Rental Housing Guide


apt_516K_2.jpgSome smaller complexes, like this one at 516 K Street, can be found by checking Property Management listings or the Community Housing Listing service.

Renting a house or apartment is an alternative to home ownership due to financial or time constraints. Obviously most students moving out of the dorms are likely looking to rent their residence.

Residential rental vacancy rates in Davis are typically below the 5 percent generally considered healthy for a city. The result has been escalating prices and an imbalance of power in favor of landlords. A [WWW]2008 survey by UC Davis reported the apartment vacancy rate to be 0.8 percent for 2008. In the [WWW]2009 survey vacancies increased to 3.2%, and they bumped up another two tenths to 3.4% according to the [WWW]2010 survey.

  1. Pre-search planning
    1. Benefits of living in Davis
    2. Average Rental Prices
    3. Families
    4. Living with Others
    5. House, Apartment, or Room?
    6. Short Term v. Annual Leases
  2. Searching for Housing
    1. Organizing Your Search
    2. Listings
      1. Apartments
      2. Property Managers
      3. University Services
      4. Additional Resources
    3. Housing Standards
    4. Apartment Move-in Condition
  3. Searching for Tenants
    1. Creating an ad
    2. Places to post ads
    3. Setting a price
  4. Leveraging Your Money
    1. Affordable Housing Program
    2. Saving on Utilities
    3. Smart Management
  5. Housing Disputes
    1. Gender Discrimination
  6. Renewing Your Lease
  7. Issues that may arise while you are a resident
    1. Survey of Renter Issues
  8. Moving Out
    1. Getting your security deposit back
    2. Change of address
    3. Time your move

Pre-search planning

Benefits of living in Davis

Living in Davis Living Outside Davis
makes it convenient to get to/from campus (if you're a student or work on campus) gives you more options outside a 12-month lease
helps save money on transportation, e.g. gas, parking, vehicle wear exposes you to more diverse populations
is safer than commuting after a late night additional shopping options
provides lots of fun stuff to do & better social opportunities with like-minded people offers cheaper rents in areas like Sacramento and Woodland
makes hooking up with friends way more convenient usually provides abundant parking
gives you the protection of the [WWW]Davis Model Lease, used by most landlords & originally drafted by the UC Davis Student Housing Office years ago - this annual lease runs September-September is quieter and more laid back

Average Rental Prices

The Davis Apartment Vacancy and Rental Rate Survey is conducted annually by the UCD Student Housing Department since 1975. You may read the [WWW]2011,[WWW]2009 and [WWW]2008 survey press releases.

The following are the 2008 average rent rates for unfurnished apartments. 2009 average rates still need to be compiled from the 2009 rent survey.

2008 Average rental prices
Type Price Units total
Studio $759 230
1-bedroom $932 2424
2-bedroom $1,225 3813
3-bedroom $1,791 1129
4-bedroom $2,337 637
5-bedroom - 0
6-bedroom $2,575 4


Because so many apartments in Davis are student-focused, it can be tough for parents to find good, family-friendly rentals. The University runs two student family housing complexes: Orchard Park and Solano Park. Many of the apartment complexes farther away from the university have slightly lower student densities. You can ask the management when you're checking a place out to get a sense of the number of families there. Do you know of family-friendly apartments in town? Start a list here!

Living with Others

See Roommate Guide. If you're a student and getting ready to leave the residence halls, consider whether you want to live with housemates, roommates or by yourself. If you choose to live with housemates, start by figuring out how many people you can bear to live with, whether you want to live in a single-sex environment, and what the group dynamics might be. If you choose to live by yourself, start figuring out if you can actually afford to live by yourself (and not have roommates to split the bills).

House, Apartment, or Room?

Living in a House versus an Apartment

Renting a House/Apartment versus a Room
house_jstcoop.jpgThanks to the hard work of its residents, J Street Co-op boasts a beautiful garden!

Essentially, if you choose to rent an entire house or apartment rather than renting a room in an existing household, you get to choose who you want to live with. But this option also takes more coordination because you have to first figure out who you're compatible with and get everybody on board, then figure out what everybody wants out of a place to live [e.g. apartment or house, location, satellite or cable, etc.]. Once you find some places, you'll have to get everybody coordinated to be able to look at the place, or one person can do the initial look-see and trim it down for the others to check out later.

