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California Rental Laws Every Landlord Should Know | San Diego Property Management - Article Banner

If you’ve rented out a home in San Diego for any amount of time, you know that the laws are strict. They’re also always changing. 

California has some of the strictest rental laws in the country. It’s easy to feel like you’re at risk of making an expensive legal mistake – because those mistakes are easy to make. It’s important that you educate yourself on the laws before you begin renting out a home. 

The laws you’re required to follow will generally depend on the type of property you’re renting out and the length of your lease agreements. A short term vacation home, for example, has an entirely different set of laws and requirements than a lease that’s a year or longer. 

Let’s take a look at some of the property laws and regulations that San Diego landlords need to know before renting out a home. 

California’s Implied Warranty of Habitability

The first question you have to ask yourself is this: is your home habitable for renters? 

This is perhaps the most basic property law of all: habitability. 

Before you rent out your home, it has to be safe and habitable. It cannot pose a danger or any kind of risk. You need to have hot water, electricity, and a roof that doesn’t leak. Ventilation has to be clean and safe. There cannot be pest infestations and you cannot allow gas leaks or sewer backups. 

Don’t rent your property out unless it is clean, in good condition, and safe for residents. California has an implied warranty of habitability, which means you’re renting out your property with the understanding that tenants can live there without putting themselves at risk.

California Fair Housing Laws

California’s fair housing laws go beyond the protections provided by the federal Fair Housing Act. There are more protected classes. The federal act has seven protected classes. In California, you cannot discriminate in rental housing based on:

  • Race
  • Skin color
  • Religion or creed
  • National origin or ancestry.
  • Sex
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Familial status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Gender identification
  • Gender expression
  • Veteran or military status
  • Citizenship 
  • Primary language
  • Marital status
  • Source of income
  • Genetic information

This is a list that is always evolving. Make sure you are keeping up with all fair housing laws at the state, local, and federal levels.

Rent Control in San Diego and California

Statewide rent control went into effect on January 1, 2020, and that new law applies mostly to multi-family properties that are at least 15 years old. If you own a single-family home and you’re not a corporation, you’re likely exempt from rent control. However, it still has an impact on how you price your own properties. 

The rent control limits and requirements cap rental increases to five percent plus the cost of living increase set by the Consumer Price Index. 

Check your lease agreement. It must reflect whether your property is bound by the statewide rent control law. The language has to be specific, so make sure you have an attorney-approved template or verbiage provided by a local San Diego property manager

Just Cause Eviction in San Diego 

Eviction law is specific, and it needs to be followed to the letter, otherwise, your eviction case can be thrown out of court. You’ll have to start the entire process again, and that will be expensive.

When your property falls under The Tenant Protection Act, you cannot simply terminate a tenancy because you don’t want to rent your unit to a particular tenant anymore. 

You can’t evict a tenant because you want to start over with a higher rental amount. 

Instead, you must have just cause (which means a good, legal reason) if you want to terminate a tenancy and not renew a lease agreement. 

Just causes include: 

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Property damage
  • Lease violations
  • Criminal activity

If you’re evicting for a reason that isn’t considered just cause, a tenant relocation payment will be required. 

Security Deposit Laws 

Security deposit laws can be tricky, especially when you’re trying to decide what is wear and tear (your responsibility) and what is tenant damage (their responsibility). 

Here’s what you need to know about security deposit laws and your San Diego rental:

  • Security deposit limits. There are limits to how much you can collect in a security deposit. For unfurnished units, you cannot charge more than two months of rent. If you’re renting out a furnished unit, you can charge up to three months’ rent for the security deposit.
  • Deposits are refundable. There is no such thing as a non-refundable security deposit. 

 Deposits must be returned within 21 days. At the end of the lease term, you have 21 days after a tenant moves out to return the security deposit and/or an itemized accounting of why money was withheld and what it’s being used for. 

Always double-check your math and your documentation when you’re deducting from a security deposit.

Section 8 Tenants in San Diego

Statewide LawOne of the statewide laws that were included in the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 concerns Section 8 tenants and renters who benefit from housing voucher programs. All applicants must be considered for your property and screened consistently, regardless of how they earn their income. Those housing vouchers used by Section 8 tenants can be legally considered a source of income. 

This impacts how you market your rental property and screen your potential tenants. In the past, you could actively advertise that you did not accept Section 8 tenants for a property. There was some distinction about whether certain units were approved for Section 8. This is no longer legal.

Update and document your qualifying rental criteria. When it comes to being fair to Section 8 tenants, all of your screening criteria can remain the same. Those income standards can, however, be met when a housing voucher brings in enough money for the tenants to qualify to rent your home. 

If you’re having trouble staying up to date with all the laws in California, you need help from a San Diego property management expert. Please contact us at Ann Tasias & Associates. We manage investment homes in San Diego, along the I-15 corridor in communities like Mira Mesa, Scripps Ranch, and Poway.