Best (and worst) states for renters
Why North Dakota is more appealing than California in 2023
Renting is more popular than ever. Whether you’re saving for a house or choosing to rent for the benefits (no maintenance, lower upfront costs, more flexibility to invest in other areas of your life), you’re not alone.
“Owning a home isn't as much of a ‘thing’ as it was back in the day when that was the American dream,” according to Cody Dover, who owns a real estate investment company in Arkansas.
If you’re going to rent, you might as well get the best deal out of it. ConsumerAffairs compared each state on cost, availability and tenant security to rank the best (and worst) states for renters in 2023. Read our full methodology below.
- North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa are the best states for renters.
- California, Massachusetts and Nevada are the worst states for renters.
- Overall median rent ranges from $1,774 to $770 per month in Hawaii and West Virginia, respectively.
- Mississippi, Louisiana and Oklahoma are the only states with average renters insurance premiums above $230. North Dakota has the cheapest, at $115.
- Florida renters put the highest percentage of their income toward rent (34.6%), while North Dakota and South Dakota renters put the lowest (25.1%).
What makes some states better than others for renters?
“No state has an adequate supply of affordable rental housing for the lowest-income renters,” according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
So, maybe when we say “best,” we mean “least worst.” Still, the states that ranked highest have much in common:
- A lower percentage of household income going toward rent and a lower cost of living
- Cheaper rent overall plus cheaper monthly electric bills
- A higher likelihood of having laws and statutes that protect tenants, such as regulations around the amount a landlord can charge as a fee for late rent
- A higher number of affordable and available rental units per 100 households for different income brackets
For more information on how we choose our best and worst states for renters, read our full methodology below.
What are the best states for renters?
High interest rates and inflation have made it more difficult to buy a home, leading to more people choosing to rent. If you don’t have enough saved for a down payment, it’s easier to rent a house or apartment.
In a lot of markets, it’s also cheaper to rent than own right now, “and that's far from a usual occurrence,” according to Leonard Ang, CEO of iPropertyManagement. “It speaks in part to the shaky situation that the real estate industry is in thanks to high interest rates.”
1. North Dakota
Residents have the lowest rent-to-income ratio in the U.S. — North Dakota’s median overall rent is $853, which accounts for about a quarter (25.1%) of residents’ monthly household income. The state has one of the lowest unemployment rates (2.1%), which is good for its residents’ job security.
North Dakota also has the highest vacancy rate in the U.S. (12.2%), meaning that renters should have plenty of options to choose from.
- Median rent in Fargo: $1,014 per month
- Overall median rent: $853 per month
- Median state income: $66,519
- Affordable and available rental homes: 12,605
2. South Dakota
South Dakota is a no-brainer for those looking for a state with natural beauty and affordable living. The state has a growing economy, the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. and a business-friendly environment for entrepreneurs.
“We have seen the cost of rent rise quite a bit since 2020, partly due to an influx in population following the pandemic,” said Shiloh Francis, founder and CEO of Elevate Rapid City. Still, the state has one of the lowest median rents overall.
- Median rent in Sioux Falls: $1,249 per month
- Overall median rent: $809 per month
- Median state income: $66,143 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 14,327
One big advantage of renting in Iowa is affordability. The cost of living in Iowa is lower than in most other states. Another benefit of renting in Iowa is that it’s one of the few states that directly regulate the amount a landlord can charge as a fee for late rent. Renters also cannot be evicted if the landlord agrees to accept partial payment.
- Median rent in Des Moines: $1,035 per month
- Overall median rent: $845 per month
- Median state income: $65,600 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 38,489
Kansas has one of the lowest costs of living in the country, which makes it an attractive place to live for those looking to stretch their budget further. Remote workers can take advantage of the Make My Move program, which offers $4,500 in cash, a $500 credit toward high-speed internet service and other incentives if you move to Lincoln County.
- Median rent in Wichita: $1,137 per month
- Overall median rent: $912 per month
- Median state income: $64,124 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 37,334
Alabama has a low cost of living compared with many other states, which can make renting a home or apartment more affordable. There are also better options for short-term rental agreements, according to Bill Smith, founder and CEO of Landing, a rental agency with offices in Birmingham.
“Ultimately, I believe that within the next decade, we’ll see nearly most major rental providers offer solutions that attract renters with the promise of freedom and flexibility and the ability to live somewhere for as long — or as short — as they’d like,” Smith said.
