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The Quick Guide for Student Housing in San Luis Obispo

If you’re on the hunt for student housing in San...

Mallory Graber

Mallory Graber

September 24, 2020

If you’re on the hunt for student housing in San Luis Obispo (SLO), this guide is a great resource to help you begin your search. SLO has everything from top-notch schools and laid back beach vibes to an enormous amount of fun outdoor activities. Any student could easily call this city their home away from home.

San Luis Obispo is nestled in the middle of California’s prime locations, San Francisco and LA.  This city is a great middle-ground for students who are serious about their studies but also want some excitement along the way– that’s California for you! To make the housing search easier, here’s a quick guide for living in San Luis Obispo. 

Student Housing in San Luis Obispo: Your Options

First, let’s go through the different student housing options that San Luis Obispo has to offer.

Homestay Accommodation

Host family posing together

If you’ve ever studied abroad as a foreign exchange student, a homestay accommodation will feel very familiar to you. Here, as an off-campus housing option, you choose a host family to stay with. They are responsible for things like meals, transportation, private room and laundry facilities, and providing ongoing support during your stay. This option tends to work best for students who want a more hands-on experience with other adults who can help them adjust to college life. 

Of course, for safety purposes, each family must successfully pass background checks, interviews, training and orientation to host a student through StudentRoomStay. To make sure the student and family are compatible, both parties can communicate with each other during the booking process. You will also have access to 24/7 trained staff support if you ever need questions answered or issues resolved. 

Private Room

Student studying in her private room

The next option for off-campus housing is to rent a private room. If you would rather have more independence, the private room option might be best for you. In this case, you would rent out a spare room through a host family. 

Unlike the homestay option, the host family is not required to supply transportation, meals or laundry help. Instead, the student and host discuss expectations, such as boundaries and general house rules, from the get-go. You determine what you want your relationship to look like, depending on how much support you want. 

Shared Apartment

Students drinking coffee in their shared apartment

Are you more of a social butterfly? Have friends you’d like to live with? The shared apartment option is when students share and pay for an apartment together. Typically, each person has their own private room, but you share a bathroom and communal spaces. This choice is great for students who prefer to manage their living situation on their own.

University Residence of Halls

Students studying in residence of halls

As an on-campus option, you can live in your university’s dorms. Most students choose this scenario if they want the full college dorm experience. Here, you share everything, including  your room, bathroom and all communal areas. You won’t have to worry about rent and bill deadlines, just food and groceries when you need them. Even then, you always have the university cafeterias! 

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Popular Student Locations

When it comes to student apartments, San Luis Obispo has plenty of options. However, you also need to research specific student-friendly locations. Here’s a list of spots university students usually flock to. 

E Foothill Blvd/ Santa Rosa St

Foothill in San Luis Obispo

Located right next to California Polytechnic University, the E Foothill Blvd/ Santa Rosa St neighborhood has around 50% of its inhabitants enrolled in college. Thankfully, the rent prices around here are lower than around 40% of California neighborhoods. SLO is smack dab in the middle of California's most fertile farming area, which means people come from far and wide to buy produce from the Thursday farmer’s market.  Fresh fruit, anyone?

Los Osos Valley Rd/ Madonna Rd

Los Osos in San Luis Obispo

The Los Osos Valley Rd/ Madonna Rd neighborhood is one of the most diverse areas in the city. It has a blend of Mexican, Irish, German and Asian roots scattered across the region. To complement its uniqueness, visit SLO’s Higuera street downtown to see Bubblegum Alley, some 700 meters of gum stuck to a wall. 

Monterey St/ California Blvd

Monterey St in San Luis Obispo

Again, because this neighborhood is right next to Cal Poly University, a large chunk of this area is made up of college students. If you’re looking for some entertainment head to Palm Theatre, the United States’ first solar-powered movie theatre. If you would rather get some fresh air after class, there are plenty of public parks, sidewalks and bicycle paths to enjoy. 

Broad St/ Chorro St

Chorro St San Luis Obispo

When looking for rooms for rent, San Luis Obispo’s average apartment rental price is roughly two thousand  here in the Broad St/ Chorro St region. This area is close to  SLO’s centralized downtown, which is prime for shopping, checking out healthy eateries and exploring museums. Bishop’s Peak is a very popular hiking hotspot and one of the city’s most beautiful places to catch the sunset. 

