In 2016, the City of Alameda’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance was put into effect. The ordinance is not as comprehensive as the City of San Francisco or the City of Oakland’s, but it is an essential step towards combating the continual increase in housing costs and the displacement of the city’s most vulnerable. While Alameda’s ordinance does not cap the amount a landlord can raise the rent annually, as other similar ordinances do, it does attempt to regulate the increases through an in-depth review process, which is available at the tenant’s option or, in some cases, is required to be instituted by the landlord. The ordinance also prohibits eviction of a tenant unless there is a just cause reason to do so.
Tenants should be aware that, as of now, the City of Alameda’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance is not permanent. Unless the Alameda City Council votes to keep the ordinance in place, it will be repealed in its entirety on December 31, 2019. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.200. Please check this page periodically for updates.
What units are covered by the eviction-protection portion of the City of Alameda Rent Ordinance?
All units in Alameda are covered by eviction protection, including single family homes, condominiums, and new construction. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.15(Z). However, eviction control is not extended to units where rents are regulated by federal law, the housing authority, or other state or local program. Id. The ordinance also does not extend to mobile homes, commercial units, housing units rented for less than thirty days, and motels/hotels where the stay is less than thirty days. Id.
What are the just causes to evict under the City of Alameda Rent Ordinance?
A landlord can only evict a tenant for one of the nine just-cause reasons listed below.
- Failure to Pay Rent: A landlord can evict a tenant who has failed to pay rent after being provided with an opportunity to cure.
- Breach of Lease: A landlord can evict for breach of lease, provided the tenant is given an opportunity to fix the breach and fails to do so. For tenant conduct that is physically threatening or violent, the landlord need not provide an opportunity to fix the breach. Prior to evicting for subletting, the landlord must provide fourteen-day notice to cure the breach. During the fourteen-day period, the tenant can request the addition of an occupant, and the landlord cannot unreasonably withhold consent. A landlord cannot evict for the addition of a tenant’s child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, spouse, or domestic partner.
- Nuisance: A landlord can evict for nuisance, but must first give the tenant the opportunity to fix the nuisance. If the tenant is engaged in illegal activity, has caused substantial damage, or is an immediate threat to health and safety, the landlord need not provide an opportunity to cure.
- Failure to Provide Access: A landlord can evict where a tenant has continued to refuse to provide permitted access to the unit after receiving a written notice to cease.
- Owner Move-In Eviction: A landlord can evict a tenant to move into the unit or to move in a spouse, domestic partner, children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, sibling, or in-law. The owner or relative must occupy the unit within 60 days and must live in the unit as a primary residence for one year. If the owner or relative vacates, the unit must be offered back to the tenant at the same rent, and the landlord must pay reasonable moving costs. Only a natural person can perform an owner- or relative-move-in eviction. Tenants evicted under this section are entitled to relocation assistance.
- Demolition: A landlord may demolish a rental unit, as long as the landlord first obtains permits. Tenants evicted under this section are entitled to relocation assistance.
- Capital Improvements: A landlord can remove tenants permanently to carry out capital improvements, as long as the improvements are approved by the City, would render the unit uninhabitable, and would cost more than eight times the monthly rent. The tenant has no right to return. Tenants evicted under this section are entitled to relocation assistance.
- Ellis Act Eviction: A landlord may remove the entire unit from the rental housing stock for ten years, as long as the landlord complies with state law. Tenants evicted under this section are entitled to relocation assistance.
- Compliance with a Government Order: Where a landlord is forced to remove a tenant because of a government order, such as a Notice of Violation, the tenant has the right to return to the unit at the same rent. Tenants evicted under this section are entitled to relocation assistance. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.140.
Is there a no-cause reason for eviction allowed under the City of Alameda Rent Ordinance?
The ordinance no longer allows a landlord to terminate a tenancy just because the original term of the tenant’s lease has ended. As of July 5th, 2019, the no-cause reason for termination is prohibited. A tenancy can only be terminated for one of the for-fault or no-fault reasons listed above.
Is a landlord in the City of Alameda required to pay moving costs?
