San Francisco Rent Control
In San Francisco, the Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance (“the Rent Ordinance”) provides significant protections to tenants whose rental property is covered by the Ordinance, including regulating the amount of rent a landlord may charge a tenant and controlling when and how landlords are able to evict a tenant. The following information focuses on the limitations placed on landlords in San Francisco to charge and increase rental rates for tenants.
How do I know if my apartment is covered by the San Francisco Rent Ordinance?
The San Francisco Rent Ordinance covers the majority of rental property in San Francisco with two or more units that have an initial Certificate of Occupancy that was issued before 1979. A rental property is not covered by the Rent Ordinance (and therefore not subject to rent control) if:
1. The building’s initial Certificate of Occupancy was issued after June 13, 1979;
2. The government subsidizes the housing;
3. The property is an institutional property such as a dormitory or monastery; or
4. The property is a residential hotel and the tenant has lived on the property for less than 32 consecutive days.
If none of these exceptions apply to you, you are most likely protected by rent control laws.
Certain other properties have limited rent control coverage. Tenants who have lived in a single-family home or condominium since before January 1, 1996, have full rent control protections. Additionally, if you moved into a single family home which was vacant because the previous tenant was evicted pursuant to a no fault eviction, then you have full rent control. If you moved into a single family home or condominium which has had housing code violations that were cited and left unabated for at least 6 months prior to your tenancy, then you have full rent control protection.
How do I find out if my apartment’s initial Certificate of Occupancy was issued before 1979?
The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (“DBI”) has records of the initial certificates of occupancy. You can go to the DBI office located at 1660 Mission Street in San Francisco and complete a request for a copy of the certificate of occupancy for the building. You can usually receive a copy of the records during your visit. Or, you can fill out a request online at http://sfdbi.org/.
The construction date of your apartment building (which may be a good indicator of when the initial Certificate of Occupancy was issued) can also usually be found on the San Francisco County Assessor’s website (http://sfassessor.org/). Click “Property Information” and select “Property Search Tool” in the drop-down menu. Click the Access Tool button and enter your address.
If my apartment is rent-controlled, how much can my landlord increase my rent under San Francisco Rent Control laws?
A landlord may only increase your rent by a set amount each year based on 60% of the Bay Area annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) percentage increase for that year. The Rent Board re-calculates this amount every year. A landlord can only increase your rent once in any 12-month period.
The annual allowable rent increases from 2005 to the present are as follows:
March 1, 2015 – February 29, 2016: 1.9%
March 1, 2014 – February 28, 2015: 1.0%
March 1, 2013 – February 28, 2014: 1.9%
March 1, 2012 – February 28, 2013: 1.9%
March 1, 2011 – February 29, 2012: 0.5%
March 1, 2010 – February 28, 2011: 0.1%
March 1, 2009 – February 28, 2010: 2.2%
March 1, 2008 – February 28, 2009: 2.0%
March 1, 2007 – February 29, 2008: 1.5%
March 1, 2006 – February 28, 2007: 1.7%
March 1, 2005 – February 28, 2006: 1.2%
You can check the full list of allowable rent increases in San Francisco from 1983 to the present here: http://www.sfrb.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=1939
Can my landlord “bank” rent increases?
What is “banking”?
Landlords can “bank” or accumulate rent increases. Banking is when a landlord chooses not to impose a rent increase at the time it is due, but instead imposes it in later years. The landlord can take the previous annual percentage increases that have not yet been imposed and add those to the current annual percentage rent increase, and increase your rent by that total amount.
For example, let’s as your landlord has not increased your rent for the past four years, and the allowable rent increases for the first three of those years were 1.5%, 2.5%, and 1%, respectively. If the allowable increase for the current year is 2%, then your landlord could increase your rent by 7% (1.5 + 2.5 + 1 + 2 = 7). If your rent was $1,000 per month, your landlord may therefore increase your rent by $70 to $1,070 per month.
Is there a procedure my landlord must follow to increase my rent?
What is the procedure my landlord must follow to increase my rent?
Your landlord must provide you with at least 30 days written notice prior to any rent increase. If the increase is more than 10% of your rent, the landlord must give you at least 60 days’ notice. The notice should specify the new rent amount, how it was calculated, and the date the increase will go into effect. If your landlord does not provide you with a proper written notice, the rent increase is void.
What can I do if I think my rent increase is improper?
If you believe your rent increase is improper, you can file a petition for unlawful rent increase with the San Francisco Rent Board. You can recover any overpayments of rent that were the result of an unlawful rent increase up to the previous three years of your tenancy. You can find a fillable Petition for Unlawful Rent Increase here: http://www.sfrb.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=2818
The full text of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance can be found here: http://www.sfrb.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=1498