10 Common Challenges San Diego Landlords Encounter

While San Diego remains an outstanding rental market, property owners and investors are constantly trying to keep up with both local and state laws.  In this post, we summarize some of the typical challenges and how to combat.

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Being a landlord in San Diego comes with its fair share of challenges. From navigating local regulations to maintaining tenant relationships, there are numerous factors to consider. In this blog post, we’ll explore the top San Diego landlord challenges and shed light on effective strategies for overcoming them.

Key Take-aways

  1. Preparedness is Paramount: Always have a contingency plan ready for handling unexpected property damages to ensure the smooth operation of your rental business.
  2. Time Management is Crucial: Landlord responsibilities require a significant time commitment. The average time spent can range from 2-5 hours per unit per week, increasing during tenant turnovers or major repairs. Effective time management is critical in this role.
  3. Understand Your Worth: Assess the value of your time. If alternate profit-generating activities could earn you more, consider delegating property management duties to professionals.
  4. Profitability Analysis: Conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis to ensure you are optimizing your return on investment.
  5. Navigate with Confidence: Understanding the challenges and dynamics of the San Diego rental market can empower you to navigate it with confidence and achieve success in your landlord journey.

10 Common Landlord Challenges

Tenant Relationships

Maintaining a professional relationship with tenants is crucial for landlords in San Diego. While friendly interactions are certainly encouraged, it’s important to remember that a tenancy agreement is fundamentally a business arrangement. Clear boundaries must be established and respected to avoid potential conflicts or misunderstandings. This includes having clear, written lease agreements, setting business hours for non-emergency communication, and ensuring that any disagreements are resolved professionally. A well-defined landlord-tenant relationship can lead to mutual respect, a positive living environment, and ultimately, long-term tenancy.

Eviction Process

No landlord wants to go through the eviction process, but unfortunately, it’s often a necessary task. In San Diego, evicting a tenant can be a complex and time-consuming process, with strict regulations in place to protect both tenants and landlords. Landlords must follow specific procedures and timelines, which can vary depending on the reason for eviction. Failure to comply with these rules can result in costly legal consequences for landlords. Landlords need to familiarize themselves with eviction laws and seek legal advice if necessary. See our blog post on the eviction process for more details on how to best navigate both state and local laws.

Property Maintenance

Regular maintenance and repairs are essential to keep your rental property in optimal condition. From addressing plumbing issues to handling landscaping needs, proactive maintenance ensures tenant satisfaction and preserves the value of your investment. In San Diego, landlords are responsible for providing safe and habitable living conditions for tenants. This includes fixing any structural issues, ensuring proper sanitation and plumbing, and addressing any health or safety hazards. Landlords need to schedule regular inspections and promptly address maintenance requests from tenants.

Local Regulations and State Laws

Navigating local regulations and laws is vital for landlords in San Diego. Understanding fair housing laws, tenant protections, rent control regulations, eviction laws, required notifications, and avoiding discriminatory practices are essential to maintain compliance and avoid legal issues. San Diego has specific laws and regulations that landlords must adhere to, including the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance and the Housing Code. Landlords should also be aware of state laws such as California’s Tenant Protection Act of 2019 and statewide rent control measures.

Tenant Screening

Finding reliable and responsible tenants is crucial for a successful San Diego rental property. Landlords need to carefully screen applicants to ensure they have a stable income, a good credit history, and no prior evictions or criminal records prior to signing a lease agreement. In San Diego, landlords are also prohibited from discriminating against potential tenants based on protected classes such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and disability. Landlords can use online tenant screening services or work with a property management company to conduct thorough screenings.

Pets, Service Animals, and ESAs

In San Diego, landlords have the right to allow or deny pets in their rental properties. However, if a tenant has a service animal or emotional support animal (ESA), these are not considered pets under Fair Housing laws. Landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, which includes allowing service or emotional support animals even in ‘no pets’ properties. It’s important to note that landlords can ask for verification of the tenant’s need for the animal, but they cannot refuse accommodation based on the animal’s breed or size. Understanding and adhering to these laws is vital to avoid discrimination claims and potential legal issues.

