Bay Area Rent Control: What You Need To Know


Beginning in the early 1970s, several California cities adopted various forms of rent control. And by the late 1980s, 14 cities—including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland—had approved some form of rent control. Essentially, these policies limited the amount a landlord may increase the rent charged for housing from one year to the next. Allowable increases vary across cities but often are tied to an official measure of inflation.

This article is provided as a resource for understanding current rent control policies within the Bay Area. However, I always recommend clients consul a local landlord tenant attorney for the most up-to-date information on their local policies.

Mountain View

By ballot initiative, Mountain View adopted a rent control and just cause eviction charter amendment in 2016. Single-family homes, second units, duplexes, condominiums and future construction are all exempted.

The provisions of the charter amendment include a rollback of rent to October 2015 levels, a cap on rent increases to between two percent and five percent a year tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), with banking of unused increases up to 10 percent. There will be strict just cause eviction controls. The charter amendment also allows tenants to move in family members without the permission of the landlord. Finally, it establishes a five-person rent board appointed by the City Council that will make all decisions regarding rent control. The rent board will not be accountable to the council.

The rent control and rollback provisions of the charter amendment apply to all buildings of three or more rental units with a certificate of occupancy prior to February 1, 1995. The just cause elements apply to those units, as well as rental units built between that date and the effective date of the charter amendment.

The California Apartment Association (CAA) is currently considering a legal challenge to the amendment. Those with specific questions about implementation of the charter amendment should contact CAA or the City of Mountain View.

East Palo Alto

For partially exempt rental units, the owner must provide the tenant with a written notice of this Ordinance on a form prescribed by the City at the commencement of any tenancy, can only evict tenant for very limited purposes, and not harass tenants. All non-exempt units for rent in East Palo Alto must abide by all provisions of the rent stabilization ordinance, including the above portions. The ordinance includes restrictions on the maximum allowable rent at two different levels for tenancies commencing on either January 1, 2006 or July 15, 2009, requires annual registration of rental units and certification of maximum allowable rent (includes a fee of $234 per unit for 2011), restricts the allowable increase in the rent amount, and allows for the rent to be reset at the market rate at vacancy.

Los Gatos

Annual increase limited to 5 percent per year or 70 percent of CPI. 10 percent increase is allowed if rent hasn't been raised for 24 months. Applies to tri-plexes or larger (Per Costa-Hawkins, units built after 1995 are exempt). Vacancy decontrol. Pass-through increases is allowed provided owner justifies increase through specific formula. There is an annual registration fee for rental units that fall under the ordinance.

San Jose

Applies to units built before Sept. 1979, and allows for a 5 percent annual rent cap. Vacancy decontrol. Increase on or after anniversary only. Pass-through increases is allowed provided owner justifies increase through specific formula. Registration fee is required for rental units at two rates depending on whether they were built before or after 1979.

San Francisco

A property is subject to the San Francisco Rent Ordinance if a Certificate of Occupancy for the structure was first issued on or before June 13, 1979. The ordinance states that landlords may not impose a rent increase more than once every twelve months on a property subject to rent control. And can only raise a tenant’s rent by the amount set each year by the Rent Board.

While many single-family homes and condominiums are exempt from the rent increase limitations of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, they are still subject to eviction restrictions. These restrictions include that a landlord may not recover possession of a rental unit if they cannot prove one of the sixteen “just cause” reasons for eviction. The “just causes” are either tenant motivated or landlord motivated which may include nonpayment of rent, paying rent late multiple times in any 12 month period, owner move-in, demolition of rental unit, or capital improvements.