The Complete Guide to Renting Your ADU in San Diego

Are you a homeowner looking for additional rental income? Perhaps you’re thinking about adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to your property so that you have additional space to rent out for income, either immediately or down the road when family members move out. Renting out your ADU as a short or long-term living space is one of the most popular and lucrative uses of your new space. Let’s start with the basics.

What is an ADU Rental?

An ADU rental is no different than an apartment rental, in the sense that it is a privately-owned property a landlord is leasing out to residents. As we will discuss later, these rentals can be long-term or short-term, depending on the landlord’s needs and desires, as well as local regulations.

Can I rent out my ADU? Can I build an ADU on a rental property?

Yes, you can rent your ADU. And you can build an ADU on a rental property. Previously, California state law enforced specific legislation regarding owner occupancy requirements. However, a moratorium was placed on these owner occupancy requirements for all ADUs permitted between January 1, 2020 and January 1, 2030. This means any previous requirements have been eliminated for the ten-year span mentioned above, so property owners can add another unit to their single or multi-family lots.

Can I rent out my ADU short-term?

Yes, ADUs can typically be rented for periods of 30 or more days, per California state law. A few municipalities have waived this requirement, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. This is a consideration you must agree to in the form of a covenant before any building permits can be issued for the construction of your ADU. Platforms like Airbnb or VRBO allow you to set minimum rental periods to help you comply with the law.

Another option we’ve been seeing lately is to sign a “master lease” with a company that manages corporate housing. That housing company rents for periods of 30+ days to military, healthcare and other business professionals relocating to the area for work. The corporate housing company leases directly from the homeowner and typically works on the rental contract before the ADU is even complete so that they can start renting immediately.

You can of course rent out the ADU on a long-term basis to a tenant (e.g. a one or two year lease), or hire a property management company to handle that for you.

What factors should I consider before building an ADU to rent?

Before deciding on creating an ADU rental space, there are a few points to consider:

  1. Your property value (and taxes) will go up. Your property will become much more valuable with the addition of an ADU, and your taxes will also go up somewhere in the range of 1-2%. Your property will be subject to a “blended assessment,” which means your home’s assessed value will not change, but the ADU’s assessed value will be added onto the overall property value. However, keep in mind that renting out the space will likely offset a good portion of these expenses.
  2. You will want to optimize your ADU floor plan and design for rental. If you are building an ADU with the specific intention of renting it out, you will want to let your contractor know. The design you choose for your build will most likely vary depending on what use you have in mind for your ADU. Optimizing the layout will make it more attractive to renters. Contractors will likely have a number of ready-to-build floor plans you can choose from, as well as years of experience discovering how to build to maximize the value you will get out of the ADU.

How do you optimize the ADU design and floor plan for a rental unit?

  1. Use space-efficient features. Open floor plans, eat-in kitchen islands, standard size bathrooms, and plenty of storage and are all ways to best utilize the space to make the unit livable yet efficient for your tenants.
  2. Be aware of important size breakpoints. 500 sqft, 750 sqft, and 1000 sqft are important thresholds to keep in mind. You can fit 2BR/2BA in 750sqft, and if you stay under that number, you will save thousands of dollars since no impact fees will be assessed, per state regulations.
  3. Choose durable yet cost-effective finishes. Some favorites are luxury vinyl plank flooring, quartz countertops, and shower inserts. These materials will look great, clean easily, and are less expensive than some other options.

What are renters looking for in an ADU?

Alongside design and floor plan optimization, there are specific features that many renters will be looking for in an ADU rental residence.

