By Alan Pentico
Imagine this: You’re a parent who needs to find a safe place for your child while you work. Then you find out a neighbor right in your building operates a family childcare. That’s right – pick-up and drop-off are steps away from your own front door.
Sounds dream-come-true convenient, right? That’s one big reason why landlords should support and even encourage tenants who want to provide childcare in their apartments.
Landlords are already required by law to allow family childcare in rental homes of any kind: apartments, townhomes, condominiums and single-family residences. I believe this is not only a mandate, but an opportunity for rental housing providers.
After all, our community is in a childcare deficit – and landlords, who are a part of the fabric our community too, can help.
Childcare is a “sector in crisis” countywide, according to a 2022 study by the University of San Diego and the San Diego Foundation. More than 360 childcare centers and family child care homes have closed since the pan¬demic, and there are no available licensed childcare options for 48% of children ages 0 to 5 whose parents work.
While childcare is a countywide challenge, some areas were notable for the gap between supply and demand.
For East County (The East County Californian and The Alpine Sun):
Several East County areas with large num-bers of working parents were notable for their small supply of childcare slots, includ-ing Spring Valley, La Mesa, Alpine, Ramona, Campo, Bonsall, Pine Valley, and many other small, unincorporated communities, according to the study.
Landlords may have some concerns about having a childcare on the property, such as traffic or noise – but again, this use is allowed by law. And there are many benefits to keep in mind.
First, childcare is a steady job. Everyone wins here – the tenant has a reliable source of income, and the landlord can be more sure of receiving rent.
Having a family childcare provider on site is a major benefit for other tenants with children. For working parents, having access to quality childcare within their own residential complex is a source of great comfort and convenience.
There’s also a safety bonus. The childcare provider – plus any employees – are extra eyes and ears keeping watch on the property.
With kids around, every¬one is paying more attention.
Now, if you’re a renter thinking about starting a childcare in your home, there are a few things to do. Understanding the legal framework is crucial for both tenants and landlords. Under the California Health & Safety Code, small family childcare facilities are not considered a “business use of property,” and so they would be protected under any leases or rental agreements that prohibit operating a business out of a rental home. Tenants wishing to open a family childcare must follow specific procedures, such as obtaining a state license and providing 30 days’ written notice to the property owner or manager. As always, it’s important to be a good neigh¬bor. The same rules that apply to other residents apply to child-care providers. For example, control excessive noise or activities that could damage the property.
Landlords, for their part, cannot discriminate against tenants operating daycares but may require a higher security deposit within the limits set by state law. Additionally, childcare operators must either obtain liability insurance, secure a bond, or obtain waivers from parents acknowledging the lack of such coverage.
A family childcare facility can foster a more vibrant, supportive, and safe living environ-ment for all residents. It’s reliable income for the tenant and the landlord, it makes the building safer, and it helps parents who live there.
Family childcare makes our community stronger – and that alone is a great reason to embrace it in our buildings and communities.
Alan Pentico, CAE, is the Executive Director of the Southern California Rental Housing Association.