Understanding the landlord and tenant laws in California is critical when you’re renting out a property in San Diego and Riverside counties. The challenge that most owners have is that these laws change all the time. It can be difficult to keep up, especially if you’re not a legal expert or if you’re busy with other things.
In 2020 alone, we have seen new rent control and just cause eviction laws. There are new requirements for accepting applications for Section 8 tenants and in some cities, landlords can no longer run a criminal background check prior to screening an application.
These are just the new laws. We’ve also been navigating new eviction moratoriums due to the pandemic, and there are existing laws to remember that address security deposits, fair housing, and habitability.
There are a few urgent housing laws that you need to know before renting out a home.
Tenant Protection Act of 2019: Rent Control and Eviction
Statewide rent control went into effect on January 1, 2020, limiting the amount that many landlords can raise rent from year to year. There are a number of exceptions in this bill, so if you’re an individual landlord renting out one single-family home, for example, the restrictions may not apply to you.
However, if you’re renting out a multi-family property and it’s more than 15 years old, you’ll need to limit your rental increases to five percent plus the cost of living increase set by the Consumer Price Index. There are a lot of nuances and whether your property is covered by the rent control law or not, you’ll need to communicate with your tenants and change the language in your lease agreement.
Evictions have also changed. Prior to the eviction moratorium, Landlords could still evict tenants with cause, meaning if they stop paying rent or violate the terms of your lease agreement. But, if you simply don’t want to renew the lease or you have other plans for the property that requires you to remove them from the home, you may be required to pay a relocation fee that’s equivalent to one month’s rent.
Screening San Diego Tenants and Section 8
Another new law that San Diego landlords need to be aware of pertains to how you market your home and screen your tenants. In the past, you could actively advertise that you did not accept Section 8 tenants for a property.
Now, when screening tenants, you may need to allow Section 8 recipients to apply, using their housing voucher amount as an income source. All of your screening criteria can remain the same, but when it comes to your income standards, you may have to consider a housing voucher as part of an applicant’s income.
Fair Housing Laws and Discrimination
The federal, state, and local fair housing laws require that you treat all applicants and tenants fairly and consistently. You cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, and income source. There are a few hot topics in the fair housing and discrimination space when it comes to how landlords rent out their homes. The first is disparate impact and criminal backgrounds. Some communities are preventing you from using criminal history when you’re screening tenants. Disparate impact laws protect applicants from classes that have historically been discriminated against.
You need to be prepared for emotional support animals, therapy animals, and service animals. While each of those animals are in their own class and come with different certifications and requirements, they are all the same in that they are not legally considered pets. If you deny a tenant with an emotional support animal because you have a no-pet policy, you may put yourself at risk for a lawsuit.
California Security Deposit Laws
Security deposit laws are also important, mostly because it’s one area where landlords make a lot of mistakes. There are limits to how much you can collect in a security deposit, but the real trouble seems to come with the way a security deposit is returned. 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.
Renting out a Riverside or San Diego home is an excellent financial opportunity, but as you see, there are multiple housing laws that invite risk and liability. The legal landscape in California is complex and always changing. Help protect yourself and your rental properties by hiring a professional Property Manager.