For this edition of the Q&A column, we are presenting a summary of the various rent control measures that were on local ballots November 8. The summary is an overview of the most relevant aspects of each measure, and is followed by a link to a website where the complete measure can be reviewed for the details, which is recommended to all. Alameda
Alameda voters considered two related landlord tenant measures –Measure L1, the Rent Stabilization Act, and Measure M1, the Charter Amendment to Establish Rent Control, a Rent Control Board and Regulate Termination of Tenancies. Of the two, Measure M1 was an attempt to impose significant rent increase and eviction control laws, similar to those existing in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. However, Measure M1 was defeated by 14,195 votes to 7,178 votes. Thus, it appears Alameda voters have clearly rejected the more stringent form of rent control, opting to retain the ‘lite’ version provided by Measure L1.
Measure L1 was essentially a continuation of the existing (but recently enacted) rent control law codified as Ordinance 3148 passed by the City Council in March 2016 and which has been effective since March 31, 2016. Voters passed Measure M1 confirming the Ordinance. The Ordinance does not cap the amount of rent increases, but mandates that there can only one rent increase in a 12 month period and that landlords file a notice with the Program Administrator for any rent increases above 5%. The Ordinance also created some restrictions on evictions. For more information see: http://www.alamedarentprogram.org/ordinance-3148-overview.
Measure R was rejected by voters 67.4% to 32.6%. As in Alameda, the voters rather soundly rejected the concept of strict rent and eviction control. Had it passed, Measure R would have repealed a prior voter-adopted measure that prohibits the City from regulating rent. Measure R would have established a rent stabilization board and require “just cause” for evictions tenants in controlled units as well as require relocation assistance.
There were two measures on the ballot related to rent increases for certain residential units in the City of Mountain View. Measure V was placed on the ballot through the initiative petition process by the Mountain View Tenants Coalition. Measure W was placed on the ballot by the Mountain View City Council. There were some similarities and some differences between the two measures. However, since only one measure passed, those variances are moot.
Measure V, a voter-initiative was passed, which creates both rent and eviction controls. Under Measure V, a landlord may not raise rent more than the percentage increase in the CPI (minimum of two percent and a maximum of five percent). Banked rent increases are exempted from this annual rent limitation as long as the subsequent rent hike doesn’t exceed 10 percent in a 12-month period. Covered units include multi-family rental units with a certificate of occupancy before February 1, 1995. Measure V also establishes a Committee of five members who will set base rent, establish regulations, determine allowable annual rent adjustments, establish penalties and enforce the Measure. Landlords may not evict tenants without just cause, which would include failure to pay rent, criminal activity, nuisance, necessary repairs, and withdrawal of the unit from the rental market, failure to grant the landlord access to the unit and move-in by the owner. There is also a relocation payment component based on the tenant’s annual income.
Although the rent-increase cap applies only to apartments built before February 1995 because of a state law, the just-cause-eviction tenant protection applies to all apartments, regardless of age (though new construction is exempt). It is worth noting that the Rental Housing Committee can suspend Measure V provisions if the average annual vacancy rate of rental units covered by the ordinance exceeds 5 percent.
Measure W, placed on the ballot by the City Council did not pass. Measure W would have required a landlord who wants to increase rent by more than 5 percent in a 12-month period or reduce services to go to arbitration with the arbitrator’s decision being binding on the landlord and tenant. Measure W would also have required “just cause” for eviction of tenants in covered units.
Measure JJ was passed by voters and will become effective February 1, 2017. Measure JJ:
- Requires landlords to petition the City to increase rents above the allowed annual percentage increase based on the change in the consumer price index (not including ‘banked’ increases that total under 10%). Previously, increases based on certain grounds could be imposed unilaterally, and the tenant could petition to have the increase invalidated. As of February, all increases not based on the annual increase (or banked amounts) must be submitted to the rent board for approval first.
- Extends “just cause” for evictions to covered buildings built between 1980 and 1995 (currently applicable only to buildings built before 1980)
- Requires the City to develop searchable databases for public access to information on hearing decisions, appeals, and notices filed.
