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Richmond Rent Control

The City of Richmond has a rent increase limitation ordinance (“Richmond Rent Control”), which caps the annual amount a landlord can increase rent, and a just cause eviction ordinance (“Richmond Eviction Control”), which protects tenants from eviction absent one of the enumerated just causes for eviction. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code Art. XI, c. 11.100 (2016). The Richmond Rent Control Ordinance only applies to certain residential rental units, as described below. Richmond Eviction Control applies to nearly all residential rental units in Richmond.

Am I covered by Richmond Rent Control?

Richmond Rent Control applies to buildings with two or more residential units in Richmond that have a certificate of occupancy prior to February 1, 1995. If your building has multiple residential units and was built before 1995, you are most likely protected by Richmond Rent Control. CAL. CIV. CODE § 1954.52.

However, the following units are not covered by Richmond Rent Control even if they were built before 1995:

  • Rental units in hotels, motels, inns, tourist homes, and rooming and boarding houses which are rented primarily to guests for less than fourteen consecutive days; Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code 11.100.030(d)(1) (2016).
  • Rental units in any hospital, convent, monastery, extended medical care facility, asylum, non-profit home for the elderly, or dormitory owned and operated by an accredited college or university; Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code 11.100.030(d)(2) (2016).
  • Rental units owned, operated, or managed by a government agency or authority, or rental units which the tenants are governmentally subsidized, such as Section 8 tenants, but only if applicable federal or state law or administrative regulation specifically exempt such units from municipal rent control; Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code 11.100.030(d)(3) (2016).
  • Single family homes and condominiums (exempt from rent control pursuant to the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act at California Civil Code section 1954.52); Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code 11.100.030(d)(4) (2016).
  • Any second small unit on the same grounds as a single family home, such as a tiny house, attic, basement, or in-law built in compliance with Richmond Municipal Code where the owner is the primary resident of the single family home; Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code 11.100.030(d)(5) (2016).
  • Temporary rentals allowed by a homeowner who is the primary resident of a single-family home where the homeowner provides, in writing at the inception of the tenancy, a statement disclosing the length of the tenancy and that the homeowner can terminate the temporary tenancy at the end; RICHMOND, Cal., Mun. Code 11.100.030(d)(6) (2016).
  • Rentals of a room where a single tenant shares a bathroom or kitchen with the homeowner where the home is the primary residence of the homeowner. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code 11.100.030(d)(6) (2016).

What are some common scenarios where my rental unit is not covered by Richmond Rent Control and my landlord can increase the rent?

A landlord who is the primary resident of a single-family home who rents one room may freely increase the rent and is not covered by Richmond Rent Control. RICHMOND, CAL., MUN. CODE § 11.100.040(a)(3) (2016). A landlord who is the primary resident of a larger single family home with a smaller second unit that is in compliance with the Richmond Small Second Unit Ordinance (RICHMOND, CAL., MUN. CODE section 15.04.810 (2016)) may freely increase the rent. RICHMOND, CAL., MUN. CODE § 11.100.040(a)(2) (2016). Additionally, under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a landlord can increase the rent on single-family homes and condominiums. CAL. CIV. CODE § 1954.52.

How much can a landlord increase the rent on a rent-controlled unit?

For a unit covered under the Richmond Rent Control Ordinance where an original occupant still lives in the unit, the landlord may only increase the rent one time per year by the annual general adjustment published by the Richmond Rent Board. RICHMOND, CAL., MUN. CODE § 11.100.070(b) (2016). The maximum allowable annual rent increase is the annual percent change in the Consumer Price Index for all Bay Area consumers, which is usually between a 1 % and 3 % increase per year. RICHMOND, CAL., MUN. CODE § 11.100.070(b) (2016). The landlord must provide a rent increase notice to the tenant which includes a brochure prepared by the Richmond Rent Board fully describing the tenant’s legal rights. RICHMOND, CAL., MUN. CODE § 11.100.060(g) (2016). If the landlord does not provide this required notice and information packet, the rent increase is void.

Can the landlord increase the rent by more than the allowable amount?