- Median rent in Huntsville: $1,495 per month
- Overall median rent: $852 per month
- Median state income: $53,913 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 84,148
Renters have the benefit of relatively cheap renters insurance and good tenant-protection laws — for instance, Minnesota regulates the amount a landlord can charge as a fee for late rent. Tenants can withhold rent for failure to provide essential services, and landlords waive their right to evict for nonpayment when they accept a partial payment.
Minneapolis recently reformed its zoning laws to permit denser housing options in areas once zoned exclusively for single-family homes, which might have something to do with rental prices coming down in the larger markets.
- Median rent in Minneapolis: $1,500 per month
- Overall median rent: $1,081 per month
- Median state income: $77,720 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 63,896
Renting a house or apartment in Indiana offers a blend of affordability and opportunity. One of the main advantages is that the cost of living is below the national average. With a strong job market and low unemployment rate, the state offers plenty of opportunities to start a new career or take your existing one to the next level.
You also can find many incentives in different counties that offer benefits if you choose to relocate there and keep your current remote job.
- Median rent in Indianapolis: $1,400 per month
- Overall median rent: $899 per month
- Median state income: $62,743 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 78,254
Wisconsin is better than the national average on the cost of living, median rent prices and electricity bills. Even though it’s still relatively affordable, median rent prices have gone up about 18% since 2015.
“As long as rates and home prices stay high, and purchasing a home is unaffordable for many, the supply of renters in the market will continue to increase,” said Matt Bruce, president of Pointer Financial Group, based in Wauwatosa. “This creates a shortage of rental units and an oversupply of renters.”
He added, however, that it's worth watching the cost of rent in the state — it may continue to climb because the supply of rental units is “largely inelastic,” meaning it takes a long time to build a new home or apartment complex.
- Median rent in Milwaukee: $1,095 per month
- Overall median rent: $916 per month
- Median state income: $67,125 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 68,916
Missouri is a great place to live if you want to enjoy life without spending too much money. It’s one of the most affordable states in the U.S., with a relatively low cost of living and tax rates.
Potential drawbacks include limited rental availability, especially in rural areas. It might also rank higher on our list if better tenant protections were in place.
- Median rent in Kansas City: $1,340 per month
- Overall median rent: $886 per month
- Median state income: $61,847 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 89,440
The cost of living is shockingly low, but like other states, your experience renting in Oklahoma depends on where you live.
“Urban areas, for example, have a high demand for renting because of high job opportunities, lifestyle preferences and availability of amenities,” said Dan Belcher, founder and CEO of Mortgage Relief, which helps homeowners in Oklahoma and a couple other states avoid foreclosure. “However, the supply part of rental properties may not keep up with the high demand, leading to higher rental prices.”
Other things to consider are that renters insurance premiums are about 38% higher than average, and tenant protections are very limited.
- Median rent in Oklahoma City: $1,395 per month
- Overall median rent: $862 per month
- Median state income: $55,826 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 52,895
» READ OUR GUIDE: How to move to another state
What are the worst states?
To be a renter means navigating a constantly shifting landscape, where the whims of landlords and the market determine your stability and security. From sky-high rent prices to limited legal protections for renters, these states can make it tough if you’re looking to find a decent place to live.
People who move to California are more likely to be drawn to the weather than the cost of renting a home or apartment. Several factors contribute to rising rent prices in California, according to Joy Aumann, founder of LuxurySoCalRealty.
“One is that landlords can charge more since there is a great demand,” she said. “The price of developing new housing is rising, and tenants are forced to pay these fees. There is simply not enough housing in some locations due to a housing shortage.”
On the plus side, California has some of the most tenant-friendly laws in the country.
- Median rent in Los Angeles: $3,000 per month
- Overall median rent: $1,698 per month
- Median state income: $84,907 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 309,818
Massachusetts has the second-highest cost of living, just after Hawaii. There’s also a low vacancy rate, making it hard to find a rental.
Dale Shadbegian, who runs Cape & Plymouth Business Media, says the main cause of rising rent prices is the imbalance between the supply and demand of rental housing.
He predicts the demand for housing will continue. Incentives for developers to build more affordable housing, funding for affordable housing programs, rent control policies and voucher programs for low-income renters could make housing more attainable to renters.
- Median rent in Boston: $3,250 per month
- Overall median rent: $1,429 per month
- Median state income: $89,645 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 138,240
Renting in Nevada can come with its fair share of disadvantages. One major issue is the high cost of rent (especially in Las Vegas and Reno) and higher-than-average electric bills, especially in the summer.
Nevada also has limited tenant protections, leaving renters vulnerable to unscrupulous landlords or unsafe living conditions.
