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San Jose Rent Control Ordinance and Eviction Protection

The City of San Jose has a rent-increase limitation ordinance (“San Jose Rent Control”), which prevents excessive and unreasonable rent increases, and a just cause eviction ordinance (“San Jose Eviction Control”), which protects certain tenants from eviction absent one of the enumerated just causes for eviction. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23 (2017). The Ordinances only apply to certain residential rental units.

Am I covered by the rent-ceiling protections of the San Jose Rent Control Ordinance?

San Jose Rent Control applies to all units in the City of San Jose built before September 7, 1979, except two-unit buildings, single-family homes, and condominiums. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.150 (2017). Additionally, the following units are not covered by San Jose Rent Control:

  • Hotel rooms rented to guests for less than thirty days;
  • Rooms in a hospital, extended care facility, emergency residential shelter, asylum, nonprofit home for the aged, fraternity house, sorority house, or in dormitories owned and operated by a school;
  • Government operated or subsidized rental units.

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

Under San Jose Rent Control, any increase greater than eight percent in a twelve-month period is subject to mediation and arbitration. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.180 (2017). Where a landlord has not increased the rent for two years, the rent can be increased twenty-one percent without triggering mediation and arbitration. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.180 (2017). Once a unit becomes vacant the landlord may increase the monthly rent to whatever the market will bear.

What can a tenant do when a rent increase exceeds the allowable limit?

A tenant facing a rent increase greater than eight percent (or twenty-one percent in certain cases) may file a petition for mediation and arbitration. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.220 (2017). The petition must be filed before the rent increase takes effect.

At mediation, a hearing officer will determine the reasonableness of the increase by looking at (1) whether the landlord is receiving a fair return, (2) whether the increase was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, and (3) whether the tenant will suffer an unjustified economic hardship. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.440 (2017). The hearing officer can also take into account the quality of the rental unit, including habitability issues and health and safety violations. Either party may appeal a mediator’s decision to arbitration within seven days of the mediator’s determination.

Am I covered by the eviction protection of the City of San Jose Tenant Protection Ordinance?

In San Jose, just-cause eviction protection applies to multi-unit buildings with three or more units. Condominiums, duplexes, single-family homes, and single-family homes with second units are not protected by the San Jose just-cause ordinance. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1210 (2017).

The San Jose Tenant Protection Ordinance is an enrollment-based program of tenant rights and protections. A tenant may enroll an eligible unit into just-cause protection based on (1) a tenant complaint or (2) legal status.

  1. Complaint-Based Enrollment

An eligible unit is automatically enrolled into San Jose Tenant Cause Protection after the tenant makes a written complaint to either the landlord or a city-agency about unit repair issues, defects, and other violations. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1220 (2017). Tenant protections come into effect immediately upon the tenant’s making the written complaint to the landlord and informing the Director of the San Jose Housing Department by email to housing@sanjoseca.gov of the complaint. A tenant may initiate a complaint for any of the following reasons: (1) a significant code violation or other repair or replacement of a problem in the unit; (2) a violation of the San Jose Apartment Rental Ordinance, including the landlord’s failure to register in the San Jose rent registry; or (3) a violation of state and federal fair housing laws. Additionally, tenant protections come into effect when a tenant files a complaint with San Jose Code Enforcement for a code violation in their unit or at the property, and no notice needs to be given to Director of the San Jose Housing Department.

  1. Status-Based Enrollment

A unit may automatically become covered by San Jose Tenant Protection, without the need for a tenant complaint, when one of the following occurs: (1) there has been a material code violation discovered during a City inspection; (2) the landlord refuses to allow an inspector to conduct an inspection, and the inspector obtains a warrant for inspection; (3) the unit is the subject of a court order or other administrative action for a housing, building, or fire code violation; (4) the unit is within the twelve-month period before its removal from the rental market under the Ellis Act; (5) the apartment is required to be registered under the San Jose Apartment Rental Ordinance and is unregistered; (6) the unit is unpermitted; or (7) the property owner is renting one or more units for short-term rental. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1220 (2017).

What protections do I have if my unit is covered by the San Jose Tenant Protection Ordinance?

Once enrolled in San Jose Tenant Protection, you cannot be lawfully evicted without just cause. Depending on your manner of enrollment and your landlord’s response, the enrollment period may last for up to two years after the date the complaint is resolved.

How long does enrollment in San Jose Just Cause Protection last?

Depending on the nature of the enrollment and the landlord’s response, the enrollment period may last either (1) six months (“Limited Term Enrollment”); or (2) two years (“Full Enrollment”).

San Jose tenants with Limited Term Enrollment have just-cause protection for six months after the issue or underlying complaint is resolved. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1220 (2017). Tenants who obtain just-cause protections through complaint-based enrollment have limited-term enrollment. If your landlord fails to make repairs within thirty days of a written complaint, the tenant will receive full enrollment, which provides tenants with two years of just cause protection. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1220 (2017).

San Jose tenants with full enrollment have a two-year, just-cause-protection term. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1220 (2017). Tenants automatically gain Full Enrollment when (1) the landlord files for a withdraw from the rental market under the Ellis Act with the enrollment period retroactively applying to the year before the landlord’s filing date; (2) an owner refuses to allow an inspection; (3) an owner violates any part of the San Jose Rent Ordinance; (4) the tenant lives in an unpermitted unit; or (5) the owner violates the San Jose Short Term Rental Ordinance. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1220 (2017).

