The information in this page is provided as a free resource for renters in San Diego. It is not legal advice. If you need legal advice or additional legal help, contact https://www.lassd.org/.

Does San Diego have “rent control?”

Yes, rent control exists in San Diego.

The Tenant Protection Act caps the amount a landlord can increase rent annually or between leases. In California, a landlord cannot hike the gross rental rate for a dwelling or unit by more than 5% plus the percentage change in the cost of living, or 10%, whichever is less, within any 12-month period. However, exemptions apply to properties like newly constructed housing (less than 15 years old), single-family homes or condos without corporate ownership, school-owned housing, mobile homes, low-income housing, and properties already under stricter rent control.

What does it mean to have a “safe, habitable” place to live in San Diego?

Landlords in San Diego must ensure that their rental properties meet all of the following:

  1. Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls
  2. Well-maintained plumbing and gas facilities compliant with the law in effect at the time of installation
  3. Water supply compliant with applicable law that is capable of producing hot and cold running water
  4. Well-maintained heating facilities compliant with applicable law at the time of installation
  5. Well-maintained electrical lighting compliant with applicable law at the time of installation
  6. Building, grounds, and appurtenances kept sanitary and free from debris and vermin at the time of rent or lease
  7. Sufficient number of receptacles for garbage
  8. Well-maintained floors, stairways, and railings
  9. Locks conforming to code (deadbolt lock on each main swinging entry door, window security, or locking devices for windows capable of being opened) [Civil Code Secs. 1929, 1941] [Green v. Superior Court (1974)]

Doors

Landlords must provide “unbroken windows and doors” as part of the Habitability Requirements.

Heat and Air Conditioning

Landlords must maintain working heating as part of the Habitability Requirements, but they are not required to maintain an air conditioner or other cooling mechanism.

Hot Water

Hot water isn’t specifically mentioned in San Diego or California landlord/tenant law, but it’s generally understood that running water—hot and cold—is part of a landlord’s duty to provide a safe, habitable home.

Does my landlord have to provide smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors in San Diego?

Smoke detectors are required, and landlords must ensure rental units have working smoke detectors throughout the property with at least a 10-year lifespan (statewide requirement). As of January 1, 2016, smoke detectors must be installed in each bedroom/sleeping area.

How long does my landlord have to fix problems at my apartment in San Diego?

Usually, that depends on how severe the problem is. All repairs must be made within a reasonable time that may vary depending upon the severity of the repairs.

What can I do if my landlord can’t or won’t fix problems at my apartment in San Diego?

Rent Abatement

By law, a tenant can stop paying some or all of the rent if a landlord fails to fix serious defects that violate the warranty of habitability.  In order to use this remedy, the repairs must be more serious than would justify the repair and deduct or abandonment remedies; that is, the defects must be substantial and threaten the tenant’s health and safety.

Repair and Deduct

This remedy allows a tenant to make the repairs himself and deduct the costs to repair from the rent, up to one month’s rent.  This remedy is only applicable to repairs of conditions that substantially affect a tenant’s health and safety i.e., those that substantially violate the warranty of habitability.  Examples would include a leaky roof or a broken furnace during the winter.

Vacate

If a landlord refuses to make repairs, a tenant may contact the City’s Code Enforcement Division and arrange for an inspection.

What are the rules for security deposits in San Diego, and how do I get my security deposit refunded?

For a non-furnished residence, a landlord cannot charge more than twice the rent, plus the first month’s rent, as a deposit.  For a furnished residence, landlords can charge up to three times the rent in addition to the first month’s rent.  Civil Code §1950.5(c). Starting in July 2024, security deposits will be limited to one month’s rent—whether a rental unit is furnished or unfurnished.

After a tenant moves out, a landlord has 21 days to either return all of the security deposit or return the security deposit minus any deductions, along with an itemized statement. The itemized statement must list what was deducted and why.   If the deductions are for more than $125.00, the landlord must attach a copy of any invoices or receipts with the itemized statement. If the landlord or their employee did the work themselves, they must include a description of the work, how long it took, and the hourly rate they charged. Any rates must be reasonable.

What kinds of notice does my landlord need to give me in San Diego?

