Tobener Ravenscroft

Berkeley Rent Control

What units are covered by the Berkeley Rent Control?

The Berkeley Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance has two separate protections that are best thought of as distinct:  rent increase limitations and just cause eviction protection.

Some units in the City of Berkeley have eviction protection, but do not have limitations on rent increases.  Other units have both the eviction protection and the rent increase protection.  And, a few units have neither protection.

Buildings with two or more units built before June 30, 1980 have both eviction protection and rent increase limitations.

Buildings with two or more units built after June 30, 1980 have eviction protection only but not rent increase limitations.

Single family homes and condos first rented after January 1, 1996 have eviction protection only but not rent increase limitations.

Single family homes and condos where the original tenant has occupied since before January 1, 1996 have both eviction protection and rent increase limitations.

Berkeley Housing Authority and Section 8 voucher tenants have eviction protection only but not rent increase limitations.

Rental units in a two-unit property do not have eviction protection or rent increase limitations, where one unit was, on December 31, 1979, and one unit currently still is the principal residence of an owner of at least 50 percent of the building.

Rental units do not have eviction protection or rent increase limitations, where the tenant shares kitchen or bath facilities with an owner of record who holds at least a 50 percent interest and maintains his or her principal residence in the building.

Does a Berkeley landlord have to pay interest on a security deposit?

Yes.  The interest accrues as simple interest at the rate equal to the average rates of interest paid on six-month certificates of deposit.  You can find a security deposit calculator here.

How much can a landlord increase the rent per year in Berkeley?

The annual percent increase for a rent-controlled unit in Berkeley is sixty-five percent of the annual percentage increase in the CPI.

Do I have to occupy the unit fulltime to have the rent-control limitations in Berkeley?

If a landlord wants to show that a tenant is no longer living in a unit fulltime, the landlord can file a Petition for a Determination of Occupancy Status.  Only a tenant under the Rent Ordinance who occupies a unit as his or her primary residence remains protected.  Rental units that are kept primarily for secondary residential occupancy, such as a pied-a-terre or vacation home, or primarily for non-residential purposes (such as storage, commercial or office use) are not subject to rent control.

Berkeley Rent Board Regulation 524 defines what it means to be “a tenant in occupancy”.

“(B) Occupancy as a primary residence does not require that the individual be physically present in the unit at all times or continuously, but the unit must be the tenant’s usual place of return. Evidence that a unit is the individual’s “primary residence” includes, but is not limited to, the following elements:

(1) the individual carries on basic living activities at the subject premises for extended periods;

(2) the individual does not maintain another dwelling or, if the individual does maintain another dwelling, the amount of time that the individual spends at each dwelling place;

(3) the subject premises are listed as the individual’s place of residence on any motor vehicle registration, driver’s license, voter registration, or with any other public agency, including Federal, State and local taxing authorities;

(4) utilities are billed to and paid by the individual at the subject premises;

(5) all of the individual’s personal possessions have been moved into the subject premises;

(6) a homeowner’s tax exemption for the individual has not been filed for a different property;

(7) the individual is enrolled as a student or is a member of the faculty at an institution of higher education in the San Francisco Bay Area;

(8) the subject premises are the place the individual normally returns to as his/her home, exclusive of military service, hospitalization, vacation, family emergency, Peace Corps service, academic sabbatical, travel necessitated by employment or education, or other reasonable temporary periods of absence.

(C) A tenant who is enrolled as a student or is a member of the faculty or staff at an accredited institution of higher education in the San Francisco Bay Area may qualify as a tenant in occupancy notwithstanding his or her having another residence to which he or she will ultimately return.

(D) If an individual rents two units in the same building and resides in one of the units as a primary residence, the second unit shall qualify as a tenant in occupancy unit if it is used primarily for residential storage of the personal property of the individual.

How much can I charge subtenants as a master tenant in Berkeley? 

A master tenant cannot charge a subtenant more than a proportionate share of the total rent paid to the landlord.  See Berkeley Rent Board Regulation 1003(C).  Similarly, a master tenant subletting the entire premises may not charge a subtenant more than the total rent owed to the landlord.  See Berkeley Rent Board Regulation 1003(B).

Am I allowed to replace roommates in Berkeley?

A landlord cannot unreasonably withhold consent to a one-to-one replacement of a co-tenant or subtenant.

Can a Berkeley landlord increase the rent when the last original occupant has moved out?

For subtenants who moved in after January 1, 1996, the landlord may increase the rent one time beyond the maximum allowable annual increase provided that the landlord has not signed a lease with any of the subsequent occupants and the landlord has not accepted rent after receiving written notice from the last original occupant that he or she has moved out or will be moving out permanently.  Even though the Berkeley Rent Board takes the position that acceptance of rent creates a new tenancy, a state law called Costa-Hawkins likely pre-empts this, allowing a landlord a one-time rent increase even if the landlord accepted a rent payment from a subsequent occupant.  The landlord has six months after receiving written notice that the last original occupant has vacated to increase the rent.  Once the landlord has imposed the one-time vacancy increase, all of the tenants residing in the unit become new original occupants.