Choosing to rent a room in an existing household can be far easier on the front end, but you may find yourself working harder to fit into a group with previously established relationships and ways of doing things. If things aren't going well, this can become a problem and you can potentially find yourself odd-man out. Another plus to renting a room within a house is that you'll probably only have to furnish your own room... this can be a minus if you already have a lot of furniture that you want to keep, though.

If you're considering living in a co-operative household, the interview process can be fairly in-depth, because these are typically more mature individuals who have had plenty of bad roommate experiences. At some co-ops, you may be expected to meet all members of the household so you all have an opportunity to assess the potential fit. Other co-ops have an open membership process, where you can sign up on a first-come/first-serve basis. In any case, it is usually a good idea to attend dinner or go for a co-op tour; that way you'll learn a lot about the rules and ways of the household before moving in. Be prepared to ask lots of questions and potentially answer lots of questions about your willingness to participate in co-op living.

Short Term v. Annual Leases

Searching for Housing

Since housing in Davis is so heavily impacted by the university and its academic year schedule, some people start looking for housing around November/December for the following fall, and property management companies generally start releasing new listings after March, when they're reasonably able to query current tenants on future plans. Owner-managed properties and cooperative housing seem to hit the market a bit later - April through summer. (Look at results of the [WWW]current vacancy survey conducted by Student Housing to get an idea of what the rental housing market is like.)

Organizing Your Search

  1. Find out if you're eligible for low-income housing, utilities, cable, etc. It may take awhile to get approved, so make these calls early!

  2. Use index cards to write down potential houses/apartments, contact info, & things you want/need, e.g. (upstairs v. downstairs unit, dishwasher, washer/dryer, pets, etc. Use one card per location and include as much info as possible on the front; use the back for additional notes when you check out the place.

  3. Talk to friends who have lived in Davis and redline the crappy places; keep these notes so you'll remember which places to avoid like the plague.

  4. With your cards on the table, start calling each place, run down your list of requirements, note the price, availability, and attitude of the person answering the phone. Schedule appointments as you go.

  5. When you look at a place, take notes on your index card and pick up any floor plan brochures available at each apartment complex - don't assume you'll remember the details of each place later.


Searching for Tenants

Creating an ad

Take the time to provide some information in your listing to make it easier on buyers. Give your name and phone number (and list appropriate times to call you) - most buyers would rather call directly than send an email and wait for you to call them back. Provide information about the place - if you just put up a 10-second ad on Craigslist begging people to email you without giving any hints about the place, many will simply gloss over or make a mental note to check back later and never do.

Always give the address or at least general location of the place right in the ad, and if it is an apartment complex then be sure to name which one it is. This is perhaps the most important step, as many buyers will research the place themselves if they see an ad for a room available.

Post or provide links to pictures of the place, especially of the floor plan. You can usually find these images for apartments online by looking at the place's website.

Make sure you give your gender, and whether or not you are open to living co-ed or need a specific sex.

Consider things from the buyers perspective. Give them stuff they want to know right up-front. Tell them if they get their own room, and if there's an option for them to share it with one of their friends (or one of your current roommates, or another roommate). Tell them a bit about yourself and what they might expect when they live with you - if you're up-front about how you're a quiet recluse or sociable party-friendly person then you're much more likely to find a good match for a roommate.

Places to post ads

Remember, you can post your ad as many places you want - go nuts. As a courtesy, however, remember to take them down once you fill the place - it'll also save you from unneeded phone calls in the morning.

Setting a price

Make yourself familiar with what other people are charging. Browse ads yourself for a bit to eye the competition. In general, the sooner school is about to start the lower prices get, since quite a few people get desperate and have empty rooms. Two people sharing a room tend to pay slightly more than a person taking the room for himself, so you may want to list two prices, the own room price and the sharing price. Short term leases generally go for significantly more per month than yearly ones, although the difference is less dramatic in high demand places that sell like hotcakes where the risk of being unable to fill the place is lower.