What Amenities Should I Look Out for?

Unfortunately, some apartments don’t already come with all the basic necessities. To make your search easier in the long run, here are some amenities to look for before you sign an apartment:

  • On-Site Laundry Facilities
  • In-Unit Kitchen Appliances: Refrigerator, Dishwasher, Stove, etc.
  • Parking
  • Wireless Internet
  • Heat and A/C

You might also consider things like cable and ample parking.

Lease Terms to Understand

Student housing lease terms SLO

All the important information will be on your lease, which means it’s crucial to read it thoroughly before signing. Some terms can be confusing, however, so here’s a comprehensive definition breakdown. 

Security Deposit

The security deposit is often the amount of one or two months worth of rent. It essentially promotes a good faith standing by proving you manage your money well and provides a savings account on your landlord’s end to pay for any damages you inflict. If you have a low credit score and little rent history the security deposit might be more. 

Application Fee

These days, most property management companies and landlords require you to send in an application with your basic information. This weeds out any people who aren’t eligible or serious about renting. This fee also covers office supplies, labor and any background checks. 

Admin Fee

Administration fees are usually charged alongside the application fee. Most of the time, they’re required by property management companies. 


The utilities make up the gas, electric, heat, A/C, cable, water, sewage and trash bills. Sometimes you’ll need to pay all of these directly to the landlord. Other times you might have to pay the corresponding utility company. 

Lease Length & Renewal Policy

The lease length is how long you are legally required to pay apartment rent and its bills. Typically, it’s anywhere between six and eighteen months, but it can be shorter and longer, depending on what the landlord is okay with. The renewal policy is when you can renew your lease for another period of time. Usually, you have to renew it by a certain date, otherwise, the landlord can find a new tenant for the space.

Subletting Policy

The subletting policy describes how to sublease your apartment to another individual. It’s important to read this policy carefully because there is a specific way of going about releasing the legal requirements from you to your subletter. You definitely don’t want to be responsible for rent when you’re not living there! 

Renters Insurance

When you rent an apartment, normally it’s legally required to pay for renter’s insurance as well, just like you would have car or homeowner’s insurance. This way, you’ll be covered from flooding, theft or any other damage to the apartment.  

Guarantor or Co-signer

A guarantor, also called a co-signer, is someone you choose to sign a lease with. In doing so, they also take legal responsibility for paying for the apartment should you no longer be able to. Landlords usually need your guarantor to be in a higher income bracket than you and require them if you are in a low-income bracket, have a low credit score or have little rental history. Just like the deposit, it provides more security to the landlords so they feel more comfortable renting to you. 

Agreement Documents

These documents will contain the  lease in its whole, complete written form. You sign the agreement documents to legally bind you to pay for the apartment and its associated fees. Make sure to read its entirety, from the general costs, terms and conditions! You don’t want to sign anything you won’t be able to hold up on your end, otherwise, there are legal consequences. 

Managing Your Rent & Bills

Student revising her bills SLO

Figuring out how to manage money when it comes to rent and bills can feel intimidating, especially if it’s a different currency or amount than you’re used to handling. But no worries! Students who successfully pay their rent and still have money leftover for fun spending usually use a budget

To create a budget, write down all of your expenses and income. Tally up how much you’ll be spending a month, making sure to include social activities,, then subtract how much you make from your expenses and that’s how much you have left over! 

Living in San Luis Obispo

Students on the beach in SLO

In San Luis Obispo, life is known as a dream. Named “The Happiest Place in America,” this popular California pitstop sees 300 days of sunshine a year, over 30 miles of gorgeous trails and plenty of beautiful beaches. 

For students, SLO is home to nationally-ranked California Polytechnic University, which not only provides an influx of media and entertainment options but also the famous School of Agriculture and Natural Resources. If you’re worried about fitting in, SLO has you covered. The city is famous for its emphasis on community. Whether you’re into hiking, theatre, surfing, wine or music, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. 

StudentRoomStay is Here to Help

When it comes to student housing, San Luis Obispo delivers. But that’s not all, SLO is great for students who prefer a more relaxed pace of living and want that traditional California vibe. However, if you’re overwhelmed by the house-hunting process, StudentRoomStay is here to help with easy online booking and a dedicated support team.