Marketing & Pricing Vacancies

Effective marketing of your rental property in San Diego is crucial for minimizing vacancies and ensuring a steady stream of rental income. The first step is to increase your rental listing visibility. You can achieve this by listing your property on popular real estate websites, local classifieds, and social media. High-quality photos and detailed descriptions that highlight your property’s amenities and location can attract more potential tenants.

Leverage technology to further enhance your property’s appeal by offering 3D virtual tours. These tours provide prospective tenants with an immersive, on-demand look at your property, which can be particularly beneficial in today’s digital age and the existing conditions necessitated by the pandemic. Platforms such as Zillow 3D Home, Matterport, and VirtualAPT offer easy-to-use tools to create interactive 3D tours.

To ensure efficient management of property showings, consider using an online scheduling system. This allows potential tenants to view available showing times and book an appointment directly. This not only streamlines the process but also demonstrates your responsiveness and professionalism. Lastly, make sure your property is always ready for showings—cleanliness, functionality, and appealing aesthetics can indeed make a significant impact on a potential tenant’s decision.

Rent Collection

Dealing with tenants who stop paying rent can be a significant challenge. Familiarizing yourself with the legal procedures for collecting rent and taking appropriate action promptly is essential for maintaining consistent rental income. Consider setting up a system for rent collection that best suits your needs and preferences. Some options include:

    • Online payment platforms: These offer convenience for both you and your tenants, as they can quickly make payments from the comfort of their homes.
    • Cash or check: This traditional method may work well for some landlords, but it can be cumbersome to track and manage multiple payments.

Property Damage

Dealing with property damage can be challenging. Having appropriate insurance coverage, promptly addressing repairs, and documenting incidents can help navigate property damage issues more effectively. Additionally, having a security deposit and a thorough tenant screening process in place can help mitigate potential property damage risks. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that accidents and unforeseen circumstances do happen, and it’s crucial to have a contingency plan in place for handling property damage.

Time Commitment

Being a landlord requires a significant time commitment. From advertising vacancies to conducting property inspections and addressing tenant concerns, managing your time effectively is essential for maintaining a successful rental property.

Landlord responsibilities may consume varying amounts of time each week, depending on the circumstances. On average, it can range from 2-5 hours per unit per week. This includes handling tenant concerns, property maintenance, rent collection, and other managerial tasks. However, during times of tenant turnover or significant repairs, the time commitment might increase significantly.

To understand what your time is worth, consider the hourly rate you could earn in your regular job or another side venture. If you are spending 5 hours per week on a rental property and could otherwise earn $50 per hour, that’s $250 per week of your time. In such cases, it might be more cost-effective to hire a property management company and free up your time for other profit-generating activities. It’s essential to conduct this cost-benefit analysis to ensure you’re maximizing your return on investment.

Fast Facts

  1. Rental Market in San Diego: The rental market in San Diego is highly competitive with a vacancy rate of less than 4%.
  2. Average Rental Price: The average rental price for a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego is approximately $1,500 per month.
  3. Property Management Costs: The cost of hiring a property management company in San Diego can range from 8%-12% of the monthly rent.
  4. Return on Investment: The average return on investment for rental properties in San Diego is around 3%-5% annually.
  5. Tenant Turnover Time: The average tenant turnover time in San Diego can range from 2-3 weeks, which is a crucial factor in maintaining profitability.
  6. Legal Requirements: San Diego has strict legal requirements for landlords, including providing habitable property and respecting tenant rights. Non-compliance can result in hefty fines.
  7. Growing Market: Despite the challenges, the San Diego rental market is steadily growing, making it an attractive investment opportunity for landlords.


Being a landlord in a dynamic city like San Diego presents a variety of challenges. By understanding these challenges and implementing effective strategies, you can navigate the rental market with confidence and achieve success as a landlord in this vibrant city. If you live in a different city or state than your rental property, consider the services of a professional property manager. Property managers are accustomed to dealing with the challenges outlined here daily and can often provide some much-needed assurance your rental property is being managed properly.

The Crestmont Team


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