- Median rent in Las Vegas: $2,050 per month
- Overall median rent: $1,238 per month
- Median state income: $66,274 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 17,419
Hawaii has the highest median rent overall: It’s nearly $1,000 per month more than in West Virginia, the state with the lowest median rent. The cost of living is also the highest in the U.S., and residents pay the most for electricity bills — an average of $238.74 each month.
Despite ranking seventh in median household income, the average renter spends more than one-third of their monthly income on housing — that number rises to more than half in some areas.
- Median rent in Honolulu: $2,825 per month
- Overall median rent: $1,755 per month
- Median state income: $84,857 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 14,193
5. New York
More than half of New Yorkers are rent-burdened (meaning that they pay more than 30% of their income on rent), according to Population Reference Bureau. Since 2015, rent prices have increased by 30% in the New York City metro area. In the rest of the state, rent prices increased by 40% to 60%.
On the plus side, New Yorkers have better-than-average tenant-protection laws around rent control.
- Median rent in New York City: $3,500 per month
- Median rent in Buffalo: $1,260 per month
- Overall median rent: $1,390 per month
- Median state income: $74,314 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 314,942
Louisiana has a high poverty rate, which can make it difficult for some renters to find affordable housing. Rent prices in some areas of the state can be high relative to the average income, which contributes to housing insecurity and homelessness.
Another issue for renters is the state's vulnerability to natural disasters, particularly hurricanes and flooding. At $236, renters insurance premiums are about 39% higher than the national average.
- Median rent in New Orleans: $1,850 per month
- Overall median rent: $923 per month
- Median state income: $52,087 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 73,863
The majority of renter households below middle income are cost-burdened or severely cost-burdened, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and Florida’s numbers reflect that. The median percentage of residents’ income spent on rent is 34.6% (the highest in the U.S.). However, about 46% of renters in the state pay more than 35% GRAPI (gross rent as a percentage of household income).
According to Shri Ganeshram, CEO of Awning.com, a real estate platform that services Florida and other states, the current rental market “undersсоres disparities in wealth distribution аnd affordability chаllenges fоr lоwer-incоme housеholds.”
- Median rent in Jacksonville: $1,760 per month
- Overall median rent: $1,301 per month
- Median state income: $63,062 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 131,487
Connecticut has cheaper rent than other states, but a low vacancy rate makes it a challenge for many people to find a rental in the first place, and the average electric bill is $215.61 (second-highest in the U.S. after Hawaii).
Sipho Simela, who recently relocated Matrix Rental Solutions from New York City to Stamford, Connecticut, blames rising rents on inflation and “the continued fallout from COVID-19.”
The current market has “brought to light the inaccuracies of rental solutions and credit scoring,” he said. “This difficult combination increases the disparity in rental accessibility.”
He anticipates that demand for rental properties will continue to increase in most places.
- Median rent in Bridgeport: $1,800 per month
- Overall median rent: $1,260 per month
- Median state income: $83,771 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 53,354
Rent prices in Alaska are significantly higher than the national average, making it difficult for some to find affordable housing. The cost of living is very high, thanks to the state's remote location, limited infrastructure and harsh climate — renters face expensive utility bills during the long winter months.
Alaska's landlord-tenant laws may also pose a challenge for renters. The state's laws are generally considered to favor landlords, which can make it difficult to hold landlords accountable for issues like maintenance and repairs.
- Median rent in Anchorage: $1,665 per month
- Overall median rent: $1,279 per month
- Median state income: $77,845 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 7,018
10. New Jersey
One of the biggest challenges to finding an affordable rental property in New Jersey is the state’s high cost of living. New Jersey also has some of the highest property taxes in the country, which can drive up rental prices even further.
Another issue is the state's landlord-tenant laws, which are heavily tilted in favor of landlords. Renters may have limited legal protections in disputes with landlords, making it difficult to hold them accountable for issues such as poor maintenance or unsafe living conditions.
- Median rent in Newark: $1,863 per month
- Overall median rent: $1,436 per month
- Median state income: $89,296 per year
- Affordable and available rental homes: 98,753
Tips for navigating the rental market
In general, the cheapest states for renters are in the Midwest and South; the most expensive areas to live are in the Northeast and on the West Coast. Depending on your income and work situation, moving might make sense if you can get a better rental deal.
