Can My Landlord Raise My Rent?

by | Jun 13, 2017 | LANDLORD TENANT | 0 comments

Rent Stabilization, or rent control, puts a limit on the landlord’s ability to evict tenants and increase rent. This serves to protect tenants both from unreasonable price increases and also from wrongful evictions. These regulations serve to limit a landlord’s ability to take advantage of a favorable rental market and protect tenants from greedy property owners.

Many California communities have enacted Rent Stabilization Ordinances to protect tenants from  the current volatile rental market. While the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance protects more citizens than any other California city, similar controls have been installed throughout the state including:

Berkeley

Beverly Hills

Campbell

East Palo Alto

Fremont

Hayward

Los Angeles

Los Gatos

Oakland

Palm Springs

San Francisco

San Jose

Santa Monica

Thousand Oaks

West Hollywood[1]

Who is Covered by Rent Control?

Rent control serves to protect tenants of residential buildings. Rent control does not apply to commercial leases.  In general, Rent Stabilization Ordinances apply to multi-unit rental properties, but not to single-family rental homes.

Many jurisdictions place additional restrictions on Rent Control Ordinances. For example, in Los Angeles, most rental units built after October 1, 1978 are exempt from rent control. In addition, most affordable housing and luxury housing is exempt from such ordinances.

What Rental Increases are Allowed?

Rent Stabilization Ordinances put a cap on the amount a landlord is allowed to increase rent annually. The maximum rental increase rate will vary by jurisdiction and year but is generally tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  Los Angeles, for example, has a current maximum rental increase limit of 3%. This rate, however, is subject to fluctuation between 3-10% based on changes in the CPI.

It is important to remember that additional rental increases may be allowed under certain circumstances. For example, the addition of new tenants or a landlord providing free utilities may be grounds for a subsequent rent increase. Some jurisdictions also allow temporary or permanent price increases to offset renovation and improvement costs. Consult your local regulations to determine the current maximum rental increase that your landlord can charge.

When are Evictions Allowed?

Evictions generally fall into two categories, depending whether or not the tenant is at-fault.  In an “At-Fault” Eviction, the landlord can recover possession of a rental unit due to a tenant’s:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Violation of the lease/rental agreement
  • Unreasonable interference with other tenant’s safety, comfort, or enjoyment
  • Damaging the rental unit or property
  • Using the rental unit or property for an illegal purpose
  • Refusal to renew a lease
  • Refusal to allow landlord reasonable access for repairs and inspection
  • Sublease to an unapproved individual
  • Failure to follow an agreed relocation plan

In a “Not At-Fault” Eviction, a property owner is allowed to reclaim use of the rental unit despite no fault on the part of the tenant. Some jurisdictions, however, require landlords to pay relocation assistance. Landlords can evict a tenant if:

  • The landlord (or a family member) wants to use the rental unit
  • A resident manager wants to use the rental unit
  • The unit or building is to be demolished or removed from rental housing use
  • A government agency has ordered the building or unit vacated due to a legal violation
  • The building is to be converted to affordable housing

Only the Federal Government can evict tenants in order to sell a property. A private landlord may not evict tenants in order to sell a building.

What Else Do Rent Stabilization Ordinances Protect?

As detailed above, tenants are generally afforded relocation expenses in Not At-Fault Evictions. Some Rent Stabilization Ordinances also offer relocation expenses for temporary relocation, such as when required to complete major construction.  The covered expenses vary depending on length and inconvenience, but generally cover hotel/housing, food, and moving costs. Consult your local regulation to determine whether you qualify for relocation expenses.

Many jurisdictions also offer tenants protection from substandard housing. These cities have authorized special regulatory bodies to reduce tenant rent in response to uninhabitable housing conditions.  You can learn more about uninhabitable housing conditions and landlord’s duties in our article: How Tenants Can Protect Their Legal Rights in California’s HOT Rental Market.  For example, the REAP program in Los Angeles will reduce rents by 10-50% depending on the nature, severity, and number of housing violations. The unit/building will remain in the program, with rent reductions in place, until the city has verified that all violations have been corrected.

Finally, tenants are generally entitled to receive interest on any security deposit paid to the landlord. Interest rates and payment schedules vary by jurisdiction. Interest payments can be made on a monthly, yearly, or tenancy basis. You can learn more about the legal requirements regarding landlords returning security deposits from our article: When Does My Landlord Have to Return My Security Deposit?.  However, on termination of a tenancy, any unpaid accumulated interest must be paid at the same time and in the same manner as required for return of the security deposit balance.

While the protections offered by Rent Stabilization Ordinances vary by city, the regulations are only effective if tenants know of, and exercise, their rights. Contact our office or a local attorney to determine whether you are covered by a local Ordinance and what protections you can expect.

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[1] Brown, Warner and Portman, The California Landlord’s Law Book, Vol. I: Rights & Responsibilities, Appendix C (NOLO Press 2011)

 

 

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