Top Ten Cities For Renters In 2010


Market Analyst

We recently came across a list of the top ten cities ranking places where renting a home or apartment was better than purchasing one. The criteria for the list was rather simple – the cities that had the lowest ratio of average rental price to average home purchase price won a spot on the list.

This got us thinking. What are the most "tenant friendly" cities in the United States? In other words, besides just rental and home prices, what other measurable factors make a city amenable to renters?

Our rental property software experts looked at the 50 most populous U.S. cities and ranked them based on the following criteria:

  • Cost per square foot of a 2-bedroom apartment;
  • Change in rent prices from 2009 to 2010;
  • Residential vacancy rate;
  • Rental cost as a percentage of median income;
  • Tenant councils;
  • Tenant-friendly foreclosure laws; and,
  • Rent control laws.

Cities were awarded points based on our methodology below. Based on our analysis, here are the United States' most tenant friendly cities (See all 50 rankings here). We have listed them in order of best to last (i.e. Chicago is ranked #1).

CityCost% ChangeVacancy% of Income
Chicago, IL$1.00-3.71% 12.8% 26%
Arlington, TX$0.52 -2.34% 13.3% 12%
Mesa, AZ$0.65 -1.23% 19.8% 15%
Indianapolis, IN$0.60 -1.48% 10.2% 16%
Phoenix, AZ$0.77 -6.03% 19.8% 18%
Jacksonville, FL$0.76 2.58% 19.5% 18%
Fresno, CA$0.74 -5.75% 3.8% 22%
Sacramento, CA$1.05 -6.46% 7.1% 25%
Detroit, MI$0.60 -2.45% 17.7% 25%
Tuscon, AZ$0.80 -0.67% 10% 26%

This table displays which cities offer tenant councils, foreclosure protection, and rent control. We have provided more details of each below the table.

CityTenant CouncilForeclosure ProtectionRent Control
Chicago, ILYesYesNo
Arlington, TXYesNoNo
Mesa, AZYesNoNo
Indianapolis, INNoYesYes
Phoenix, AZYesNoNo
Jacksonville, FLYesYesNo
Fresno, CANoNoYes
Sacramento, CANoNoYes
Detroit, MINoYesNo
Tuscon, AZYesNoNo

Our Methodology

Here is more about the metrics we used to determine "tenant friendliness."

  • Cost per square foot. This number reflects how much a 2-bedroom, 1,000 square foot apartment costs per square foot, per month in a particular area. In order to keep it simple, we used 1,000 square feet across all of our cities to describe a 2-bedroom apartment. Rents are based on Rent-O-Meter's pricing of 2-bedroom units. A point was awarded if the monthly rent was less than $1.10 per sq. ft., which was the median of all 50 cities' rental prices.
  • Recent trends of rental prices. This number reflects the percent change in the average rent of a two-bedroom apartment from 2009 to 2010. The numbers come from's What's My Neighbor Pay tool. Any decrease in rental prices earned a city a point.
  • Residential vacancy rate. This number reflects the percentage of rental properties that are vacant (as of March 2010) in a particular metro area, as determined by the United States Census Bureau. Approximately 10% vacancy is the national average. A point was awarded if the vacancy rate was higher than the national average, which would benefit tenants.
  • Rental cost as a percentage of median income. This number reflects what percentage of a person's annual income is used on rent. Rents are based on Rent-O-Meter's pricing of 2-bedroom units and median income is based on U.S Census data. Cities whose residents spent 30% or less on rent earned a point.
  • Tenant councils. This notes whether or not the city has an established, private tenant's council or association to help settle disputes between landlord and tenants, as well as provide advice for tenants on a range of issues. If a city has a private tenant council, they earned a point.
  • Tenant-friendly foreclosure laws. The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA) of 2009 is a federal law designed to protect the lease of tenants who are living in buildings that are being foreclosed. The legislation left many specifics up to the states. If a state has passed laws that enhance this tenant-foreclosure protection, they earned a point.
  • Rent control laws. This metric reflects whether or not a city, town or state has enacted rent control laws. These types of laws are fewer and fewer nowadays, with only a handful of states having them. Those cities that have them earned one point.