  1. Privacy from primary residence. Privacy from the main residence might include a physical barrier blocking the ADU from the house, like a wall or hedge. You could also install something more subtle, like a personal storage space for the renters that is completely cut off from the primary residence. Anything allowing the resident to feel a sense of independence and separation from the main residence can work.
  2. Access to the unit. Consider how your tenants will access the unit. Ensuring there is a walkway or path with clear and easy access is ideal. Also consider how the tenants will access the unit from where they will be parking.
  3. Convenience. Offering a private laundry space and full kitchen setup will make rental life more convenient for your tenants. Making sure to add these features when designing your ADU will make a world of difference and allow you to charge higher rent rates for the added convenience.
  4. Attractive finishes. Many renters are willing to pay more for attractive finishes, such as stylish cabinets, countertops, and fixture selections. Even better, many options like quartz counters and luxury vinyl plank flooring are both attractive and durable.
  5. Outdoor space. Creating an aesthetically pleasing space around your ADU will make your rental a more pleasant space to live in. Adding an outdoor space like a patio, terrace, or yard access adds to the welcoming & relaxing atmosphere that many renters are looking for.

How much can you rent out an ADU for in San Diego?

In San Diego, ADU rental properties can usually be rented out for the same or higher rent rates as comparable available apartments in the immediate area. Comparable apartments would be based on having similar square footage, bedroom & bathroom count, and features like a garage and private laundry, as well as finishes. Platforms like Zillow and Craigslist are still some of the best places to find current rental listings, where you can compare your ADU to other available rental units on the market in your neighborhood. Comparing your property to other units will get you a better idea of what rent rate your ADU could bring in.

Average rent rates in Greater San Diego

Zip City Neighborhood 1BR 2BR 3BR
Bonita 91902 Bonita $1705 $2025 $2650
92003 Bonsall Bonsall $1500 $2300 $2800
92008 Carlsbad Carlsbad Village $1975 $3855 $3450
92009 Carlsbad La Costa Oaks $2000 $2550 $3595
92010 Carlsbad Calavera Hills Village $1985 $2660 $3500
92011 Carlsbad Aviara $2600 $3000 $4200
91910 Chula Vista Chula Vista $1620 $2300 $2595
91913 Chula Vista Rancho del Rey $1985 $2625 $2990
92014 Del Mar Del Mar $2115 $2500 $4100
92020 El Cajon Grossmont $1645 $2040 $2765
92007 Encinitas Cardiff $2095 $2800 $4600
92024 Encinitas Leucadia $2000 $3000 $5500
92025 Escondido East Canyon $1800 $2225 $2695
92026 Escondido North Ridge $1500 $1975 $2850
92029 Escondido Hidden Hills $2045 $2660 $3395
92028 Fallbrook Fallbrook $1575 $1825 $2695
92037 La Jolla Upper Hermosa $1800 $2875 $5750
91941 La Mesa Grossmont $1715 $1995 $2950
91942 La Mesa Rolando Village $1535 $2100 $2625
92054 Oceanside Fire Mountain $1685 $1995 $2650
92056 Oceanside Tri City $1895 $2145 $3000
92057 Oceanside North Valley $1795 $2100 $2775
92058 Oceanside Loma Alta $1580 $2300 $2650
92064 Poway Caramel Mtn. Ranch $1795 $2010 $2995
92102 San Diego Golden Hill $1525 $2250 $2925
92105 San Diego City Heights $1550 $2000 $2795
92111 San Diego Linda Vista $1950 $2600 $3100
92113 San Diego Logan Heights $1325 $1800 $2400
92115 San Diego College Grove $1445 $1950 $3400
92116 San Diego Normal Heights $1725 $2995 $3400
92117 San Diego Clairemont $1815 $1975 $3000
92119 San Diego San Carlos $1700 $1975 $2795
92126 San Diego Mira Mesa $1875 $2350 $3000
92128 San Diego Rancho Bernardo $1675 $2475 $3195
92129 San Diego Rancho Bernardo $1800 $2150 $2870
92130 San Diego Carmel Valley $2665 $3405 $4000
92131 San Diego Scripps Ranch $1920 $2360 $3200
92069 San Marcos San Marcos $1800 $2100 $3000
92078 San Marcos San Marcos $1970 $2400 $3110
92075 Solana Beach Solana Beach $2120 $3350 $4225
91977 Spring Valley Spring Valley $1650 $2035 $2800
92081 Vista Ocean Hills $1955 $2175 $2740
92083 Vista Richland $1725 $1995 $2995
92084 Vista Vista $1600 $1940 $2875

Source: Rentometer Nov 2021