City of San Diego’s Residential Tenant Protection Ordinance and Guide - Article Banner

California’s Tenants Protection Act of 2019 (AB 1482), provides statewide protections for residential tenants.  In June of 2023, the City of San Diego Residential Tenant Protections Ordinance (No. O-21647) went into effect, providing further local protections for San Diego tenants facing potential eviction.  To clarify the ordinance, the City of San Diego published a Tenant Protection Guide.  If you have not taken a look at it yet, you’ll want to give it a thorough read. In this guide, rental property owners and tenants will find information and resources to explain the rights of tenants who are renting a home within the city. 

The Tenant Protection Guide covers a wide range of topics including just cause eviction, relocation assistance, and other protections the city and the state have in place for tenants when facing potential eviction.  For landlords, it even specifies what kind of font to use in your lease agreement when referencing the notice you’re required to provide to tenants around the Residential Tenant Protections Ordinance. Spoiler alert: it’s 12-point font.

If you believe that you have the legal understanding to help you navigate all of the detailed and distinct laws around tenant protections in San Diego, you should have no problem staying in compliance. However, just glancing at this Tenant Protection Guide provided by the city can begin to feel overwhelming. It’s easy to make an unintentional mistake. 

Don’t set yourself up for an expensive error. Work with a San Diego property management partner so you can be sure you are in compliance with all City and State tenant protection laws.   

Below you will find some of the most essential information you need to remain in compliance. Think of this not as an exhaustive explanation of the Tenant Protection Guide, but as an introduction to it so you know what to expect and how to comply with the local and state laws.  

About the City of San Diego Tenant Protection Guide

Residential tenants in San Diego have specific rights when faced with eviction scenarios and landlords must follow stricter guidelines if they wish to lawfully evict their renter.  The Tenant Protection Guide provides educational information and resources to help tenants understand their rights and access help when facing potential eviction.  As a rental property owner, use this guide to understand what you can and can’t do as well as ensure you are meeting all of the notice requirements put forth in Section 98.0705(b) of the City of San Diego Residential Tenant Protections Ordinance.  

Properties Excluded From the Ordinance

The ordinance applies to residential renters and landlords in the City of San Diego.  The ordinance does not apply to unincorporated areas of the County of San Diego or other cities within the County.  

There is a list of exemptions to this ordinance, so make sure your property is actually covered. Notable exemptions include: homes constructed in the last 15 years, short-term rentals, and certain scenarios where the landlord lives on or in the same property with his/her tenant may be exempt.   Single family homes, townhomes, and condos are excluded as long as the unit is not owned by a REIT, a corporation, or LLC that has a corporate member and tenants have been provided written notice in the form required by the ordinance.  For all exempt properties, the owner must provide written notice to the tenants in order for the exemption to apply.  All existing leases before January 1, 2024 notice had to be served or the lease amended.  For new leases, the exemption language must be in the lease itself.

Not sure if this law even applies to you? Get in touch with us, and we will guide you. 

The San Diego Tenant Protections Ordinance vs. California TPA of 2019 

Many of the provisions of the ordinance mirror the California Tenant’s Protection Act of 2019, but some go beyond the protections provided by the state.  

Key Difference – San Diego tenants are protected from day one of their lease

Just Cause Eviction 

Just cause is required to terminate tenancy.  Landlords are not allowed to evict a tenant unless a “just cause” exists.  There are two type of “just cause.”  At-Fault Just Cause and No-Fault Just Cause.  The Ordinance imposes different benchmarks and requirements for at-fault vs. no-fault evictions.  

Key Difference – Notification requirements for just cause eviction are detailed in the Ordinance and Guide. In addition to the tenant notifications detailed, the landlord must also notify the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) within three business days of issuing a notice to residential tenant to ruminate their tenancy. This requirement takes effect 30 days after the Commission establishes a submission portal and provides the public notice of its creation. Development of the online portal, “City of San Diego Tenant Termination Notice Registry is pending further action from the San Diego City Council.

At-Fault Just Cause

 A landlord may terminate a tenancy for At-Fault Just Cause if the tenant has not or is not paying rent, violates a material term of the lease, nuisance violations, substantial damage to property, refusal to renew the lease, criminal activity and more.  For a comprehensive list of At-Fault Just Cause circumstances see the Ordinance or the Guide.  

No-Fault Just Cause Reasons for Eviction 

No-fault just cause includes taking possession of the housing unit for the landlord, to move a family member in, remove the unit from the market, certain court rulings, and taking possession to demolish or substantially remodel.  Each of these have nuances and detailed notification requirements of their own.  Written notice requirements can be found in the Tenant Protection Guide.  
The Ordinance’s rules on no-fault evictions vary from the California law in several notable ways.  

Key Differences:
  • Family Members: Landlords are still permitted to evict a tenant to move in family members, but the definition of “family” is reduced. Siblings are excluded. Also, Landlords must obtain their tenant’s permission unless the lease terms allow for eviction in these circumstances.
  • Higher requirements for evictions due to remodel: Landlords must obtain and post the permits for remodeling projects and serve notice explaining the need for the remodel and why the tenant can’t stay in place. Extensive, detailed written notifications to the tenant are required.
  • Right to re-lease the property within five years: If the unit is offered for lease within five years following the eviction, the landlord must give the tenant the right of refusal, subject to the tenant meeting screening requirements. The tenant has thirty days to decide whether to accept the offer.
  • Higher Relocation Assistance Requirements: The ordinance requires greater relocation assistance. Tenants must be given the equivalent of two months of rent or three months if the tenant is a senior or disabled. If there is more than one tenant, you must provide a single direct payment to all of the tenants named in the lease. You may choose a rent waiver instead, wherein you will stop collecting rent once you’ve provided notice of the just cause eviction. The amount of rent you waive must be equal to the two or three months we mentioned above.
  • Increased Fairness of Buyout Agreements: You can strike a deal for the tenant to vacate, called cash-for-keys. Specific written disclosures are required. Explicit requirements for the buyout and notification are spelled out in the ordinance.

It’s complicated. 

Retaliation and Remedies

Tenants are granted a variety of remedies and liabilities are imposed upon landlords for their failure to comply.  At Cal-Prop Management, we stay on top of local ordinances and laws so you don’t have to. 

Help Available

There’s more to learn by reading the City of San Diego Tenant Protection Guide at this link.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with us at Cal-Prop Management. We understand the intricacies of this law, and we’re prepared to keep you in compliance while you enjoy a profitable investment experience renting out San Diego properties. 
Contact Property ManagerWe are here to help. If you’re feeling like it’s too much to absorb, contact us at Cal-Prop Management.  We work with investors in San Diego and San Diego County including Hillcrest, Chula Vista, Pacific Beach, Encinitas, El Cajon, Ocean Beach, La Mesa, and more.  

Links to More Information:

State of California guide “California Tenants: A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities” City of San Diego San Diego Municipal Code


The information is an overview of the rights and obligations of parties as a result of the passage of ordinance O-21647.  It is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice or direction.  Residential renters and landlords should consult with their own, respective legal representatives or advisors.