A landlord is required to pay relocation expenses for certain no-fault evictions, including an owner move-in, demolition, capital improvements, Ellis Act, or compliance with a governmental order eviction. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.150. A household is entitled to the equivalent of one month’s rent times the number of years the tenants have lived in the unit. Id. This amount is capped at four years. Id. In addition, a household is entitled to $1,595 (amount is adjusted annually for inflation) for moving expenses. Id. One half of the relocation payment is due when the tenants confirm in writing that they will vacate on the date provided on the notice. The other half is due once the tenants vacate the unit. Id.
Because the relocation assistance is per household and not per tenant, tenants on the lease or tenants who have the responsibility to pay the rent are entitled to share the relocation money, the amount of which will be based on a percentage of rent the tenant paid. Id.
Under the City of Alameda Rent Ordinance, how long do I have to vacate?
In general, the length of the notice for no-fault evictions under the City of Alameda Rent Ordinance will be thirty days for a tenancy of less than a year and sixty days for a tenancy of more than a year. Cal. Civ. Code § 1946.1. However, tenants have the option to request additional time. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.150. To receive additional time, the tenant will need to trade their relocation benefit – for every additional month the tenant stays beyond the vacate date in the notice, the tenant’s relocation payment will be reduced by one month’s payment. Like the relocation payment, the amount of additional time is capped at four months. The tenant must continue to pay rent while occupying the unit. Tenants cannot trade the $1,595 moving expenses payment for additional time.
What units are exempt from the rent-ceiling protection portion of the City of Alameda Rent Ordinance?
Exempt units include single-family homes, condominiums, multi-family units for which a certificate of occupancy was issued after February 1995, and any other rental units exempt under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (Cal. Civ. Code § 1954.50) or under any other applicable state or federal law. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.15 et seq. Additionally, the following units are not covered: units where rents are regulated by federal law, the housing authority, or other state or local program; mobile homes; commercial units; units leased for thirty days or less; and motels/hotels where the stay is less than thirty days. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.15(Z).
Effective September 1, 2019, how much can a landlord increase the rent under the City of Alameda Rent Ordinance?
Annual General Adjustment: The City of Alameda recently adopted Ordinance No. 3246. Beginning September 1, 2019, for units covered under the ordinance, the allowable annual increase will be capped at 2.8%. Each year after, the allowable percentage that rents can be increased will be announced by May 31st and will be adjusted September 1st of that year.
Rental Registry: Landlords are required to annually register all their rental units with the Rent Stabilization Program. A landlord must also submit a registration statement to the Rent Program every time there is a change in tenancy. In each case, the Program Administrator will determine and provide a certification of the maximum allowable rent for each registered unit.
Exemptions: While single-family homes, condominiums, and multi-family units for which a certificate of occupancy was issued after February 1, 1995, are exempt from the rent increase limitations, landlords will still be required to register their rental units.
Notice of Rent Increase Requirements: Any notice of rent increase must comply with state law. The landlord must give the tenant at least a thirty-days’ written notice of increases that are 10% and below. Cal. Civ. Code § 827. A sixty-days’ notice is required if the increase is more than 10%. Id. An additional five days must be added to the notice period if the rent increase notice is served by mail. Id. Tenants should note that for units covered under the rent ordinance, a landlord must first petition the Rent Stabilization Program to raise the rent beyond the allowed annual amount, which is 2.8% as of September 1, 2019.
A rent increase notice should include both the amount and percent of increase, plus the total rent due and the date the new rent will go into effect. The landlord must also file a copy of the notice and proof of service with the Program Administrator within five days of service on the tenant.
Banking Allowed: If a landlord does not annually increase the tenant’s rent, they may bank the unused rent increases and impose them on the tenant at a later date. Although a landlord does not have to petition the Rent Stabilization Program to bank rent increases, tenants should either speak to an attorney or file a petition with the Rent Program to ensure that the banked rent increase amount the landlord is seeking is calculated correctly and is allowed; the banked amount is based on compound addition, which can make computations complex, and there are certain limitations for banking that the landlord must adhere to.
Petitions for Adjustments: Either the landlord or the tenant may file a petition with the Rent Stabilization Program to request an upward or downward adjustment of the maximum allowable rent. Petitions will be scheduled for a hearing to be held within thirty calendar days from the date the petition is accepted.
