The California Apartment Association created a webinar this week to illuminate San Diego’s new “just cause” for eviction law and the forms and notices landlords must use to comply.

The class is now available on-demand, following its live webcast Tuesday, June 27, 2023.

The “Residential Tenant Protections Ordinance to Prevent Displacement and Homelessness,” which took effect Saturday, June 24, replaces the “Tenants Right to Know Ordinance,” which had been in effect since 2004. The presenters, CAA staff attorneys Whitney Prout and Mallory Homewood, walked webinar attendees through the substantial changes that this new ordinance brings about.

Whitney Prout

“It’s really significantly different from that old law,” Prout said during the webinar. “So, it’s really important to educate yourself and understand this new ordinance.”

A key difference with the new ordinance is that it guards against no-cause evictions from Day 1 of the tenancy, in most cases, with an exception for fixed-term leases of three months or less. The previous law’s protections didn’t kick in until after two years of tenancy.

The new ordinance also places stringent regulations on tenant buyout offers and agreements, which allow tenants to leave their rented property in exchange for an agreed payment.

Exemptions and responsibilities

Mallory Homewood

Housing is temporarily exempt from the city’s just cause law, however, until turning 15 years old. Specific housing types, including single-family homes and condos that are not corporately owned, are also exempt from rules, so long as landlords notify tenants about the exemption and use specific wording spelled out in the ordinance. “It’s very important that landlords with units that qualify for this exemption provide the required notice because the exemption only applies if this notice is provided,” Homewood said. Owners must also notify tenants of the protections afforded them in covered units. Additionally, the ordinance requires landlords to provide Tenant Protection Guide, published by the city. Like most other just cause ordinances, San Diego’s new law allows for both “at fault” and “no fault” evictions.

“These are all fairly typical at-fault reasons,” Homewood said. “Things like failing to pay rents, violating the rental agreement, or creating a nuisance that we see in most just cause ordinances, and are actually modeled after the at fault reasons provided for in AB 1482.”

AB 1482 is California’s statewide just cause for eviction law, which passed in 2019 and applies eviction rules where there aren’t applicable local just cause ordinances. At present, San Diego is one of more than 30 jurisdictions in California to have such an ordinance.

The San Diego law allows certain no-fault tenancy terminations for things like owner move-ins, and adherence to government orders and significant remodeling work. Prout cautioned owners to consult with an experienced landlord attorney before proceeding with this last type of eviction.  

“Terminating a tenancy for a substantial remodel is one of the areas that we’ve seen become one of the most contested types of evictions in the last couple of years,” Prout cautioned. “These things are much, much more hotly contested.”

Relocation assistance and buyout offers

In addition to setting parameters for allowable evictions, the law requires landlords to provide relocation assistance to tenants evicted for “no fault” reasons. The amount depends on the tenant’s age and disability status. Seniors (62 years or older) or those with a disability, as defined broadly per statute, must receive three months of the rent in effect when the termination notice was served, whereas all other tenants are entitled to two months’ rent.

The ordinance also establishes specific guidelines for buyout offers. Before making such an offer, for example, landlords are required to provide tenants with a written disclosure that includes certain mandatory statements, like the tenant’s right to not enter into a buyout agreement and the right to consult with an attorney. The disclosure form must be given to each tenant within three days of execution, and landlords must retain a copy for five years.

“The ordinance sets a floor for how much the buyout agreement can be for and it states that it has to be for an amount greater than the relocation assistance that would otherwise be available to the tenant under the ordinance,” Prout said.

To learn more about San Diego’s new eviction rules and buyout-offer regulations, please visit CAA’s San Diego page, where you’ll find a link to purchase the on-demand webinar, Industry Insight papers, and links to the necessary forms and notices.