Berkeley Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance
As San Francisco rent prices continue to rise, the sunny side of the Bay is seeing an influx of residents escaping the city in search of more reasonable rental options. If you are a tenant searching for housing in the East Bay, it is important to know which cities provide additional protections for you. Like Oakland and San Francisco, the City of Berkeley has tenant-friendly laws which regulate rent and control evictions.
Does the City of Berkeley Have Rent Control and Eviction Control?
Yes. In June 1980, residents of the City of Berkeley recognized the need for special protections for tenants due to the housing crisis plaguing the city. Residents passed an ordinance called the Berkeley Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance (Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 13.76) to maintain affordable housing and preserve community diversity. This Ordinance (1) regulates residential rents, and (2) requires landlords to have “good cause” to evict a tenant.
How do I know if my apartment is covered by the Berkeley Rent Ordinance?
In the City of Berkeley, a rental unit may have rent control, eviction control, both, or neither.
Rent control and eviction control apply to most buildings with two residential rental units or more that were built before June 30, 1980. Tenants in single family homes also have both rent control and eviction control if they have resided in the unit since before January 1, 1996.
Owners of the following types of rental units must have good cause to evict a tenant, but the units are not rent controlled:
• Rental units constructed after June 30, 1980;
• Single family homes first rented after January 1, 1996;
• Rental units owned by the Berkeley Housing Authority;
• Units covered by federal rent subsidy programs such as Section 8 or the Shelter Plus Care Program;
• Rental units owned by a nonprofit organization rented to low-income tenants pursuant to government contract; and
• Rental units owned by a nonprofit group to operate a treatment, recovery, therapy, or shelter program where the units are provided as part of the tenant’s participation in the program.
Even if a single family home is rented after January 1, 1996, it has both rent control and eviction control if (1) the landlord evicted a prior tenant so the owner could move into the unit; (2) the landlord received a financial contribution from a public entity in exchange for reducing the rent; or (3) the unit contains serious, cited code violations that have been outstanding for at least six months.
Single family homes with five rooms or more that are rented individually to at least five tenants under separate rental agreements are considered “Rooming Houses” and have both rent control and eviction control.
The following units have neither rent control nor eviction control, and are thus not protected at all by the Berkeley Rent Ordinance:
• Rental units in a two-unit property where one unit was owner occupied on December 31, 1979 and one unit is currently owner-occupied;
• Rental units where the tenant shares a bathroom and kitchen with the owner who maintains the unit as his principal place of residence;
• Units owned by a government agency (except Berkeley Housing Authority);
• Units rented primarily to transient guests for less than 14 consecutive guests;
• Nonprofit cooperative housing owned and controlled by residents;
• Rental units in a hospital or nursing home; and
• Dormitories of an institution of higher education.
For more information regarding the Berkeley Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance, visit http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/rent/.
Does My Landlord Have to Register My Rental Unit with the Berkeley Rent Board?
Yes. If a rental unit is covered by rent control, the owner of the property must register the rental unit with the Berkeley Rent Board. The registration must list the amount of rent the landlord is charging for the unit, as well as the housing services included in the rent. The landlord must file additional information with the Rent Board every time there is a new tenant and new rent so that the Rent Board can keep track of the rental unit’s history and compliance with the Rent Ordinance.
You can determine whether your landlord has registered your rental unit with the Berkeley Rent Board by visiting http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/RentSearch.
If a tenant reasonably believes the landlord has not properly registered the rental unit and the rental unit is not exempt from the Berkeley Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance, the tenant can file a Petition for Rent Withholding for Failure to Register with the Berkeley Rent Board.
How Much Can My Landlord Increase My Rent if My Unit is Rent-Controlled?
For units that are covered by rent control, the landlord may only increase the rent by the “annual general adjustment,” which is 65% of the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for the Bay Area. The Rent Board publicizes the amount of the annual general adjustment by October 31 of each year, and the rent increase goes into effect the following January 1.
A landlord must give a tenant at least thirty days written notice of a rent increase in a format required by the Rent Board. If a tenant has a lease for a fixed term, the landlord must wait to impose the increase until the lease term has expired.
What Does it Mean if My Unit is Covered by the Berkeley Good Cause for Eviction Ordinance?
In the state of California, a landlord may generally evict a tenant for any reason or for no reason at all as long as the landlord provides proper notice. In the City of Berkeley, however, if your unit has eviction protection, your landlord cannot evict you unless he or she has “good cause” to do so. The “good causes” enumerated in the Ordinance are as follows:
1. Failure to pay rent;
2. The tenant violates a material term of the lease;
3. The tenant has willfully caused or allowed substantial damage to the premises;
4. The tenant has refused to agree to a new rental agreement with substantially identical terms to the prior rental agreement upon expiration of a prior rental agreement;
5. The tenant is causing a nuisance to other tenants;
6. The tenant refuses the landlord access to the unit upon reasonable notice;
7. The landlord seeks to undertake substantial repairs to the property to bring it up to code (but the landlord must give the tenant the right to re-rent the unit after work is completed and must offer the tenant the right to live in any other vacant rental units the landlord may own);
8. Demolition of the rental unit;
9. The owner or a relative of the owner seeks to move into the unit for a period of at least 36 consecutive months;
10. A landlord wishes to move back into the unit when the rental agreement with the tenants explicitly permits the landlord to do so; or
11. A tenant refuses to vacate a temporary rental unit provide by the landlord after the landlord has finished repairs to the tenants’ original unit.
A landlord may also evict a tenant pursuant to “the Ellis Act,” which means that the landlord intends to take the rental unit permanently off the rental market.
For more information on eviction protections in Berkeley, the Berkeley Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance is available at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=9284.