. That lister might have a rental you want in the future.

6. If you’re out of the area, try rental finding services. These services come at a cost, but they find housing according to your specifications. (Please note that RLA is not affiliated with and does not endorse any rental finding services — they are listed here as options for you only.)

7. Dress neatly for viewing appointments with landlords. Landlords gravitate toward tenants who appear clean, quiet, and polite… and who demonstrate they can and will pay rent on time.

8. Prepare a tenant resume to show how you will pay rent. RLA provides sample tenant resume forms.

9. Have your money ready. Often, the one who gets the apartment is the one who can lay down the rent/deposit quickest.

10. Tell the landlord you will keep the place in good condition, and request a walk-through inspection. (The walk-through is also a time to note any necessary repairs. You may use RLA’s Move-In Checklist or simply note items on a piece of paper that you and the landlord date and sign. Keep a copy for when you move out, and use it to demonstrate that you have kept the place in good order. Dated photos or videos are excellent, too.)

11. Discuss any issues you may have with your landlord. Broaching issues early on and ensuring they are fixed may save you a lot of headaches later down the line. Make sure you get all agreements down on paper.

12. If renting with roommates, consider potential legal issues. How will you handle returning deposits if one roommate leaves? How will you find a replacement? Will the landlord want to screen replacement roommates? Will you need to sign a new rental agreement if a roommate leaves? How will you cover the rent if it takes an extra month to find a replacement housemate?

13. Ask if you can sublet. If you cannot stay year-round, you can often sublet your room or even the whole house/apartment. Ask about the landlord’s sublet policies: usually you continue to pay the landlord directly while collecting rent from the subletter. Ask if the landlord wants to screen potential sub-tenants. Tell the landlord how you plan to pay the rent if you cannot find a subletter. Remember: You are responsible for any damages or problems that arise from subletting.

14. Ask the landlord to keep a copy of your phone number in case other vacancies open up. (The owner may have other properties.) Also, ask the owner if he has friends who may have vacancies. You might also ask what you could do to strengthen your application next time.

Need more help? Cal Rentals also maintains a site with house hunting tips.

Rental Agencies Online and in the Berkeley Area

Turning to a rental finding agency is one alternative to house-hunting on your own. Agencies often ask you to specify key details such as number of bedrooms and location; if you sign a lease to an apartment or house they find, they charge you a fee for their services. Other services, like Cal Rentals, just maintain a database of openings.

Please note that Renter’s Legal Assistance is not associated with and does not endorse any of the following businesses. We are not responsible for the content of their sites. They are listed solely for your convenience.

Bay Rentals
Tel: (408) 244-4901, (800) 706-7878

Cal Rentals:
A popular service available exclusively to UC Berkeley students, faculty, and staff. For a $30 fee you can view listings of all housing types online, by email, and via printouts in the Cal Rentals office.
Address: 2610 Channing Way #2272, Berkeley, CA
Tel: (510) 642-3642

Echo Housing, Project Share:
A community-based organization that helps people find shared housing and housemates; they also have an Oakland office. Call to make an appointment; no drop-ins. Matches people for shared housing.
Address: 3102 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, CA
Tel: (510) 845-9030

A comprehensive online resource for advertising and finding housing.
Address: 2161 Shattuck Avenue, Suite 317, Berkeley, CA
Tel: (510) 549-2000, (888) 945-RENT

With over a thousand listings at any given time, Homefinders is the largest rental assistance company in the area. Pay between $35 and $85 to gain access to a two-month phone, email and online listing, depending on your desired listing types. If you are unsuccessful in finding housing at the end of the month, you may get a $35 refund or receive a third month free.
Address: 2158 University Ave, Berkeley, CA
Tel: (510) 647-0960, (800) 400-5588

This information is provided as a service only. No guarantee is made as to the accuracy of this information. Please call ahead to confirm that prices have not changed.

Typical Rent Ranges in the Berkeley Area

Typical rent ranges largely depend on the type of housing, the current rent market, the number of rooms, and so on. Make sure you check around for similar housing and compare prices before signing a lease agreement.

From the Cal Rentals website:

Work exchanges Free or reduced rent in exchange for 10 to 20 hours of work per week.
Room in shared apartment or house 2016 Berkeley average: $1,134
Studio apartment 2016 Berkeley average: $1,740
One-bedroom apartment 2016 Berkeley average: $2,408
Two-bedroom apartment or house 2016 Berkeley average: $3,274
Three-bedroom apartment or house
(Three-bedroom apartments are rare)
2016 Berkeley average: $4,524