10 worst cities for renters

Virginia Beach tops our list as the worst U.S. city to rent in

Author profile picture

Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

Credentials
  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

Author profile picture

Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

Credentials
  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

Ross h…

How these cities made the list

Many people are opting to rent instead of buying a home, largely because of rising home prices and mortgage interest rates. On the other hand, national rental price increases are modest, with just a 0.77% annual increase in March 2024.[1] But some cities are better suited for renters than others. 

The Zebra set out to find the worst areas for renting by analyzing the 50 most populous cities in the U.S. using four data points:

  • Annual change in rent price: Some cities are more likely to see high rent hikes each year, which can cause housing unpredictability for renters. 
  • Rent as a percentage of income:
  • WalkScore: A low Walk Score means you may be more dependent on a vehicle for shopping and commuting to work. 
  • Rental vacancy rate (by state): A low vacancy rate means landlords can be more aggressive with prices since there is less supply available for renters. For comparison, the national vacancy rate is 6.6%.[2]

Wondering what areas are the worst for renting? We've got the answers with 11 cities (due to some ties) where it may be worth navigating those Sunday open houses instead of signing another year-long lease.

#1: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach takes our top spot as the worst city for renters. For starters, the area has a poor Walk Score of 33, meaning that residents are quite car-dependent. On top of that, the average price for a two-bedroom rental is over 35% of the median income. That's quite high compared to the majority of cities we analyzed. Prices have also been increasing, jumping 3% between 2024 and 2023. It makes sense that prices are rising since Virginia's 4.9% vacancy rate is below the national average.

Virginia Beach by the numbers

  • Annual change in rent price: 3%
  • Rent as percentage of income: 35.87%
  • Walk Score: 33
  • Rental vacancy rate: 4.9%

#2: San Diego, California

At just a 1% annual increase, rent costs aren't surging in San Diego. But prices do take up half of the median income. The city is somewhat walkable with a Walk Score of 53. However, California's 4.1% rental vacancy rate is 2.5% lower than the national average, indicating a tighter market for renters.

San Diego by the numbers

  • Annual change in rent price: 1%
  • Rent as percentage of income: 50.5%
  • Walk Score: 53
  • Rental vacancy rate: 4.1%

#3: Boston, Massachusetts (tied)

Tied for third, Boston earns its spot in large part because of the low vacancy rate of 2.4% in Massachusetts. That's the highest out of all areas we looked at. Because of that low supply, the average rent price has jumped 7.8% year-over-year in 2024. Rent eats up about 44% of the median income in Boston, but the good news is that residents have a very walkable city to enjoy.

Boston by the numbers

  • Annual change in rent price: 7.8%
  • Rent as percentage of income: 44%
  • Walk Score: 83
  • Rental vacancy rate: 2.4%

#3: Providence, Rhode Island (tied)

Providence residents face a similar renters' market as Bostonians. Rent prices have surged nearly 11% over the last year, fueled by a rental vacancy rate of just 3.3% in Rhode Island. That puts housing costs at 40% of the median income. The city is, however, pedestrian-friendly with a Walk Score of 76.

Providence by the numbers

  • Annual change in rent price: 10.9%
  • Rent as percentage of income: 40.2%
  • Walk Score: 76
  • Rental vacancy rate: 3.3%

#5: New York, New York

It comes as no surprise that New York has a tough market for renters. Prices have increased more than 22% between 2023 and 2024. The rental vacancy rate in New York state is well below the national average at 4.5%. On top of that, the city earns the top ranking for rent as a percentage of income, at nearly 67%. New York does, however, boast one of the highest walk scores.

New York City by the numbers

  • Annual change in rent price: 22.3%
  • Rent as percentage of income: 66.6%
  • Walk Score: 88
  • Rental vacancy rate: 4.5%

#6: Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland ranks high on our list largely due to the significant jump in rental rates in one year, which topped 14%. The vacancy rate in Ohio is lower than the national average, though not as tight as some other areas on our list. Cleveland's Walk Score of 57 means the city is somewhat walkable, and the average annual rent takes up 35% of the median income.

Cleveland by the numbers

  • Annual change in rent price: 14.4%
  • Rent as percentage of income: 35%
  • Walk Score: 57
  • Rental vacancy rate: 5.8%

#7: Los Angeles, California

Rental prices are stable in Los Angeles, with no change in the average price of a two-bedroom apartment between 2023 and 2024. However, that price will still take a large bite out of your paycheck, accounting for nearly 52% of the median household income. A state vacancy rate of 4.1% helps keep that upward pressure on high prices in L.A.

LA by the numbers

  • Annual change in rent price: 0%
  • Rent as percentage of income: 51.8%
  • Walk Score: 69
  • Rental vacancy rate: 4.1%

#8: Sacramento, California

Rental prices in Sacramento are actually on a downward trend. However, it made our list of worst cities for renters because of California's overall low vacancy rate and the large percentage of income (33%) that is allocated to the average rent. Plus, renters will need to have a car to easily get around Sacramento, which has just a 49 Walk Score.

Sacramento by the numbers

  • Annual change in rent price: -2.1%
  • Rent as percentage of income: 33.3%
  • Walk Score: 49
  • Rental vacancy rate: 4.1%

#9: Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia has experienced one of the highest jumps in rent prices over the last year, with a 6.7% surge. The average rent takes up 28% of the median income, which is below average for the cities we analyzed. However, Virginia's rental vacancy rate of 4.9% is still well below the national average. Richmond's Walk Score of 51 makes it somewhat walkable.

Richmond by the numbers

  • Annual change in rent price: 6.7%
  • Rent as percentage of income: 28.1%
  • Walk Score: 51
  • Rental vacancy rate: 4.9%

#10: Salt Lake City, Utah (tied)

Salt Lake City's average rental price has increased 6.3% in the last 12 months. The vacancy rate, while higher than other cities in our top 10, is still more than a point lower than the national average. Rent takes up approximately 31% of the median income and, like Richmond, the city is considered somewhat walkable.

Salt Lake City by the numbers

  • Annual change in rent price: 6.3%
  • Rent as percentage of income: 31.3%
  • Walk Score: 59
  • Rental vacancy rate: 5.4%

#10: Kansas City, Missouri (tied)

Kansas City rounds out our list of worst cities for renters largely because of its spike in rent prices, which grew 7.3% between 2023 and 2024. Rent takes up nearly 25% of the median income and renters will need a car to get around. However, Missouri's overall rental vacancy rate is 6.2% — getting closer to the national average.

Kansas City by the numbers

  • Annual change in rent price: 7.3%
  • Rent as percentage of income: 24.9%
  • Walk Score: 35
  • Rental vacancy rate: 6.2%

Methodology

The Zebra pulled four data points to analyze the top 50 MSAs (by population) in the U.S. related to rent and income.

  • Annual change in rent price[3]
  • Rent as percentage of income[4]
  • Walk Score[5]
  • Rental vacancy rate[6]

MSA data was used where applicable, and we sometimes substituted city or state data as necessary.

Sources
  1. April 2024 Rent Report. [Rent.com]

  2. Rental vacancy rate in the U.S. [Fred Economic Data]

  3. National rent report April. [Zumper]

  4. Gross rent as a percent of household income [U.S. Census Bureau]

  5. WalkScore for cities. [WalkScore]

  6. Residential vacancy rate. [U.S. Census Bureau]