Do I have San Jose Just Cause Protections when I file a fair housing complaint?

Yes. San Jose tenants may file a fair housing complaint for housing discrimination with the Fair Housing Law Project (http://lawfoundation.org/programFHLP.html) or Project Sentinel (http://housing.org/fair-housing/file-a-fair-housing-complaint). When a tenant files a fair housing complaint, the tenant automatically gains just-cause protection for six months. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1220 (2017). However, the enrollment length is extended to two years if the tenant successfully wins the complaint. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1220 (2017).

Which units have eviction protection in San Jose?

San Jose Eviction Control applies to multi-unit buildings with three or more units. Condominiums, duplexes, single-family homes, and single-family homes with second units are not protected by the San Jose just-cause ordinance. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1210 (2017).

What are the twelve just causes under the San Jose Tenant Protection Ordinance?

Once a tenant is enrolled, a landlord can only evict you for one of twelve reasons – called just causes. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1230 (2017).

  1. Failure to pay rent;
  2. Serious or frequent lease violations;
  3. Substantial damage to the apartment;
  4. Refusal to agree to a like or new rental agreement;
  5. The tenant is creating a nuisance;
  6. The tenant, after written notice, refuses the landlord access to the unit;
  7. The tenant holding at the end of the lease term is a subtenant not approved by the landlord;
  8. The landlord seeks to recover possession in good faith in order to carry out a substantial rehabilitation;
  9. The landlord wishes to withdraw from rent or lease all rental units or demolish the unit within any detached physical structure (See Your Rights in an Ellis Act Eviction);
  10. The landlord seeks to move into the unit (See Owner-Move-In Evictions)
  11. A court has issued an order to vacate;
  12. The unit is unpermitted and the landlord seeks to recover the unit to end the unpermitted use. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1230 (2017).

When can a Landlord do an Owner-Move-In Eviction under the San Jose Tenant Protection Ordinance?

A landlord with at least a fifty percent interest in the property can evict a tenant to move into the unit or to move a spouse, domestic partner, parent(s), children, or siblings. The owner or relative must move into the unit within three months after giving the tenant notice to vacate and must live in the unit as their principal place of residence for thirty-six continuous months. For a relative move-in eviction, there must not be any other vacant units in the building, and the owner must have his or her principal place of residence at the property.

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

All tenants 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 under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, codified at Government Code section 12955.3, 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.

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

Whenever a landlord or anyone assisting a landlord wrongfully evicts or attempts to evict in violation of San Jose Eviction Control, the tenant may institute a civil proceeding for injunctive relief, money damages, costs, and reasonable attorney fees. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1260 (2017). In the case of an award of damages for the landlord’s willful noncompliance with the ordinance, the court may triple the damage award. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1260 (2017). Courts define willful behavior as “deliberate, intentional or wanton conduct in doing or omitting to perform acts, with knowledge . . . that danger is likely to result.” Mercer-Fraser Co. v. Industrial Acc. Com., 40 Cal. 2d 102, 117 (1953).

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

What relocation benefits am I entitled to for a no-fault eviction under the City of San Jose Tenant Protection Ordinance?

Tenants who are displaced by Ellis Act eviction, a city issued order to vacate due to an unpermitted apartment or unsafe conditions, an owner-move-in eviction, or a substantial rehabilitation eviction are entitled to relocation benefits. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1230 (2017).

For tenants evicted under the Ellis Act, an owner- or relative-move-in Eviction, an order to vacate to comply with a court or government agency’s order to vacate, or a substantial rehabilitation eviction, base relocation benefits are calculated by the number of bedrooms in the tenant’s unit, as follows:

  • For a studio, a household is entitled to a $6,925 relocation payment;
  • For a one-bedroom unit, a household is entitled to a $8,400 relocation payment;
  • For a two-bedroom unit, a household is entitled to a $10,353 relocation payment; and,
  • For a three-bedroom unit, a household is entitled to a $12,414 relocation payment.

When at least one tenant in a household is low income, sixty-two years or older, is disabled, terminally ill, catastrophically ill, or has a child under eighteen years old who is enrolled in a K-12 school, the household is entitled to an additional relocation benefit of 40% of the base relocation benefit:

  • For a studio, a qualified assistance household is entitled to a $9,695 relocation payment;
  • For a one-bedroom unit, a qualified assistance household is entitled to a $11,760 relocation payment;
  • For a two-bedroom unit, a qualified assistance household is entitled to a $14,494 relocation payment; and,
  • For a three-bedroom unit, a qualified assistance household is entitled to a $17,380 relocation payment.

Additionally, for owner- or relative-move-In Evictions and substantial rehabilitation evictions, the landlord must refund the tenant’s security deposit at the time delivery of the Notice of Termination of Tenancy. San José, Cal., Mun. Code Title 17, c. 17.23.1030 (2017).

Disclaimer

Tobener Ravenscroft LLP is a full-service tenants’ rights firm representing tenants. This article is for general information purposes only. Laws may have changed since this article was published. Before acting, please consider legal advice from our office. If you have questions, please contact us.

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