Under Richmond Rent Control, landlords can petition the Richmond Rent Board for a rent increase above the general annual limits by arguing that the landlord is not getting a fair rate of return on the investment. RICHMOND, CAL., MUN. CODE § 11.100.070(g) (2016). The Rent Board may consider several factors in making individual adjustments to the rent ceiling.

A landlord who petitions the Richmond Rent Board for a rent increase above the Richmond rent increase limitation ordinance’s general annual limits may assert the applicable following factors in support of their petition:

  • Capital improvements necessary to bring the property into compliance or maintain compliance with applicable local code requirements affecting health and safety, and where such capital improvement costs are properly amortized over the life of the improvement. These include mandatory sewer line or other property upgrades;
  • Increased operating expenses;
  • Increased property taxes;
  • Increase in the number of tenants occupying the rental unit;
  • Increase in housing services provided; and,
  • The pattern of recent rent increases.

Under Richmond Rent Control, tenants are permitted to attend and even contest the landlord’s petition. A tenant may assert the following applicable defenses to fight the petitioned rent increase:

  • Decreased property taxes;
  • Decrease in the number of tenants occupying the rental unit;
  • Decrease in housing services provided;
  • Substantial deterioration of the rental unit other than as a result of normal wear and tear;
  • The pattern of recent rent increases or decreases;

However, the landlord will not be permitted to petition for an above-limit rent increase if the landlord has either (1) continued to fail to comply with any provisions of Richmond Rent Control, Richmond Eviction Control or any other provision of Richmond Municipal Code chapter 11.10; or (2) failed to bring the rental unit into compliance with the implied warranty of habitability, meaning they have failed to make necessary repairs to the rental unit. RICHMOND, CAL., MUN. CODE § 11.100.070(h) (2016).

What can a tenant file with the Richmond Rent Board?

A tenant may file two types of documents with the Richmond Rent Board:

  • Petition for Rent Ceiling Downward Adjustment; Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code 11.100.070(c) (2016).
  • Administrative Complaint. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code 11.100.100(b) (2016).

A tenant’s Petition for Rent Ceiling Downward Adjustment must be submitted on a form that will soon be created by the Richmond Rent Board. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.070(c) (2016). As an aside, the statute is unclear and the Richmond Rent Board will presumably promulgate rules regarding tenant petitions and filings.

Which Units have eviction protection in Richmond?

Richmond Eviction Control applies to all residential rental units in Richmond.

What are the just causes for eviction in Richmond?

Under Richmond Eviction Control, a landlord can only evict for the following eight reasons:

  • Failure to pay rent;
  • Breach of the lease;
  • Nuisance;
  • Failure to give the landlord access for repairs, improvements, or showing the unit to prospective purchasers;
  • To make unit the landlord’s primary residence, or the primary residence of landlord’s spouse children, parents, or grandparents (see below);
  • To withdraw an entire building from the housing market (also known as an Ellis Act eviction);
  • To make a single-family home the landlord’s primary residence, where the landlord previously lived in the rental unit as their principal place of residence and has the right to recover possession of the unit for their occupancy as a principal residence under a written temporary tenancy agreement with the tenant(s); or
  • Temporarily evict in order to undertake substantial repairs (see below).

Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(a) (2016).

Can I add a roommate in Richmond?

Under Richmond Eviction Control, a tenant is entitled to add an additional dependent child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandchild, grandparent, brother or sister, spouse, or domestic partner of such relatives as a tenant without the landlord’s approval, so long as the total number of occupants complies with California Health and Safety Code section 17922. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(a)(2)(ii) (2016). A tenant is entitled to replace departing tenants as subtenants on a one-for-one basis if the tenant continues to reside in the unit as their primary residence and the total number of occupants in the unit does not exceed the maximum number of occupants as determined under California Health and Safety Code section 17922. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(a)(2)(i)(a), (b) (2016). A landlord has the right to approve or disapprove a prospective replacement subtenant who is not a minor dependent child, but the landlord may not unreasonably withhold consent. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(a)(2)(i)(c) (2016). A tenant’s written request to sublease is deemed approved by the landlord if the landlord fails to respond to the request within fourteen days. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(a)(2)(i)(c) (2016).

