Housing Justice  |  Online Tenant's Guide

At DSA SLO we believe that housing is a human right. If you’ve ever tried to find housing in San Luis Obispo County, you know how frustrating it can be to find a place that’s both affordable and comfortable. Our organization can't help you find the best rentals, but we can provide information.

The good news is that, legally speaking, California is one of the best states to live in if you’re a renter. Many of the battles housing justice advocates are fighting in other states are for rights we already enjoy here in California. However, in order to exercise those rights, you need to know what they are. That’s where this guide can help; we hope using this guide will allow you to navigate the extremely complicated world of renting with a little more confidence and peace of mind.

We’ve presented information in roughly the order you’ll need it. If you’re currently looking for a place to live and you need to know how much a landlord is allowed to charge for the “application fee,” it’s probably best to start at Rental Applications. If you’ve been living in your apartment for 15 years and things are starting to look a little shabby, the section on Repairs and Maintenance might be a good place to start. If you’re being evicted, the Eviction section towards the end might make the process a little less scary.

It’s important to say that we aren’t attorneys, we’re just members of your community trying to make it a safer place to live. This guide doesn’t include everything, and it can’t replace the advice and representation of a licensed attorney. There are situations when it's important to consult with a licensed attorney who will be better equipped to understand your unique situation. There are a few topics in the guide where we say, “go and talk to an attorney about this” and each time we do, we also include a link to a group in our community who will be able to help you for little to no cost. We’ve talked to these groups while doing the research for this guide and we are deeply grateful for their knowledge and generosity.

There are many times in this guide when we provide a link to a piece of the California Civil Code, Government Code, and Health & Safety Code. We know that these huge chunks of the state law are boring and hard to read, let alone understand. You do not have to read these codes to have them protect your rights as a tenant! We’ve provided them for the people who are curious and to be as transparent as possible. It’s also helpful to be able to say to your landlord, “you can't come in here, Section 1954 of the Civil Code says you need to give twenty-four hours’ notice, in writing.”

One final thing, if you take one thing away from this guide let it be this: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING, TAKE PHOTOS, AND GET IT IN WRITING. Your landlord’s job is to provide you with a place to live that keeps you healthy and safe. If they don’t, there's a good chance that you and your landlord could end up in small claims court. Our legal system is about what you can prove, and your landlord knows it. Pictures, emails, and letters can be the difference between you having to move and your landlord finally fixing that leaky pipe.

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