A rental property owner in the San Diego rental market has great opportunities, with the high demand for all types of properties. Whether you own a single-family home, a multi-family property or a San Diego vacation rental, you want to make sure that property works for you.

This means renting to future tenants who will pay promptly and help maintain your property values. Screening potential clients for your properties, though, can be tricky: you have to follow both federal and California fair housing laws. The laws are complicated, but ignorance of the law does not excuse you, should you run afoul of the regulations.

How should i perform my rental tenant screening?

Our first tip is to leave screening to a professional property management company. Attracting, interviewing, screening and accepting tenants for a San Diego area rental is a labor-intensive process. Even if you do not hire a full-time property manager, or go through a management service for maintenance, administrative tasks and tenant issues, you can benefit from using a property management service to advertise for, and handle, prospective tenants.

While attracting tenants to those beach towns near the Pacific Ocean isn’t difficult, it’s important to know the culture and community that your rental property is in. The atmosphere in Mission Bay is different than that of La Jolla, and while it may not legally have an impact for your tenants, suggesting an area that fits their quality of life can determine whether or not they sign the lease again for another year.

When you place your trust in a property management firm, the company scrupulously follows the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). San Diego property management companies exist to serve owners and tenants, allowing the average property owner to reap the benefits of their years of experience without worry about violating tenancy laws.


If you choose to go it alone, you can at least parallel the steps a successful management company in the San Diego area might use:

  1. Advertise
  2. Interview
  3. Verify
  4. Sign

No matter what type of property — single family, condo, multi-family — or its location, you need to let people know it is available in a way that already screens out some candidates. Highly coveted areas like Downtown San Diego rentals, or more laid back areas such as Mission Beach or La Jolla may attract different residents. Advertise your San Diego rental in several media, in several languages, to protect yourself from false accusations that you discriminate against speakers of a particular language (Spanish or Mandarin, for example).

The key barriers your advertisement can place to a prospective tenant of your San Diego rental are financial: you can ask for a certain level of income, and a history of good credit. You can state you do not accept tenants with a criminal background, too, but that is about as far as you can go. Your advertisement cannot dissuade single parents, families with large numbers of children, or anyone based on many traits:

  1. Gender
  2. Sexual orientation
  3. Disability
  4. Race
  5. Color
  6. Religion
  7. Marital status
  8. National origin
  9. Medical condition
  10. Ancestry
  11. Family status
  12. Income source
  13. Citizenship or immigration status

You have a right to ask how many family members will occupy the space because you cannot allow illegal overcrowding. The 1997 Uniform Housing Code Section 503(b) stipulates that “every residential rental unit must have at least one room that is at least 120 square feet; other rooms used for living must be at least 70 square feet; and any room used for sleeping must increase the minimum floor area by 50 square feet for each occupant in excess of two.”


This seems like a very limiting list, but as a landlord you do have the right to protect your property. When interviewing prospective tenants, you can reject tenants for specific reasons:

  • Inability to verify income
  • Criminal background
  • Negative reports from previous landlords
  • Negative credit history

From downtown San Diego out to Pacific Beach, landlords always face the same challenge: attracting desirable tenants through advertising, tthen keeping them interested through the application process. While it may seem simple to keep tenants interested in Sunny San Diego, there might be a lot of competition within close proximity of your rental property.


The interview may take the form of the prospective tenant walking through your San Diego rental property with you (or with representatives from the full-service property management company you hire). Use this time to gather information about the tenant. You should have someone on hand who speaks Spanish or another language besides English. Avoid probing questions but listen for clues that may indicate a spotty record of rent payments, late payments, or clashes with landlords.


Your rental family home in Mira Mesa or your condo near Balboa Park may be absolutely perfect for a prospective tenant, but you cannot leap to signing a lease without verifying the applicant’s past:

  • Income
  • Credit history
  • Rental history
  • Credit score

You can also charge an Application Screening Fee equal to your out-of-pocket costs. The San Diego rental application should be available in several languages, such as the aforementioned Spanish and Mandarin. In San Diego County, you may encounter prospective tenants who speak Tagalog, Arabic, German or Korean, according to the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN).


Your lease is the final hurdle to your San Diego rental. If your application was in a language other than English, you must provide a translation of the English-language lease before your tenant signs. The tenant may accept the English-language lease if the tenant provides an adult interpreter, as outlined in California Code Section 1632.

If you’re worried about breaking any of the fair housing legislations when managing your own property, the real estate professionals at Property Advantage can help you. With decades of real estate experience, we know and comply with all of the federal and state legislations.