Helpful Hints
  1. Vacant apartments can be difficult to rent in Santa Rosa because of the high demand by students and non-students. It is necessary, especially for occupancy at the beginning of the fall semester, to beginning looking for apartments months in advance. Contact the apartment complex, directly, to request and submit an application.
  2. Begin your housing search early and check the listings early if you require budget housing or a location near campus. You can use Google Maps or other online maps to locate apartments near campus.
  3. Shared rental space is usually limited to one student only. Occasionally shared rental space is offered for student couples or a single parent and child.
  4. In most cases, students do NOT qualify for low-income, HUD, or Section 8 housing. But, it is a good idea to get on the low-income housing waitlists while you are a student.  Low Income Housing and HUD/Section 8 vouchers have a waiting list from 3 to 10 years.
  5. The "No Pets" policy of many landlords is strictly enforced. Students with pets drastically restrict their choices.
  6. Use a written rental agreement if renting a vacant accommodation or a written roommate agreement if you are renting a shared accommodation. 
  7. The College does not have temporary housing for use while students look for off-campus housing. There are several motels in and around Santa Rosa which students and their parents can use until off-campus housing arrangements are completed.

Average Costs in Sonoma County

Rent will vary noticeably from one accommodation to another depending upon factors such as location, size, condition, and special features. Average monthly rents for the Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park/Cotati areas are:

Shared accommodation (room in-home or apt.)

$850 - $1000

Vacant 1 bedroom apartment

$1300 - $2000

Vacant 2 bedroom apartment

$1900 - $2252

Vacant 2 bedroom, 1 bath house

$2200 - $2600

Vacant 3 bedroom, 2 bath house

$2600 - $3000

There are other factors to keep in mind. Rent will likely not include utilities, and some apartment complexes are now charging a monthly fee to park your car. Some apartments have laundry facilities, others do not. Some have appliances, others do not. Very few apartments in Sonoma county accept pets. If you wish to move with a pet, you must start looking far in advance and expect to pay a pet deposit or even higher rent. 

Rental houses usually require yard upkeep. Also, because there is no on-site property manager, repairs can take longer. Be sure to get information from the owner of the house on what to do in case of a maintenance emergency.

Finally, many students prefer to live close to campus which has resulted in increased competition in an already tight market. Currently, the vacancy rate in the county is approximately 1%.

Income Requirements and Co-Signers

Most apartment buildings in Sonoma County county have an income minimum requirement of 3x the amount of rent in order for an applicant to qualify. With the average 2 bedroom apartment running approximately $2,000 per month, an applicant would need to make $6,000 per month to qualify (financial aid, including loans and scholarships, is considered income). Since this income requirement is challenging for most students, they might request parents to co-sign for them. Unfortunately, many apartments in Sonoma County refuse to accept co-signers. We suggest that you stick to this list in your search for housing. If you should contact an apartment, not on this list, make sure that you will qualify without a co-signer before you pay an application fee. These fees are nonrefundable whether you qualify or not. Each of the students as well as their parents will have to submit an application and each pays application fees. It is important that students discuss this with their parents. You are asking them to take financial responsibility for the apartment as well as to divulge confidential financial information. To be fair, every parent should be on the lease as well as every student. The potential for bad credit is too much of a risk to place on one family. Do not take responsibility for someone else's child.

Lease Agreements

Most apartments require that you sign a lease. There are two types of leases: a fixed-term lease, usually 6, 9, or 12 months, and a month-to-month lease. Signing a fixed-term lease means that you will be responsible for paying the rent and living in the apartment for a certain amount of time. Occasionally, an apartment building will offer lower rent or a lower deposit in exchange for you signing a 6, 9, or 12-month lease. The advantage to a fixed-term lease is that you can not be asked to move and your rent cannot be raised during the span of your lease. The disadvantage is that you cannot move should you find something better or decide to leave the area. Once signed, a lease is a legal document that cannot be broken without incurring penalties. Before signing any lease, you should find out what the penalty is in the event of a break. A month-to-month lease is just that  - effective from one month to the next. The advantage to this type of lease is that you can move out at any time (granted you have given 30 days WRITTEN notice). This tends to be the better option for the nomadic student who goes home for the summer or is always on the lookout for that ever-elusive house in the country. Also, if you don't get along with your new neighbors or are disappointed in your new apartment, you can leave after giving 30 days' WRITTEN notice. The disadvantage of a month-to-month lease is that rent can be raised at any time and the landlord only has to give you 30 days (60 days if you have been their renter for more than 1 year) WRITTEN notice to vacate the premises. Always remember to read through the lease thoroughly before signing it. Make sure you understand ALL of it. If there is something in it that you don't like, discuss it with the manager. Don't ever feel rushed into signing anything and never accept the excuse that it is just like every other lease out there. Make sure that every tenant's name is on the lease. When students move out or move in, it is vital that the new tenant's name be added to the lease. Never take responsibility for someone else. If your roommates can't make the rent or cause a lot of damage, it is the person whose name is on the lease who will be held accountable. Finally, do not leave the manager's office without a copy of your lease. File it away in a safe place as you will definitely refer to it again in the future.

Addressing Rental Challenges

NOLO is a great resource for self-help legal issues

Fair Housing of Sonoma County can provide you with housing assistance and questions by calling 707-765-8488

Tenant’s Rights and Responsibilities:

Fair Housing:

  • Counsels you on your fair housing rights
  • Investigates discrimination complaints
  • Mediates with owners and managers
  • Assists with referrals to state and federal fair housing enforcement agencies
  • Makes referrals to attorneys for legal help

For Petaluma individuals that are at risk of losing their housing because of unpaid rent or because they need help with a deposit; The Homeless Prevention Program provides ONE-TIME ONLY grants for individuals that meet requirements.  For additional information:

Helpful Links
Learn how to identify common online rental housing scams.

Press Democrat
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat newspaper publishes a daily classified section listing available rental accommodations as well as real estate for sale. The Press Democrat may also be reached at (707) 575-7500.

Pacific Gas and Electric
Offers up to a 20% discount on your bill through the California Alternate Rates for Energy plan to people who qualify based on income and family size.

Fair Housing of Sonoma County
Provides information and referrals for landlords and tenants regarding discrimination, laws, and landlord-tenant relationships.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
HUD offers information on Renting and Fair Housing Rights.

WAZE carpool app can assist you to find the ride you need!  Or, you can become a driver and get into that carpool lane!  Download the Waze Carpool App in the Android Play Store or iPhone App Store.  Find out more information on the Waze Website.


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