Feedback and The Full List of All 50 Cities

If you have any comments or questions about our analysis, please feel free to leave a comment below. We'll be sure to respond quickly.

We've also put our full analysis online, detailing the tenant friendliness numbers for the 50 most populous cities in the United States. If you're moving to an apartment in a new city, you should take a look. If your city is isn't in the top ten, make sure you take a look at our full list to see where it ranks.

You can view the full list of cities here.

  • K Mitchell

    Interesting research. Two thoughts for feedback. First, what are your thoughts on factoring in a variable for average days to evict? Many jurisdictions reflect their pro-tenant status through their leniency, or delay, in processing evictions.

    Secondly, jurisdictions with source of income legislation that protects a renter’s ability to qualify would also promote an area as pro-rental. Might be a variable to include.

    • Chris Thorman

      @ K

      Those are good ideas. I think the information may be tougher to come across than the data I listed.

  • Kelle Senye

    Excited to see Albuquerque on the cusp at #13. AANM members should use this marketing angle with prospectives from outside the area.

    Thanks for the article and summaries.
    -Kelle Senyé
    Executive Director
    Apartment Association of New Mexico

  • carlos9900

    Outstanding research. I wish someone could do something like this for European cities. I would give a little piece of my finger for it (just a little :)

  • 4WallsRentals

    A little surprised to see Philadelphia ranked so low on the list. But despite that this is definitely a concise and well thought out listing. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tracy Lu Guillen


    I always enjoy seeing stats from across the nation. I wonder what type of qualifictions property management company’s use to qualify prospective tenants in New York since the rents are over %80 of their monthly income.

  • mike

    Interesting. But I cannot possibly see why Arlington Texas is not first. I live close to there and the renting possibilities are endless. I have been renting for 10 years with no increase in rent and zero maint expense. Renting is great.

  • Alex Patrick

    I’ve found that it’s MORE than just the city, it’s the LANDLORDS, THEMSELVES! MY landlord charges WELL UNDER the cheap, PER FOOT charges SHOWN ON This article’s chart. i HAVE A HEAT PUMP WITH CENTRAL a/c. CARPETED THROUGHOUT EXCEPT THE KITCHEN OR BATH, WHICH IS how i like IT, i CAN HAVE ONE D0G, If I move and leave the place as clean and in good shape as I found it (allowing for normal wear, of course), I get my full deposit returned. It’s LANDLORDS MUCH more than city LEASES or rent controls! I have plenty of space, and plenty of privacy. I’m in a DUPLEX. HALF the house is MINE, while the other half is my neighbor;’s, whom I find to be very easy to get along with. It’s like living in two seperate houses, only it’s one house. ANY troubles are REPAIRED IMMEDIANTLY upon notification, and parking close to my door is ample! Many peole RUN DOWN SOUTHERNERS, but we have the BEST PEOPLE to get along with ON EARTH! NO ONE TRIES to intentionally cheat you, well, a FEW do but THEY have one room shacks full of roaches that charge MORE than I’M now paying, with no more room than my BEDROOM provides with, and THEY are THANKFULLY FEW AND FAR BETWEEN!~ ONE HERE IN TOWN id a “christian”, but I was raised as sucjh by MY arents and NEVER LKIED IOR CHEATED anyonwe as THIS man does who is in love ONLY with money, which EXPLAINS WHY his OWN SONS HATE him and turned out the way THEY did!!He’s one who’s NOT a true christian and WILL find that out wgen Jesus returns!
    I’ve also got a built in dishwasher (and NO! I DON’T MEAN my WIFE OR GIRLFRIEND! LOL!). So come to the SOUTH and experience some REAL charm,(having served in the military, I’ve lived in most regions of the US!) but if you’re from the NORTH, LEAVE your snotty, “I’m better than you dumb southern hicks” attitudes and “HILLBILLY JOKES WE DON’T APRECIATE!)BEHIND!Join our communities and be WELCOMED, or you are LIABLE to find out how INHOSPITABLE WE CAN be to those who ARE with snotty attitudes!!

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