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Downtown San Diego residents wanting to break leases because of the homeless crisis have options

Attorney breaks down what options tenants looking to terminate their lease early have.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego’s homeless crisis is profoundly impacting both people living on the streets and the people living and working near unhoused individuals.

For some people living in Downtown San Diego, the situation has gotten so bad - they want to leave the area and are willing to break their leases. But moving out isn't just time-consuming; it can also be costly.

Some people say they’re simply tired of dealing with it every time they walk outside their door and want a way out of their leases, and while to them, it might seem like they’re stuck, one legal expert says that’s not entirely the case.

Fred Altman is among the many San Diegans who call downtown home. He says he and his family are considering moving out due to issues he says comes with the homelessness crisis.

"I've seen overdoses, I’ve seen stabbings… people dying on the sidewalk," said Altman.

"The biggest reason we wanted to break our lease is just the safety of ourselves," said another resident.

The woman, who didn’t want to show her face, said when she first moved to San Diego from overseas, she never expected the crisis to be as bad as it is.

"With all the homeless, it’s a little scary to just be with my daughter alone, and a lot of times, it's just my daughter and me," she said.

She and others like Altman are looking at options to break their leases, but they come at a price.

"It's just hard to break the lease with the amount of money they're asking."

She lived at the Spire apartments in East Village and said to break her lease; she would have to pay between $4,000-$5,000.

"I can’t justify $5,000 to be spent just like that, just to move to another location right now," she added.

Juanita Guillen-Mellman, a landlord and tenant attorney, says cases like Altmans and others are more common than not.

"We get calls like this all the time. You might not know what you’re getting yourself into until you sign the lease already," said Guillen-Mellman.

She says it can be challenging to break their leases because most properties are now adapting their contracts to protect themselves.

"A lot of leases nowadays, maybe because of the homeless population, a lot of leases I'm seeing will have a clause that says ‘I, the tenant acknowledge that I am aware of the surroundings," she added.

Guillen-Mellman says while the homeless crisis is not a valid reason for terminating a lease agreement, there are options.

"A lot of the times, I advise my clients to talk to the landlord and see if there’s some sort of settlement agreement where the tenant will pay one, one-and-a-half’s month's rent, and in exchange, the landlord releases me from any further obligations under the lease agreement," she said.

She says that’s because the landlord will likely rent out the property reasonably quickly due to the current high rental rates in the market.

If negotiations don’t work in your favor, she encourages people to reach an attorney.

"At the end of the day, if you don’t want to be in a property, you can leave, and again, that kicks in the landlord's obligation to try to re-rent the property," said Guillen-Mellman.

WATCH RELATED: Pilot program clears tons of trash from homeless encampments; a move to clean up San Diego (Dec. 2022).

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