San Diego Renters Gain New Protections: Landlords Limited on Security Deposits and Eviction Rules Tightened

San Diego renters have gained new protections this year, which have caused a stir in the real estate industry. The Greater San Diego Association of Realtors was informed about these new laws at an event held at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla. During the event, Gov Hutchinson, assistant general counsel for the California Association, discussed the potential challenges that real estate agents may face when assisting clients interested in renting properties.

While the focus was on the perspective of landlords, renters are also paying close attention to these changes. Rafael Bautista, director of the San Diego Tenants Union, views these new laws as a step towards recognizing housing as a basic human right. However, Bautista and other tenant advocacy groups believe that stronger rent control measures are necessary and feel that the new laws fall short of their expectations. On the other hand, many real estate agents were audibly shocked when they heard about some of the new statutes.

One of the most complex aspects for those in the industry will be ensuring compliance with rental laws. Hutchinson advised the agents to avoid trying to bypass the rules or providing advice on renter protections without consulting a lawyer first. He emphasized the importance of having a thorough understanding of the new laws to prevent potential headaches such as lawsuits.

One of the significant changes is related to security deposits. Starting July 1, landlords will only be allowed to require a security deposit equivalent to one month’s rent. This law was introduced in response to complaints from long-term renters who felt burdened by the high upfront costs of renting a place. However, for the next six months, landlords in San Diego can still charge up to two months’ rent for an unfurnished apartment and three months’ rent for a furnished one. Certain exceptions apply for small landlords who own no more than two rental properties or four rental units collectively.

Another new law that will take effect on April 1 aims to regulate evictions. While landlords will still have the option to evict tenants if they or select family members plan to move into the property, they will now be required to reside there for 12 months. This prevents landlords from evicting tenants and subsequently renting out the unit to someone else. However, most of the eviction protections, including the family member rule, only apply after the tenant has resided in the property for a year. Landlords can still evict renters for substantial remodels, defined as renovations requiring permits that last at least 30 consecutive days.

The use of credit reports in screening tenants receiving Section 8 housing vouchers or other government rent subsidies will also be limited under a new law. Landlords will no longer be able to rely solely on credit scores as a screening tool. Instead, prospective tenants can provide alternative proof of their ability to pay, such as bank statements or vouchers. However, landlords can still screen renters for rental history, criminal records, and eviction history.

Additionally, a law coming into effect on July 1 will require homeowners who have owned a house for less than 18 months to disclose all repairs and improvements made to the property during that time. The aim is to expose homeowners who perform substandard renovations. However, repairs under $500 do not need to be disclosed.

In California, homeowners may now be able to sell their accessory dwelling units (ADUs) separately if their local municipality allows it. While this new statewide law is optional, no San Diego County communities have currently opted for it. Hutchinson questioned the practicality of this law, highlighting concerns about being unable to remove undesirable ADU occupants if they purchase the unit.

These new laws provide both renters and landlords with certain protective measures but fall short of the expectations of some tenant advocacy groups who are advocating for stronger rent control measures. The real estate industry will need to navigate these new regulations carefully to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal challenges.