An upward adjustment will be granted only if it is found that the adjustment is necessary to provide the landlord with a fair return on the property. A downward adjustment will be granted where there is a decrease in services in living space or amenities such as substantial deterioration of the unit, the landlord’s failure to comply substantially with applicable health and safety codes, or the landlord’s failure to comply with the ordinance. The hearing officer’s decision is final unless judicial review is sought within sixty days of the date of the decision.
Until September 1, 2019, how much can a landlord increase the rent under the City of Alameda Rent Ordinance?
For a rent increases that take effect before September 1, 2019, there is no cap on the amount a landlord can charge. However, all increases are subject to either voluntary or mandatory review by the Rent Review Committee.
If the rent increase is 5% or less, a tenant may file a petition challenging the rent increase within fifteen days of the rent increase. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.70. The decision of the committee will be advisory and nonbinding. Id. The tenant must pay the rent increase when it goes into effect regardless of status of the pending hearing. Id.
If the rent increase is more than 5%, a landlord is required to file a petition for rent review within fifteen days of serving a rent increase notice. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.75. A committee will decide whether the increase will be allowed or not, taking into account factors such as the landlord’s right to fair return. Id. The increase will not take effect until the ruling on the petition. Id. The ruling will not be binding if the unit is a single-family home, a condominium, or was built after February 1, 1995. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.85. The decision will be binding as to all other units. Id. But, the landlord or tenant may appeal the decision to a hearing officer. The request for appeal must be made within seven days of the decision. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code §§ 6-58.95 – 6-58.105.
The landlord must provide a written notice of the availability of the Alameda Rent Control’s rent review procedures when the rent increase is 5% or less. If the rent increase is more than 5%, the landlord must provide the tenant with a written notice that the landlord has requested that the Rent Review Advisory Committee review the rent increase. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code §§ 6-58.60 and 6-58.65. Additionally, where the rent increase is 10% or less, the tenant must be given thirty days’ notice, and where the increase is more than 10%, the tenant shall be given sixty days’ notice. Id.
Tenants should read the ordinance to ensure any rent increase notice they receive contains the exact text required by the law. A rent increase notice that does not include the required text from the ordinance is an invalid rent increase and must be rescinded. Once the invalid rent increase has been rescinded, a landlord may re-serve the tenant with a notice that complies with the Ordinance. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.50.
Must a landlord offer me a one-year lease under the City of Alameda Rent Ordinance?
Provided the tenant is not in default as to a material term of the lease, a landlord must offer all tenants, including month-to-month tenants, a one-year lease when the landlord first attempts any rent increase. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.35. The one-year lease must have the same material terms as the original lease. Id. Landlords are also required to offer prospective tenants a one-year lease. Id.
Can I waive my rights under the City of Alameda Rent Control Ordinance?
The City of Alameda Rent Control Ordinance specifically provides that a waiver of rights is void. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.190. The ordinance prohibits landlords from writing into their rental agreements or leases a waiver of tenants’ rights under the ordinance. Id.
Does the City of Alameda Rent Ordinance prohibit retaliation by the landlord?
Retaliation by the landlord against the tenant for exercising rights under the ordinance or any other federal or state law is strictly prohibited. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.160. An eviction within 180 days of a tenant asserting their rights will create a rebuttable presumption that the landlord acted in retaliation against the tenant and may subject the landlord to punitive damages. Id.
What are the damages for wrongful eviction under the City of Alameda Rent Ordinance?
A landlord that is in violation of the ordinance will be liable for the tenant’s actual damages, emotional distress damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.180. In an action brought against the landlord by the City, the court may assess penalties of up to $10,000 per violation against the landlord, payable to the City of Alameda. Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.185.
An agent of the landlord is only liable for wrongful eviction under the City of Alameda Rent Control Ordinance where the agent has “full authority to answer for the landlord and enter into binding agreements on the landlord’s behalf.” Alameda, Cal. Mun. Code § 6-58.15(O).
If you are a tenant that lives in the City of Alameda and have questions about your rights under the Alameda Rent Stabilization Ordinance, please call Tobener Ravenscroft LLP to speak to an attorney.