Rent control

What You Should Know About Rent Control in the San Francisco Bay area

What is rent control or rent stability?

If you live in a rent-controlled building (also called rent stabilized or RSO – an abbreviation of the Rent Stabilization Ordinance), your landlord is limited as to how much they can raise your rent each year. But being a tenant in a rent-controlled building also gives you a set of other rights as well, which are in addition to the rights for tenants in non-rent controlled buildings.

Under most rent control, when a tenant leaves or is removed from the unit (for valid reasons – see below), the landlord can then set the rent to market rate for the next tenant.

How do I know if I am in a rent-controlled building and what is the maximum rent increase allowed?

Update October 9, 2019: Beginning Jan 1, 2020, there will be statewide rent control for most tenants in California. See our Guide to Rent Control in California

Some cities have even stronger rent control laws which apply to certain properties within city boundaries. Also, several cities have passed emergency measures to ensure that the new rent control is effective immediately, so that tenants aren’t forced out before the state law goes into effect in January 2020.

What cities have stronger rent control than the state law?

Where a local rent control ordinance applies to a particular property, the local ordinance will apply to the property instead of the new state rent control. For a property where the local rent control law does NOT apply, the state rent control law may apply (if the building meets the requirements set out above).

City rent control laws do not apply to all buildings. The buildings covered under each city law varies, but they never apply to buildings built after 1995.1This is due to the state Costa Hawkins law, see below Here’s the basic rent control for each of these cities.

Note: Many rent control laws are based on inflation. Inflation is generally determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and is usually around 2-5% each year, depending on the region. So, if rent increases are capped at, say, 75% of regional inflation, and regional inflation is at, say 3%, the max rent increase is 2.25% per year.

Rent Control in Northern California

There are 12 cities in Nor Cal with rent control laws (If you’re not sure which city you are in, see What City Am I In?). Landlords may not raise the rent by more than:

  • San Francisco: 60% of regional inflation per year.2San Francisco Administrative Code § 37.3
  • San Jose: 5% per year.3San Jose Municipal Code §17.23.310
  • Sacramento: 6% + inflation (10% max total) per year.4Sacramento City Code Sections 5.156.010 – 5.156.150
  • Oakland: 100% of regional inflation per year.5Oakland Municipal Code § 8.22.065 et seq.
  • Berkeley: 65% of regional inflation per year.6Berkeley Municipal Code §§ 13.76.110 – 13.76.120
  • Mountain View: 2-5% per year, determined by a board of rent control each year.7Mountain View Code of Ordinances § 1707
  • Alameda: 70% of regional inflation, but never less than 1% or greater than 5% per year.8Alameda, California Code of Ordinances §§ 6-58.70 – 6-58.135
  • Hayward: 5% per year.9Hayward Municipal Code §§ 12:1.01 – 12:1.21
  • Vallejo: 10% per year.10Proclamation of Emergency by the Director of Emergency Services of the City of Vallejo Concerning Rental Housing Price Gouging. Vallejo Municipal Code Chapter 7.300.
  • Los Gatos: Either a 5% increase, or 70% of inflation, whichever is greater.11Los Gatos Town Code §§ 14.80.010 – 14.80.315
  • East Palo Alto: 80% of inflation, with an absolute max of 10% increase per year.12East Palo Alto, California Code of Ordinances §§ 14.04.040, 14.04.090 – 100
  • Richmond: 100% of regional inflation.13Richmond Code of Ordinances §§ 11.100.010 – 11.100.130

If I am not covered by rent control, does that mean the landlord can charge whatever they want?

After the initial lease period (usually 1 or 2 years), yes the landlord can charge whatever they want for a non-rent controlled building, but they must give you proper notice before raising the rent. 30 days notice is required for rent increases of 10% or less, and 60 days notice is required before rent increases of more than 10%.14Civil Code Section 827(b).

Of course, during the initial lease period with a set amount of rent, the landlord cannot change the rent.

If my building is under rent control, can my landlord evict me at any time for any reason?

If your building is rent controlled, you generally cannot be evicted except in a few circumstances*:

  • you are not paying rent or are otherwise violating the lease
  • you are involved in criminal activity
  • the landlord wants to take the property off the rental market (usually to convert to condos under the Ellis Act – see below)
  • the landlord wants to live in the unit

*Note: each city has its own particular rules but these listed are found in just about every rent control law.

For any of the above reasons which is NOT your fault, you may be entitled to a relocation assistance payment.

If your building is NOT rent controlled, see here.

Can landlords remove rent controlled units from the market?

Yes, if they convert them to condos under the Ellis Act.15California Government Code Chapter 12.75

Can my city create or expand rent control protection?

Cities are limited in the rent control protections they can impose, under the state Costa-Hawkins Act (1995). If your city already had rent control in 1995, the state law prohibits the city from expanding the number of buildings covered (keeping most rent control to pre-1980s buildings). If your city did not have rent control in 1995, the city can create rent control laws and apply it only to buildings built BEFORE Feb 1, 1995.16See LA Times story

In the November 2018 election, voters decided NOT to repeal Costa-Hawkins, so it will remain law for the foreseeable future.

Further Resources

See more about tenants rights at our Guide to Laws for Tenants in California.

For assistance with your case, see options at our page Get Legal Help in the San Francisco area.

Related Pages

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