Leveraging Your Money

apt_sojourner3.jpgSojourner Truth Garden is a small complex renovated and managed specifically to meet the needs of low income residents.

Housing Disputes

The California Department of Consumer Affairs puts out a comprehensive [WWW]guide about residential tenants' and landlords' rights and responsibilities. See also Tenant Rights and Renter Small Claims Stories.

Renewing Your Lease

Some time before the end of your rental period, you will be asked to sign a lease renewal. You also may choose not to sign a renewal, or declare that you do not intend to renew your lease. Landlords prefer to get a signed renewal as early as possible, because it reduces their chances of having an unfilled apartment, and because it reduces their marketing time and expenses. Some landlords will put pressure on residents to renew by stating that their apartment will go on the market for other potential residents if they do not commit to an early lease renewal (often as early as January or February.) In reality, unless a tenant has been problematic, most landlords would probably prefer if the current resident stays in their apartment rather than finding a new resident, since that minimizes the landlord's marketing, and apartment turnover costs. Residents benefit from committing to a lease renewal as late as possible, because it leaves them more time to find a new apartment if their old one proves not to meet their needs during their lease term (issues that affect your decision to stay may come up throughout the year.) Residents also benefit from renewing later in the rental period because once they have signed a lease for the next year, the landlord has much less incentive to be responsive, since the residents are then committed to staying in the same apartment. It is to your advantage not to commit to renewing your lease until you are absolutely sure that you want to stay in your current apartment.

This early renewal requirement forces tenants to commit to a rental up to 1.5 years into the future. Unfortunately, the month-to-month rental market in Davis is very limited, and these few short-term rental options do not know about their availability until 30-60 days in advance of move-in. As such, tenants unwilling to sign another year-long lease must lose their current rental without being able to secure new housing in Davis. The [WWW]Davis Tenants for a Flexible Rental Market is a facebook page that tenants can 'like' to encourage city policy reforms to make the housing market more flexible for Davis residents, postdocs, or students whose schedule does not operate on the school-year calendar.

Issues that may arise while you are a resident

Survey of Renter Issues

The City of Davis' City-UCD-Student Liaison Commission, Associated Students of UC Davis and Tandem Properties conducted a [WWW]survey of renter issues in Davis. Tandem Properties donated a random drawing prize of 1-Insignia 42" 1080p LCD HDTV. You can read the results [WWW]here.

Moving Out

Getting your security deposit back

The California Department of Consumer Affairs offers a [WWW]brochure that thoroughly outlines state law regarding security deposit refunds and those issues that most frequently become a problem. Please consult the Security Deposit Survey to hear how other wiki users dealt with getting their security deposit, and remember to:

  1. Document — keep your records and take clear, well-lit photos of the premises prior to moving in and before moving out. Use the move-in photos as reference for how well you need to clean when you move out. Give the landlord copies of the photos or do something else as proof you took those pictures upon move-in rather than at a later time. If you need something done during your tenancy, be sure to send your request in writing and keep a copy for yourself... paper trails are the only type documentation sure to hold up in court.

  2. Prepare — most landlords are happy to perform repairs during your tenure in the apartment. Get things repaired early, so that they won't become an issue near moving time.

  3. Clean — tenants are legally entitled to a pre-inspection within two weeks of relinquishing tenancy; at this time the landlord must give you an itemized list of things to clean/repair.

  4. Be persistent, courteous, and professional

Change of address

  1. Change it with [WWW]USPS — do this in person if you use an address other than your Davis residence for credit card statements. To verify your information, you enter your CC(?) number and it checks to see if the billing address syncs with the 'old' or 'new' address you try to put the forward on. Be aware the Postal Service sells your new information to marketers and will likely increase your junk mail.

  2. Change it with UC Davis through SISWEB.

  3. Contact credit card companies, banks, etc.

Time your move

  1. Make arrangements for a moving vehicle, e.g. U-Haul, friend's truck, etc.

  2. Reserve a storage unit if necessary

  3. Check to see if your landlord offers any early-move-out incentives (some do!).

  4. If you're moving your own stuff between August 30 and September 1, then you're not taking advantage of all the free stuff others are giving away. Come on! Get with it! You want free stuff, don't you!?

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