Property Management Blog


Big Changes Could Be Coming for Pet Policies in San Diego Rentals

Big Changes Could Be Coming for Pet Policies in San Diego Rentals

What is AB 2216?

For San Diego renters and landlords, a controversial new bill is making its way through the California state legislature that could drastically change pet policies. Assembly Bill 2216, introduced by Assembly Member Matt Haney, aims to essentially ban "no pets" policies at rental properties across the state.

If passed, AB 2216 would require landlords to allow tenants to have at least one pet in their unit, with some exceptions. The proposed law would represent a massive shift for the rental housing industry and upend long-standing pet policies that have been common practice.

As the bill advanced through the Assembly, it faced intense opposition from landlord groups like the Southern California Rental Housing Association (SCRHA). They were able to negotiate several amendments, but remain staunchly against the core concept of the legislation.

Where Does AB 2216 Currently Stand? 

After contentious debates and lobbying efforts on both sides, AB 2216 was passed by the California State Assembly in late May 2024. However, it had to go through multiple amendment rounds to secure enough votes for approval.

The bill now moves on to the Senate, where landlord associations like SCRHA vow to continue fighting it fiercely. The path to becoming law is an uphill battle from here, but housing advocates pushing for the pet mandate are optimistic.

So what are the key provisions of AB 2216 as it's currently written? 

Here are the major components:

Exemptions for Smaller Buildings 

One significant amendment excludes rental properties with 15 or fewer units from the pet mandate. While this carves out some smaller landlords, it still captures the majority of larger multi-family apartment communities.

Allowances for Pet Fees and Deposits 

Under the bill's amendments, landlords would be allowed to charge certain pet-related fees to help offset potential damage and cleaning costs:

  • A $50 per month "pet rent" for each pet beyond the first (no pet rent for the first pet)
  • A refundable pet deposit of up to 50% of one month's rent, capped at $1,000 maximum
  • Ability to use those pet deposits for professional carpet cleaning specifically related to pet damage

These deposit allowances were an olive branch to landlords, but some still feel the amounts are too low to properly cover potential repair costs.

Restricted Breeds and Number of Pets

The amendments allow landlords to prohibit certain "restricted species" of exotic animals or inherently dangerous pets from their properties.

They can also set a policy limiting the total number of pets per unit to just one pet. So while they must allow at least one pet if the tenant has one, landlords could enforce a "one pet maximum" rule.

Insurance Requirements 

To address liability concerns, the bill permits landlords to require tenants to provide proof of liability insurance covering the pet before allowing it on the property. They can also require being listed as an "additional insured" on that policy.

Existing Lease Exclusions

One of the biggest concessions was delaying implementation of any new pet policies until April 1, 2025 for rental properties. The bill would only impact new leases signed after that date, not any existing leases until they renew.

Supporters See It as a Win for Housing Access 

The motivation behind AB 2216 is to open up more rental housing options for pet-owning tenants across California. Proponents argue that overly restrictive "no pets" policies make it extremely difficult for individuals and families to find suitable housing, particularly in competitive markets like San Diego.

"Having a pet is an integral part of life for millions of Californians," said Barbara Schultz, Legislative Director for Housing for Pet Owners, a group backing the bill. "It's discrimination against a huge portion of renters to unilaterally ban that."

Schultz and other advocates contend there are already fair housing laws that prevent discriminating against service or emotional support animals. They view extending basic pet acceptance as a common-sense next step to increase affordable housing access.

There are also the intangible mental health benefits of pet ownership that they believe should be considered. Particularly for lower-income individuals facing housing insecurity, being able to keep a pet can provide immense emotional value and comfort.

"Beloved animal companions shouldn't be treated as potential pariahs or purposely banned," said Schultz. "With reasonable restrictions landlords can put in place, there's no need to deprive renters of that basic part of their family."

Landlords Worry About Unintended Consequences 

On the other side, rental housing providers like SCRHA see AB 2216 as a misguided overcorrection that infringes on legitimate private property rights. Despite the amendments, they believe the bill goes too far and could make it even harder to find quality, affordable housing in San Diego.

"This is a terribly written bill that fails to think through all the real-world scenarios that landlords have to deal with," said Vince Balestrieri, Director of Public Affairs for SCRHA. "Forced blanket pet policies may sound nice in theory, but they'll just create bigger headaches and costs down the line."

SCRHA and other landlord opponents have numerous concerns about unintended consequences, some of which they feel the bill's authors have not fully grasped:

Damage Risks and Remediation Costs 

One of the primary issues for landlords is the risk of damage, odors, or infestation issues caused by tenant pets, which can be extremely costly to properly remediate.

"We've seen cases of units that required removing all the flooring, drywall, even framing due to cat urine absorption over many months or years," said Balestrieri. "It becomes a gut demolition and rebuild that can easily run over $30,000 for even a small one-bedroom."

While pet deposits of up to $1,000 are allowed in AB 2216, landlords argue that amount is woefully inadequate for severe cases. They contend it fails to properly incentivize tenants to maintain responsibility for their pets.

Many rental owners may need to systematically raise rent levels if they cannot implement higher risk deposits or fully deny pets with repeated violation histories under the new proposed policies.

Noise Issues and Neighbor Conflicts

 Another major worry is the potential for increased noise complaints from barking dogs, aggressive pet behavior, or conflicts between neighbors over pet issues like dogs running free.

"It puts an unfair burden on landlords to have to referee all of those types of conflicts and complaints without the tools to prevent the issues in the first place," said Balestrieri.

Under their current blanket "no pet" policies, landlords can proactively avoid those noise and conflict situations before they start. Having to enforce after-the-fact when situations inevitably arise is far more difficult.

Higher Turnover and Refurbishment Demands Most landlords already budget for basic turnover costs to clean and refurbish units between tenants. With pets allowed across the board though, SCRHA believes those turnover expenses will dramatically increase.

Even with pet deposits collected, the need to fully clean and deodorize units, potentially replace flooring and drywall in extreme cases, means much higher turnover costs per unit. This could be a major economic hit for housing providers, particularly smaller landlords.

Feasibility Challenges and Fair Housing Concerns

Policing compliance and developing new infrastructure like pet policies, addendums, pet committees, and more will create significant administrative and management headaches according to landlords.

There is also worry that the policy will inherently discriminate against certain animals, breeds, or pet types by default. Landlords will have to determine which species are too "dangerous" or problematic to allow, introducing major fair housing concerns all over again.

"Where exactly is that line drawn between animals that are allowed and restricted under this policy?" questioned Balestrieri. "This bill just opens a Pandora's box of issues."

Continued Opposition Efforts 

While AB 2216 was able to eke through the Assembly, SCRHA and other opposition groups know the battle is far from over as the bill heads to the Senate.

Their lobbying efforts targeting state Senators will ramp up significantly, highlighting the concerns around damage costs, conflict resolution, insurance liability, fair housing issues, and more. SCRHA hopes to convince enough members of the Senate's pragmatic moderates from both parties that the bill needs significant additional revisions or outright rejection.

Some of the top goals include:

  • Increasing allowable pet deposits beyond just $1,000
  • Allowing pet rent charges for the first pet, not just extras
  • Giving broader flexibility for breed, size, number, and type of pet limits
  • Pushing the implementation date out even further than April 2025
  • Carving out more exemptions beyond just 15 unit buildings

On the flip side, pet owner advocates will double down on their messaging about increasing affordable housing access for renters. That AB 2216 provides a reasonable framework with the amended landlord concessions.

For now, passage of AB 2216 is far from guaranteed in the State Senate. The multi-family housing industry sees this as a critically important fight against government overreach into private property rights and business operations.

However, tenant activists and pet advocates have considerable momentum after getting it through the Assembly. They will continue driving their narrative that reasonable pet policies increase access to affordable rental housing and provide quality-of-life benefits to residents.

This legislative battle highlights the challenging balance to strike between protecting legitimate landlord business interests while expanding housing opportunities through measures like pet acceptance requirements.

No matter which side prevails, the outcome on AB 2216 stands to significantly reshape rental housing policies and economics around pets in San Diego and across California. Both landlords and tenants should closely monitor developments and be prepared to adapt ahead of potential major changes.

For property owners and managers, reviewing insurance policies, exploring higher deposit options, and developing robust pet addendums may quickly become necessities if the bill passes. Raising pet fees, documenting processes thoroughly, and training staff on enforcement will also likely be required.

Tenants with pets should pay close attention as the bill advances

If AB 2216 becomes law, more housing options could open up, but fees, deposits, breed restrictions, and other rules may still apply. Having paperwork like licenses, insurance, and documentation of responsible pet ownership could be crucial.

The impacts on fair housing, potential discrimination allegations, noise issues, HOA policies, insurance liability, and more remain to be seen. But one thing is clear: the landscape of pet policies for San Diego's rental market could be headed for a dramatic overhaul in the coming years.

Keeping a close eye on this legislation as the state's policymakers weigh the interests of all sides will be vital. Both housing providers and renters have a stake in how these significant proposed changes ultimately get resolved.