What are the eviction protections in Berkeley?

A landlord in Berkeley can only evict for one of 12 reasons, also known as just causes:

1. Non-payment of rent;

2. Breach of lease;

3. Willful, substantial damage to the rental unit that tenant refuses to repair;

4. Refusal to sign a new lease that is substantially identical to the expired one;

5. Disturbing the peace and quiet of other occupants;

6. Refusal to allow landlord access to the rental unit during normal business hours to show, inspect or make repairs;

7. To bring a unit in compliance with the Housing Code by making substantial repairs that cannot be made while the tenant lives there;

8. Demolition of a unit;

9. Owner move-in by an owner with at least a 50 percent recorded interest in the property, or such an owner’s spouse, parent, or child, wishes to occupy the rental unit as their principal residence and there is or was, for 90 days before the tenant was given notice to vacate, no vacant comparable unit available on any property owned by the landlord in Berkeley;

10. An owner or lessor wishes to move back into a rented or sub-leased unit as permitted in the rental agreement with the current tenant(s);

11. Refusal to vacate temporary housing offered by the landlord after repairs to the tenant’s prior unit have been completed; and

12. A tenant engages in unlawful activity on the premises.

In addition to these twelve enumerated just causes, a landlord may also take a rental unit off the rental market completely and evict all of the tenants.  This is known as an Ellis Act Eviction.

What are the special protections against an owner move-in eviction in Berkeley?

Under the Berkeley Rent Ordinance, there is an absolute prohibition on owner/relative move-ins where either:  (1) the tenant has lived on the property for five or more years and the landlord has a 10% or greater ownership interest in five or more residential units in Berkeley, or (2) the tenant is at least sixty years old or disabled, has lived on the property for five or more years, and the landlord has a 10% or greater ownership interest in four residential units in Berkeley.  If all the landlord’s units are limited by the above, an eviction for the owner or relative to move in is only permitted where:  the landlord has owned the property for five or more years and is at least sixty years old or disabled, or the landlord’s relative is at least sixty years old or disabled.

Is the landlord required to pay a moving allowance to tenants displaced by an owner move-in eviction?

The landlord must pay a $4,500 to any low-income household with at least one tenant who has resided in the unit for one year or more.  To receive this relocation allowance, a tenant must notify the landlord and the Rent Board in writing within thirty days of receiving the notice of termination of the tenancy.

Can I sue for wrongful eviction under the Berkeley Rent Ordinance?

A landlord who evicts in bad faith or with dishonest intent is liable under the Berkeley Rent Ordinance for actual damages and attorney fees.  Where a trier of fact finds the landlord’s actions be willful, the tenant shall be entitled to damages in the amount of $750 or three times the actual damages sustained, whichever is greater.

Bad faith is presumed where a landlord evicts for owner or relative move-in, and the owner or relative does not move in within three months or does not occupy the unit as a principal residence for at least thirty-six months.  A similar presumption applies where a landlord fails to demolish or repair as promised within two months.

Am I entitled to relocation money or moving allowance if I am evicted?

Effective December 2011:

Temporary Relocation Payments for Repairs of Code Violations

If relocating for 29 consecutive days or less:

Per diem hotel/motel and meal costs:

  • $120/day for a one-person household
  • $135/day for a two-person household
  • $166/day for a three-person household
  • $166/day + $15/day per household member after the third

Pets that require boarding:

  •  $20/day for a cat
  •  $50/day for a dog

If the relocation lasts for a period of 30 consecutive days or longer:

One-time dislocation allowance $400 to defray incidental relocation expenses.

A second dislocation allowance of $400 is required if the relocation period lasts more than 6 months.

Reimbursement for moving and storage costs:

Fixed Payment

  • $500 if storage is needed.
  • $300 is no storage is required.

Or actual documented moving and storage costs.

Rent differential payments. Maximum per month payment.*

  • Studio or Single Room in Unit – $950
  • One Bedroom – $1,225
  • Two Bedrooms – $1,660
  • Three Bedrooms – $2,395

Documented utility differential payments.

*These maximums change yearly and are based on average market rent statistics gathered by the Rent Stabilization Program for the prior calendar year.

Owner or Relative Move-In Eviction Payments

One-time payment of $4,500 provided household income is:

Persons per household:  Income no greater than:
1                                  $45,100
2                                  $51,550
3                                  $58,000
4                                  $64,400
5                                  $69,600
6                                  $74,750
7                                  $79,900
8                                  $85,050

Ellis Act Eviction Payments

All households are eligible for $8,700 in relocation assistance.

Additional $5,000 is due if tenancy began prior to January 1, 1999.

Additional $2,500 is due if any of the following are true:

  •             Over the age of 60;
  •             Disabled;
  •             Minor children live in the unit; or
  •             Income is less than 80% of the median of Alameda County.
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