- Requires the City to provide annual notification to all covered units and owners of covered units of annual CPI adjustments, banking, and information on how to challenge rent increases, and other questions about rents and Rent Adjustment Program procedures.
- Requires translation services for all hearings and appeals.
Measure L passed. Measure L, which sought to impose rent and eviction control provisions similar to those in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco, passed handily, with 64.3 percent of the vote. The Ordinance establishes a rent board and sets a maximum allowable rent for rent controlled residential units in the City. Landlords are prohibited from charging above the maximum allowable rent. The maximum allowable annual rent would be based on the rent in effect on July 21, 2015, subject to certain annual increases based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index. This provision may prove the most complicated for both landlords and tenants, as it seems to require landlords to notify tenants of a rent reduction if a rent increase was imposed after July 21, 2015 that exceeded the to-be-determined allowable increase. Readers should expect to read more on this aspect of Measure L in coming editions.
Landlords may not terminate tenancies other than for ‘just cause’ reasons specifically listed in the ordinance (which are similar to the various ‘just cause’ grounds in all local eviction control measures). Also, similar to Oakland’s Measure EE, tenants may not be evicted for certain causes (breach of lease, nuisance or failure to provide landlord access to the unit) unless the tenant has been provided a ‘pre-notice’ notice to cease.
Measure L requires landlords to make relocation payments to tenants under certain circumstances. Measure L provides that a landlord violating the ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and also provides for liability in a civil action, which could potentially include money damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and a civil penalty. Measure L establishes a Rent Board composed of five members appointed by the City Council. The Rent Board would finance its expenses by charging landlords annual registration fees.
Certain types of rentals, such as legal in-law or second units on the same lot as the primary residence, are exempt from the ordinance requirements.
The Richmond Fair Rent, Just Cause for Eviction, and Homeowner Protection Ordinance will become effective on December 30, 2016.
Measure Q was rejected by voters. Measure Q would have amended the City’s charter to enact new laws to limit the amount of rent a landlord may charge and require “just cause” for eviction of tenant in covered units.
ALERTS AND UPDATES:
Although not part of the November election measures, owners and managers of rental property should note one recent change to the Oakland rent ordinance regarding the “Notice to Tenants of Residential Rent Adjustment Program (“RAP Notice”).
The Rent Adjustment Ordinance requires that an owner give tenants the written City of Oakland form titled Notice to Tenants of the Residential Rent Adjustment Program at the start (commencement) of the tenancy. The form also is known as the “RAP Notice” and the “Notice to Tenants.” This form explains the existence of the Rent Adjustment Program and tenants’ rights under the rent law. The Ordinance also requires that the owner give another RAP Notice with every notice of rent increase or other notice of change in terms of tenancy. Effective September 21, 2016, the new provision requires that at the commencement of a tenancy the RAP Notice be given in multiple languages: English, Spanish and Chinese. This requirement applies only to new tenancies that commenced on or after September 21, 2016. It does not apply to any subsequent giving of the RAP Notice with a rent increase. To see the various language notice forms, go to the Oakland rent board website at http://www2.oaklandnet.com/government/o/hcd/o/RentAdjustment/index.htm
Further, the Tenant Protection Ordinance requires Owners to post a notice of the TPO in rental units located in a building with an interior common area. The notice must be placed in at least one such common area in the building on the form prescribed by the City Staff. To read and print out the required Notice to Oakland Residential Tenants in three languages, go to the website provided above.
Richard Beckman, of Beckman Blair, LLP has been practicing landlord-tenant law for over 24 years, primarily in rent-controlled jurisdictions such as San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. He represents clients in a broad range of real estate-related disputes, including partition of co-ownership interests, purchase contract disputes, insurance coverage analysis and land use. Mr. Beckman also specializes in all aspects of landlord-tenant issues, representing landlords and tenants in residential and commercial matters. He can be reached at 415-871-0070; email firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the website www.beckmanblairllp.com.