Eviction

Landlords must give tenants a written notice and three days’ opportunity to cure any issue before beginning eviction proceedings (e.g., they must inform the tenant of the failure to pay rent and give them the opportunity to pay it), but there is no set amount of time they must give the tenant to cure. If the tenant fails to pay, then the landlord can serve another notice telling the tenant to vacate the premises w/in three days. If the tenant fails to do so, the landlord can begin eviction proceedings. ”

No Fault” eviction laws state that landlords must provide certain notices, in writing, to tenants. If a landlord is evicting a tenant so that the landlord or their family can move in, the landlord must identify the people moving in—providing their names and relationships to the landlord. The landlord or their family must move in within three months of eviction, and they must live in the unit for at least a year.

Landlords who evict tenants to renovate properties must include copies of permits or contracts, among other details, when serving eviction notices. Landlords who do not follow through will have to allow evicted tenants to move back under the original lease terms. (SB 576)  San Diego has its own rules about “no-fault” evictions. Learn more about San Diego “just cause” evictions here: https://www.sandiego.gov/citycouncil/cd9/housing-tenant-protections

Rent Increases

San Diego landlords must deliver tenants a formal written notice before raising rent. It is not enough for a landlord to call, text, or email that they plan on raising the rent. Landlords must also give tenants sufficient warning before increasing rent.

If the rent increase is less than 10%, landlords must provide notice 30 days before the increase can take effect. If the rent increase is more than 10%, the landlord must provide notice 90 days before it can take effect. (Civ. Code § 827).

Entry

Landlords need to give tenants “reasonable notice” of the date and time of proposed entry. Twenty-four hours is generally considered to be reasonable unless there’s an emergency.

Can I end my lease early in San Diego?

If something comes up in your life, you may find that you need to end your lease early. This can be stressful and very expensive, with most leases including steep penalties and fines for early termination. Here are some potential options.

Military

If you’re active military, you may be able to terminate your lease early under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA provides certain protections for active-duty military members, including the right to terminate a lease early if you receive orders for a permanent change of station (PCS) or deployment.

To terminate your lease early under the SCRA, you must provide your landlord with written notice and a copy of your orders. The notice must be provided at least 30 days before the date on which you intend to terminate the lease.

Survivors of Domestic Violence

A tenant might terminate their lease early if the “tenant, a household member, or an immediate family member was the victim of:

  • (1) Domestic violence as defined in Section 6211 of the Family Code.
  • (2) Sexual assault as defined in Section 261, 261.5, 286, 287, or 289 of the Penal Code.
  • (3) Stalking as defined in Section 1708.7.
  • (4) Human trafficking as defined in Section 236.1 of the Penal Code.
  • (5) Abuse of an elder or a dependent adult as defined in Section 15610.07 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.
  • (6) A crime that caused bodily injury or death.
  • (7) A crime that included the exhibition, drawing, brandishing, or use of a firearm or other deadly weapon or instrument.
  • (8) A crime that included the use of force against the victim or a threat of force against the victim.”  Tenants must deliver a notice to the landlord to terminate for these reasons, and they must include evidence of the need that varies depending on the crime involved and is listed in the statute itself. The lease will terminate 14 days after the notice is delivered, and the landlord is required to return the tenant’s security deposit

Where can I get help if I’m being evicted in San Diego?

City of San Diego Eviction Prevention Program Hotline:

  • 1-877 LEGAL AID
  • (1-877-534-2524)
  • TTY: 1-800-735-2929
  • Email: Info@lassd.org

What can I do if my landlord harasses me or discriminates against me in San Diego?

CA has a state-level Fair Housing Act that seems to operate similarly to the federal FHA, with some additional protected characteristics.

The landlord shall give the tenant reasonable notice in writing of his or her intent to enter and enter only during normal business hours. The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. The notice may be personally delivered to the tenant, left with someone of suitable age and discretion at the premises, or left on, near, or under the usual entry door of the premises in a manner in which a reasonable person would discover the notice.

Twenty-four hours shall be presumed to be reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary. The notice may be mailed to the tenant. Mailing of the notice at least six days prior to an intended entry is presumed reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

Landlord harassment is unlawful under the CA FHA if it is done based on a protected characteristic. Details on what qualifies as harassment and what tenants can do are included in the CA Civil Rights Division’s guide.

SixFifty can help!

Now that you know your rights as a renter in San Diego, what can you do? Take action! SixFifty built HelloLandlord with the University of Arizona and Brigham Young University as a free resource for people who can’t afford legal help. You can use HelloLandlord to:

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SixFifty is building more tools to help renters all the time. For more information, email probono@sixfifty.com.

Sources

https://docs.sandiego.gov/municode/MuniCodeChapter09/Ch09Art08Division07.pdf