San Diego Landlords: Beware Of Eviction Control When Trying To End A Month-To-Month Tenancy

Mercifully, San Diego does not have rent control.  Unfortunately, San Diego does have its close relative-the unwelcome mother-in-law of rent control-better known as eviction control or “for cause” eviction.  

San Diego’s eviction control ordinance substantially impacts a landlord’s right to end a month-to-month tenancy.  Moreover, the ordinance can be a trap for the unwary landlord unfamiliar with its mandatory notice provisions.  A notice terminating a month-to-month tenancy that does not comply with the eviction control ordinance could cause the inexperienced landlord to lose his eviction case at trial and have to start the eviction process all over again. 

What is San Diego’s eviction control ordinance? The ordinance applies to every tenancy of two years or greater duration.  When a tenant has lived in your rental property for two years or more, you may only terminate his month-to-month tenancy, or refuse to renew his lease, for certain specified reasons.  On the face of it, the authorized reasons in the ordinance don’t seem unreasonable.  As examples, a landlord may only terminate the tenancy for things such as nonpayment of rent, breach of lease, tenant use of the property for an illegal purpose, or landlord withdrawal of the premises from the rental market just to name a few.  

The ordinance’s restrictions wouldn’t appear too onerous to most landlords since a landlord’s typical reasons for terminating a tenancy match those permitted by the eviction control ordinance.  However, the ordinance’s mandates do not end there.   The ordinance further requires that the landlord serve on the tenant a notice setting out the reason or reasons for terminating the tenancy at the same time that the landlord serves the 30-day notice, 60-day notice, or 3-day notice, whichever the case requires.  

In other words, to comply with San Diego’s eviction control ordinance, you must first have a permitted basis for terminating the tenancy.  In addition, you must serve a separate notice on the tenant setting forth that permitted reason at the same time that you serve the notice terminating the tenancy.  Thus, a tenant who is protected by the eviction control law should get two notices, one terminating the tenancy (the 3-day, 30-day, or 60-day depending upon the case) plus another notice setting forth the reason authorized by the eviction control ordinance.  

Additionally, to be valid, both notices must be served according to law, i.e. they must be personally served on the tenant or served through a valid substitute service or post and mail service.  I can’t tell you how many landlords I have seen in my practice make the mistake of not complying with the eviction control ordinance.  In fact, nearly every client I see who has tried to terminate a month-to-month tenancy with a 30-day or 60-day notice either didn’t comply with the ordinance or didn’t serve it right.  

The consequences for the landlord to not terminating the tenancy right can be dire.  At a minimum, the landlord will suffer the lost time and inconvenience of having to serve a new notice.  If the landlord has sued on a bad notice, the consequences can be worse.  The tenant will win the eviction case and the landlord will have to start the entire process over again, thus losing more time, rent, plus costs and attorney’s fees.  If you want to end a month-to-month tenancy, or not renew a tenancy, on some ground other than non-payment of rent, you should consult a lawyer to make sure that you comply with San Diego’s eviction control ordinance.

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