Apartments in the East Village
Apartment’s in downtown San Diego’s East Village. Photo by Chris Stone

On April 6, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to advance a proposal to impose more stringent rent control and “just cause” eviction provisions that would apply throughout the county. On paper, many groups have focused on how this move will protect renters.

However, many have overlooked, or have simply been uninformed about, how these measures forsake landlords and property owners by closing any opportunity to remove tenants unless they are an “imminent health and safety risk.” The new county-specific regulations go too far beyond the strong statewide protections already in place and come with significant implications for San Diego housing.

The consequences of this ordinance are concerning for numerous reasons. Housing providers will no longer be allowed to protect their renters from nuisance and potentially dangerous tenants. This ultimately threatens the safety and quality of life of the families that are forced to live near these tenants as they deserve stable and healthy environments.

Housing providers, especially independent landlords, are being forced to shoulder an unfair amount of the burden and this story is not being told. Over the last year, many of these housing providers have been forced to forego rental payments. This new ordinance would continue to put the weight of the problem on property owners.

For some of our mom-and-pop landlords, especially seniors who rely on these funds as their primary source of income, financial stability has been greatly impacted. Plus, the new provisions would even prevent them from moving into their own rental property if their primary residence is foreclosed upon or if they needed to for financial reasons.

Meanwhile, landlords must maintain their property to appropriate standards and keep up with their bills while also forgoing rent. There is no Consumer Price Index cap in place for these costs, and housing providers should not be forced to endure the burden of this pandemic — especially when they do not have the right to protect their property from problematic tenants.

Furthermore, the new protections will greatly impact home sales. In situations where a tenant is in place, the ordinance would prevent new buyers from being able to remove them and occupy their own homes. This would happen even if the purchase was made with the intent of occupying the home as a primary residence.

This also calls into question potential liability and disclosure requirements and could prevent prospective buyers from qualifying for certain financing, including VA loans, that require owner occupancy. This is very unfair to prospective buyers from our military community in particular.

The new ordinance could also deter housing investments as most homebuyers don’t want to assume the risk of a tenant not vacating the property or not paying rent. Additionally, there could be a hugely negative impact on both the homebuying and selling process, which would then have an effect on the renter community by reducing the number of affordable options in the market. 

These new regulations are especially troubling considering the county has the resources to provide the needed rental assistance, but instead chose to reallocate $40 million in COVID relief funding toward bonuses for county staff. The average county salary is more than $120,000, and many of these individuals have maintained employment throughout this crisis. It’s imperative that these funds be reallocated to support those most impacted by the pandemic.

While they would be set to expire 60 days after the stay-at-home order lifts on June 15, that doesn’t make these provisions right. The stricter county regulations will have a negative impact on property owners—potentially putting some out of business and leaving room for corporate real estate investors to corner the market. This will cause long-term ramifications and set a precedent for regulations like these protections to continue in the future. 

Now more than ever, families need clean, safe and affordable housing. This ordinance is not the answer and will do more harm than good. While it aims to protect renters’ rights, it doesn’t take into account the deleterious effects it will have on property owners. Additionally, these regulations will decrease investments in housing, drive up costs and prolong the current inventory crisis, which will harm renters and push homeownership further out of reach.

Ahead of the next vote on May 4, it is important to learn how these new eviction protections will impact the community at large.

Carla Farley is the owner of Corban Realty and president of the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors.