A PROJECT OF THE County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency

Rental Agreements

Read the lease/rental agreement very carefully. Have someone explain it to you, if necessary. It is a legal document that states the “rules” you must follow to continue living in the apartment. Make sure that your roommate or roommates sign the lease also so they will be held equally responsible. Keep a copy of the lease/rental agreement so you can refer to it if needed. A lease usually requires that you must live there and pay rent for a certain amount of time; the most common leases are for 6 months, a full year, or month-to-month. If you decide to move, you must wait until the lease is up.

There are advantages and disadvantages that you should consider before signing a lease. A lease gives you protection that a month-to-month rental agreement does not. In a month-to-month rental agreement, the landlord can evict you, raise your rent, or change other terms of the agreement simply by giving you a minimum of 30 days notice of the intended action. With a lease, you are assured that you can stay in the apartment for the specific period of time agreed to and the rent cannot be raised during this time unless the lease includes arrangements to do so. Be sure to consider the time commitment you are making with a lease – is it realistic?

If you decide to move out, you usually have to give the landlord notice 30 days in advance, even if your roommate is staying. The lease will state how much advance notice you must give the landlord.

If you decide to “break” the lease, meaning you decide to move out before your lease is completed, you are still responsible for paying the rent. Some landlords may let you do this without paying penalties, but don’t count on it! If a situation arises where you need to break your lease, talk to your landlord and try to work something out.

For a young person who is starting out and has not established a credit history, the landlord might require an older, more established person to co-sign the lease. If you handle the situation properly, renting an apartment can be the start of a good credit history. When you move out, you can use your former landlord as a reference on the application form for a new apartment. Landlords and apartment managers check out your previous rental history when making a decision on whether to rent to you.

When can the rent be raised?

It depends. In a rental agreement, your landlord can raise your rent any amount if he/she gives you proper written notice. You must be notified of the increase at least 30 days in advance of the increase. If you have a lease, your landlord cannot raise your rent unless there is a provision for this in the lease agreement. Of course, when your lease is up, the new lease may call for a different amount of rent.

When can the landlord enter my home?

You have a basic right of privacy, which your landlord should respect. Your landlord may enter your place only in the following cases: In an emergency To make necessary or agreed upon repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements To supply necessary or agreed upon services To show the unit to prospective buyers, tenants or repair workers. When you have abandoned or given up the premises As a result of a court order

What if I get evicted?

When a landlord wants you to leave the unit, he/she must first give you written notice. If you don’t move out, the landlord’s second step is to sue you in court. A landlord legally cannot walk into your residence and physically remove you or lock you out if you do not move when he/she said to. They must go through the courts first.

Finding a Place to Live

Here are some ideas for finding a place to live.

  • Newspaper ads
  • San Diego Union Tribune
  • San Diego Reader
  • Craigslist
  • Real estate agencies
  • College or university housing offices
  • Drive around an area you would like to live and look for rental signs – many landlords do not advertise.
  • Management companies – look under “apartments” or “real estate management” in the yellow pages.
  • Bulletin boards in cafes, Laundromats, etc.

A place is available.  Now what?

Call the landlord or manager to arrange a time to look at the unit. Show up for the appointment on time (sometimes there are many people applying for the apartment, and you want to give the landlord the impression that you are responsible). As you walk through the unit use the checklist “What to Look for When Checking Out Rental Units” (see below). Before signing a contract/lease, make sure you know what it says and what your responsibilities are. If you do not understand, ask questions! Make sure all the blank lines in the contract/lease are filled in. When you sign a contract/lease, make sure you write a list (or fill out a form if the landlord has one) of everything that is damaged, dirty or missing in the unit. Have the landlord sign and date it. Ask for a photocopy of the list. Keep a copy of the signed rental agreement/lease.

Transitional Living Programs

If you find yourself with nowhere to go, there are several emergency shelters and assistance programs in San Diego. Because phone numbers and availability of shelter programs change frequently, it is recommended that you call INFO LINE: (619) 230-0997 or 211. This service stays constantly updated on programs and space availability

Transitional Living Program 

Transitional Living Programs (TLP’s) provide you an opportunity to live on your own while allowing you to save money, and assist you in learning how to take on the responsibility of living on your own. TLP’s usually provide an apartment, case management, training in living skills and job search assistance. There are usually rules requiring you to look for and obtain employment or be in school, meet with your case manager, obey curfew times, save money, etc.

It is recommended that you apply to more than one TLP because sometimes there is a waiting list to get in. The programs range from 18 to 24 months in length, are for youth ages 18-21 (but this varies), and require you to pay a certain percentage of your income. To apply, many of them require you to attend an orientation where you will receive all the information you need about the program.

As stated before, services and funding may change so it is recommended that you call the following numbers for updated information.

Turning Point
(619) 640-9774
YMCA Youth & Family Services
4262 Swift Avenue
San Diego, Ca 92104

Tommie's Place
4145 Swift Ave. #2
San Diego, CA. 92104
(619) 640-9774
(pregnant/parenting youth)

Take Wing
(619) 221-8610 ext.2254
San Diego Youth Services
3255 Wing St.
San Diego, Ca 92110


How Much Can You Afford

A common way to estimate what you can afford is to add up how much you're paid each month and multiply that amount times .3. For example, if you take home $1,000 per month, you shouldl be able to affor $300 in rent.

To be more accurate, you should estimate how much per month you will be spending on the following:

  • Utilities – phone, gas & electricity, possibly cable TV (whatever is not included in the price of rent)
  • Transportation – bus pass, trolley fare, car expenses (payments, gas, insurance, maintenance/repairs) Medical/Dental Expenses
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Recreation/Entertainment

Personal Expenses – soap, detergent, shampoo, hair cuts, etc. Household Items –

Will you need to buy towels? Sheets? Furniture? Kitchen items? Consider one-time-only purchases as well as on-going expenses such as cleaning supplies, etc.

  • School Expenses
  • Laundry
  • Savings
  • Misc.

Deducting these expenses from your monthly income will give you an idea of how much money you will have for rent. Of course, if you can economize in areas such as recreation and entertainment, you will have more money to use for paying rent.