Rent control

What You Should Know About Rent Control in California


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. The new Tenant Protection Act of 2019 caps rent increases to no more than 5% + regional inflation, with an absolute maximum of 10%. For example, in the LA area, inflation is about 3%, so rent can be increased by about 8% per year; in the SF area, inflation is about 4%, so rent can be increased by about 9% per year. These increases are pegged to the rental rate as of March 15, 2019.1AB1482 (2019)

Here’s an example of how it works: Your rent in Long Beach on March 15, 2019 was $2000/month, and has not been increased in over a year. On Jan 1, 2020, your rent can increase to no more than around $2,160/month.

The new law does not apply to buildings built within the prior 15 years, or to single-family homes (unless owned by corporations or institutional investors), or owner-occupied duplexes.

In addition, for applicable rent controlled buildings, landlords cannot evict tenants except for certain reasons (“just cause”). These reasons include not paying the rent, violating a significant provision in the lease (although the tenant may have the opportunity to “cure” or fix the problem), criminal or nuisance activities by the tenant, the landlord desiring to move a family member into the unit, the landlord substantially remodeling the unit or taking the unit off the market entirely. Some of these reasons require the landlord to make a “relocation assistance payment” to the tenant.

Thus, the new law effectively bans “no-cause” evictions in rent controlled buildings. This is where the landlord removes a tenant without giving any reason at all.

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. Los Angeles and Pasadena have both done this.

What cities have stronger rent control than the state law?

Around 20 cities or municipalities now have some form of rent control. 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 1995.2This 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 Southern California:

8 cities or municipalities in Southern California have significant 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:

  • Los Angeles: 4% per 12-month period (with some exceptions). See more at our Guide to Rent Control in the city of Los Angeles.
  • Beverly Hills: 3% or regional inflation (whichever is higher) per 12-month period. Applies to buildings built before September 1978, which has more than 1 unit.3Beverly Hills Municipal Code § 4-6-3
  • West Hollywood: 75% of regional inflation. Applies to properties with more than one unit built before July 1, 1979; and properties with only one unit on the whole property built before July 1, 1979, and whose current tenants moved in before January 1, 1996.4West Hollywood Municipal Code §§ 17.36.020 et seq.
  • Santa Monica: Currently 2% or $44, whichever is lower. Determined each year by the Rent Control Board. Applies to most residential rental buildings in the city constructed prior to April 1979.5Santa Monica City Charter Amendment §§ 1800 – 1821
  • Unincorporated Los Angeles County (what is unincorporated LA county?): 3% in a 12-month period, based on rent as of September 11, 2018. This is based on a temporary rent control measure adopted in November 2018. It only applies to apartment buildings built before February 1, 1995. The temporary rent control is in effect until April 2020. In April, permanent rent control goes into effect, limiting rent increases to no more than the amount of inflation, with a maximum of 8% per year (luxury units may be increased by an additional 2%).6County of Los Angeles Interim Rent Stabilization Ordinance
  • Inglewood: 5% of the rental rate as of March 5, in any 12-month period. (On March 5, 2019, the Inglewood City Council approved a temporary rent control measure. It appears they will be making this permanent, but they must vote once more to confirm it. The law exempts single family homes, condominiums, and all buildings built after February 1995.)7City of Inglewood Ordinance No.: 19-13
  • Culver City: 3% per year, as applied to the rental rate on June 11, 2019. (On August 12, 2019, the Culver City Council passed a temporary rent control measure. It will be in effect through August of 2020, or until the city passes a new measure. The law exempts single family homes, condos, and all buildings built after February 1995.)8Culver City Municipal Code Ordinance No. 2019-011.
  • City of Commerce: 3% per year9City of Commerce Emergency Ordinance No. 689

A few other cities have very limited rent control that covers almost nobody: Palm Springs, Thousand Oaks. The state’s 2nd largest city, San Diego, does not have its own rent control laws.

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.10San Francisco Administrative Code § 37.3
  • San Jose: 5% per year.11San Jose Municipal Code §17.23.310
  • Sacramento: 6% + inflation (10% max total) per year.12Sacramento City Code Sections 5.156.010 – 5.156.150
  • Oakland: 100% of regional inflation per year.13Oakland Municipal Code § 8.22.065 et seq.
  • Berkeley: 65% of regional inflation per year.14Berkeley Municipal Code §§ 13.76.110 – 13.76.120
  • Mountain View: 2-5% per year, determined by a board of rent control each year.15Mountain View Code of Ordinances § 1707
  • Alameda: 70% of regional inflation, but never less than 1% or greater than 5% per year.16Alameda, California Code of Ordinances §§ 6-58.70 – 6-58.135
  • Hayward: 5% per year.17Hayward Municipal Code §§ 12:1.01 – 12:1.21
  • Vallejo: 10% per year.18Proclamation 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.19Los Gatos Town Code §§ 14.80.010 – 14.80.315
  • East Palo Alto: 80% of inflation, with an absolute max of 10% increase per year.20East Palo Alto, California Code of Ordinances §§ 14.04.040, 14.04.090 – 100
  • Richmond: 100% of regional inflation.21Richmond Code of Ordinances §§ 11.100.010 – 11.100.130

How do I know when my building was built?

For any building in Los Angeles County, you can find the year the building was built by typing in the address on the LA County Office of the Assessor website.

Do Pasadena, Glendale or Long Beach have rent control?

Not quite. But these cities have passed ordinances requiring “relocation payments” to tenants in certain circumstances, which you can read more about at our Guide to Tenants Rights.

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%.22Civil 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
  • (some additional reasons for city of L.A. here)

*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. For the city of Los Angeles, see more here.

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.23California Government Code Chapter 12.75

But in the city of Los Angeles, if a landlord destroys a rent controlled building and replaces it with a new rental building within 5 years, the new building must either include “affordable units” of the same amount as were destroyed, or at least 20% of the new units must be “affordable,” whichever number is higher.24LAMC Section 151.28

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, 1995.25See 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 California.

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