Who is protected from an owner/relative move-in eviction?

Tenants are protected from eviction for an owner or relative move-in eviction if they:

  • Have resided in the rental unit for at least five years and is either at least sixty-two years old or disabled under California Government Code section 12955.3; Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code 11.100.050(a)(6)(F) (2016).

OR

  • Is certified as being terminally ill by the tenant’s treating physician, regardless of the length of tenancy. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code 11.100.050(a)(6)(F) (2016).

However, these protections do not apply where the landlord or their qualified relative moving in is at least sixty-two years old or terminally ill and all units in the building are occupied by protected tenants. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(a)(6)(F) (2016).

How many units can be removed from a building for owner/relative move in?

If an owner or their relative already lives in one unit on the property, or if a vacancy already exists on the property, that same owner or their relative cannot do an owner/relative move in on another unit in the building. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(a)(6)(B) (2016). However, a disabled landlord or their relative be able to move into a different unit in the building if they are disabled and the unit is necessary to accommodate that person’s disability. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(a)(6)(B) (2016).

What is required for a temporary eviction for substantial repairs?

Landlords are allowed to temporarily evict a tenant to perform substantial repairs. However, before evicting under this just cause, the landlord must obtain all necessary permits for the repairs from the City of Richmond. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(a)(5)(A) (2016). The eviction must be in good faith to undertake substantial repairs that cannot be completed while the unit is occupied. Additionally, the repairs must be necessary either to bring the property into compliance with applicable codes and laws affecting health and safety of tenants in the building, or in response to an outstanding notice of code violation affecting the health and safety of tenants in the building. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(a)(5)(A) (2016). Once the repairs are completed, the landlord must offer the unit back to the original tenant at the same rent. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(a)(5)(D) (2016).

When is an eviction illegal?

A landlord cannot evict, or attempt to evict, a tenant covered by Richmond Eviction Control unless at least one of the eight just causes for eviction exists. Under Richmond Eviction Control, all notices of termination must inform the tenant (1) of the cause for the termination, (2) that a failure to timely vacate may result in eviction proceedings, (3) of the right to request a reasonable accommodation for a disability, (4) the contact number for the Richmond Rent Board, (5) of sufficient details so that the tenant may comply with the eviction notice, and, if applicable, (6) of any information necessary to determine the date, time, place, witnesses present, and other circumstances concerning the reason for the notice. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(d) (2016).

What are the tenant’s remedies for wrongful eviction under Richmond Eviction Control?

Whenever a landlord or anyone assisting a landlord wrongfully evicts or attempts to evict in violation of Richmond Eviction Control, the tenant may institute a civil proceeding for injunctive relief, money damages of at least three times actual damages (including damages for mental or emotional distress), and whatever other relief the court deems appropriate. In the case of an award of damages for mental or emotional distress, the award will only be tripled if the trier of fact finds that the landlord acted in either knowing violation or reckless disregard of the rent ordinance. The prevailing tenant shall be entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs.

Tenants who believe they were wrongfully evicted without just cause should contact an attorney to discuss their options.

What are the protections for an Ellis Act eviction under Richmond Eviction Control?

All tenants must be given must be given a 120-day eviction notice and certain tenants are entitled to a one-year notice. Households with a tenant who is disabled within the meaning of Government Code section 7060.4(6), and who has resided in the unit for more than one year, are entitled to a one-year notice. Households with a tenant who is over the age of sixty-two are also entitled to a one-year notice. These protections apply to both the original leaseholder and subsequent occupants. Any disabled or elderly tenant must notify the landlord of their right to a one-year notice within sixty days of any notice.

Am I entitled to relocation benefits under the Ellis Act?

Yes, the Richmond City Council will soon determine the amount in the future through a Relocation Ordinance. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(b) (2016).

Am I entitled to moving allowance for an owner/relative move-in eviction?

Yes, the Richmond City Council will soon determine the amount in the future through a Relocation Ordinance. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(b) (2016).

Am I entitled to moving allowance for a demolition or substantial repairs eviction?

Yes, the Richmond City Council will soon determine the amount in the future through a Relocation Ordinance. Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.100.050(b) (2016).

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