San Diego and Section 8

house key-chain

Lynn Dover, Esq.


August, 2018

On July 30, 2018, the San Diego City Council passed an ordinance that will require landlords to participate in the Section 8 Housing Voucher Choice Program and other rental assistance programs. Enforcement of the ordinance will begin on August 1, 2019.

The ordinance prohibits discrimination on the basis of source of income. While source of income discrimination is already prohibited under California law, this ordinance broadens the definition of source of income to include “rental assistance from any federal, state, local, or nonprofit-administered benefit or subsidy program, or any financial aid from any rental assistance program, homeless assistance program, security deposit assistance program, or housing subsidy program, whether paid directly to the program participant, landlord or representative of either.”

Under the ordinance, it is unlawful for landlords with properties in the City of San Diego to take the following actions based on a person’s source of income:

(1) To refuse to enter into or renew an agreement for tenancy;

(2) To interrupt or terminate any tenancy;

(3) To falsely represent that a rental-unit is not available for tenancy;

(4) To require inclusion in the terms of an agreement for tenancy any clause, condition, or restriction[1]; or

(5) To restrict a tenant’s access to facilities or services on real property associated with the tenancy, or refuse repairs or improvements to real property associated with the tenancy.

The ordinance also makes it unlawful to “make, print, publish, advertise, or disseminate in any way, or cause to be made, printed, published, advertised, or disseminated in any way, any notice, statement, or advertisement with respect to a rental-unit, or with respect to financing related to a rental-unit, which indicates discrimination based on a person’s source of income.” This means that it will be unlawful to advertise in any way that a property does not participate in the Section 8 (or any other housing assistance) program.

Finally, the ordinance makes it unlawful to use a financial standard (such as a rent-to-income ratio) that does not take into account an applicant or resident’s entire source of income or to use a financial standard that fails to aggregate income for the entire household (and any proposed co-signers) on the same basis as the aggregate source of income of married persons. This means that a landlord must consider any money that will be paid by Section 8 (or any other housing assistance program) in determining whether an applicant meets the rent-to-income ratio or other financial standard. If a landlord combines the income of married persons (and any proposed co-signers) to determine whether the household meets the property’s rent-to-income ratio or other financial standard, the landlord must also combine income for non-married individuals and any proposed co-signers.

The ordinance provides that a lawsuit may be filed for any violation that occurs on or after August 1, 2019. Any lawsuit must be brought within one year from the discovery of the violation and may seek monetary damages as well as an injunction against the landlord. If court determines the landlord has violated the ordinance, it must award damages equal to three-times the monthly rent that the landlord advertised the rental unit for at the time of the violation. It also has the power to award punitive damages and attorney’s fees and costs.

Although the rental housing industry fought for exemption for smaller properties and single-family units, the City Council exempted only owner-occupied units from the ordinance. Accordingly, a homeowner who lives in his or her house, condominium or other single-family unit and rents out a room within that unit is exempt from the ordinance.

The City Council indicated that they, along with the San Diego Housing Commission (which administers the Section 8 program within the City of San Diego), will be putting together an education and outreach program over the next year to educate landlords about the ordinance and the Section 8 program.

The ordinance does not apply to properties outside the City of San Diego, such as those located in other cities or unincorporated areas of the County.

Additional Resources:

Any questions on this alert should be directed to Lynn Dover at 800-338-6039 or

[1] It appears that the intention of this provision is to prohibit a landlord from including any language in lease documents that would prohibit, place conditions on or otherwise restrict a resident’s use of a Section 8 voucher as a source of income.

Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP is a full service real estate law firm representing residential and commercial property owners and managers. This article is for general information purposes only. While KTS provides clients with information on legislative changes, our courtesy notifications are not meant to be exhaustive and do not take the place of legislative services or membership in trade associations. Our legal alerts are provided on selected topics and should not be relied upon as a complete report of all new changes of local, state, and federal laws affecting property owners and managers. Laws may have changed since this article was published. Before acting, be sure to receive legal advice from our office. For contact information, please visit our website: For past Legal Alerts, Questions & Answers and Legal Articles, please consult the resource section of our website.


© 2019 Kimball, Tirey and St. John LLP