Real estate expert Paul Martinez of EcomSidekick shared some tips for renting no matter where you live:
- Do your research: Before you sign a lease, it's important to research the rental market in the area to ensure you get a fair price for the unit. Look at comparable rentals in the area to get a sense of what the average rent is for similar properties. Also, read reviews of the property managers and landlords to get a sense of what other renters' experiences have been like.
- Negotiate rent: If you've done your research and found that the asking rent is higher than the average for similar properties in the area, consider negotiating with the landlord to get a lower rate. Landlords may be willing to lower the rent if you're a long-term tenant, have good credit or are willing to sign a longer lease.
- Look for move-in specials: Landlords may offer move-in specials, such as a free month's rent or waived application fees, to attract new tenants. Be sure to ask the landlord or property manager if there are any current specials you can take advantage of.
- Consider the amenities: When comparing rentals, take into account the amenities offered by each property. For example, a unit with a washer and dryer inside may be more expensive than one without, but the added convenience may be worth the extra cost. Similarly, a rental property with a pool, gym or other amenities may provide added value for the monthly rent.
- Check for hidden fees: Before signing a lease, be sure to read it carefully and ask the landlord or property manager about any additional fees that may be tacked onto the monthly rent, such as utility fees, parking fees or pet fees. Knowing about these fees upfront can help you better budget for the monthly rent.
» FIND THE BEST: Renters insurance
METHODOLOGY: How we ranked each state
We analyzed the following factors to determine where renters get the best deal:
- Median gross rent as a percentage of household income
- Median rent prices
- Cost of living index
- Average monthly electric bills
- Housing vacancy rates
- Renters insurance premiums
- Unemployment rates
- Tenant-friendly laws and regulations
The data covers apartments, townhomes, houses, duplexes and mobile homes. Each factor was indexed against the “best” value among all 50 states and has an assigned weight. States with the highest scores have the best ratings.
The weight of each factor ensures that the evaluation of each state is well-rounded, though we placed a significant emphasis on cost because it’s the most impactful factor on a renter's overall experience. Specifically, rent as a percentage of income is given the heaviest weight within the cost category since it's an essential metric that directly impacts a person’s ability to afford housing.
Weighted ranking system
|Cost||Rent as percentage of income, median rent, cost of living index, average monthly electric bills||45%|
|Availability||Housing vacancy rates||30%|
|Security||Renters insurance premiums, unemployment rates, renter-friendly laws||25%|
|Median monthly rent||Median annual income||Rent percentage of income||Average monthly electric bill||Vacancy rate||Legally regulated late fees|
|1. North Dakota||$853||$66,519||25.1%||$103.16||12.2%|
|2. South Dakota||$809||$66,143||25.1%||$114.64||5.9%|
|16. West Virginia||$770||$51,248||29.9%||$139.54||8.1%|
|17. North Carolina||$988||$61,972||29.4%||$134.68||6.3%|
|20. New Hampshire||$1,212||$88,465||28.2%||$200.15||4.3%|
|21. New Mexico||$897||$53,992||29.6%||$87.40||6%|
|22. South Carolina||$970||$59,318||30.5%||$150.81||7.8%|
|33. Rhode Island||$1,097||$74,008||29.4%||$169.42||4.6%|
|41. New Jersey||$1,436||$89,296||30.9%||$116.24||3.7%|
|46. New York||$1,390||$74,314||31.8%||$141.18||4.3%|
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
- U.S. Census Bureau, “Household Income: 2021.” Accessed May 3, 2023.
- U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Rankings: Average Retail Price of Electricity to Residential Sector, January 2023 (cents/kWh).” Accessed May 9, 2023.
- Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, “Cost of Living Data Series.” Accessed May 3, 2023.
- U.S. Census Bureau, “Median Gross Rent by Bedrooms.” Accessed May 3, 2023.
- United States Census Bureau, “Median Gross Rent as a Percentage of Household Income in the Past 12 Months.” Accessed May 3, 2023.
- Insurance Information Institute, “Average Premiums For Homeowners And Renters Insurance By State, 2019.” Accessed May 3, 2023.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “State unemployment rates, seasonally adjusted.” Accessed May 3, 2023.
- United States Census Bureau, “Which States Have the Highest Percentage of Vacant Housing Units?” Accessed May 3, 2023.
- Legal Services Corporation, “LSC Eviction Laws Database.” Accessed May 3, 2023.
- U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Average Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customers by End-Use Sector.” Accessed May 3, 2023.
- National Low Income Housing Coalition, “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Rental Homes.” Accessed May 3, 2023.
- U.S. Census Bureau, “Housing Vacancies and Homeownership.” Accessed May 9, 2023.
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