Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California rent control laws followed by answers provided by Attorney Richard Beckman.
Question 1: I am still confused about the eviction moratoriums in Oakland and Alameda County. What is the current status of both?
Answer 1: As you probably know, Alameda County supervisors finally voted to end the countywide state of emergency as of February 28th.. However, the moratorium ordinance provided that it would remain in place until 60 days after the lapsing of Alameda County’s COVID-19 health emergency. Thus, Alameda County’s pandemic-era eviction moratorium will remain in effect through April 29. The 60-day countdown to expiration began February 28 and expires as of April 29, 2023.
As for Oakland, no changes, and its moratorium remains in place. And since it only applies to units covered by the Oakland Just Cause ordinance (Measure EE), the passage in November of Measure V removed significant numbers of units to which the Oakland moratorium did not apply. Prior to Measure V, once the county moratorium expired, tenants in units built after 1995 would not have been protected by either the county ordinance or the Oakland version. However, as a result of Measure V, all residential units in Oakland that are at least 10 years old are subject to the Just Cause ordinance, making them also subject to the eviction moratorium law.
Question 2: Given that the moratoriums seem to be winding down, do any of the lawsuits you wrote about earlier still merit watching?
Answer 2: Given the pending expiration of the Alameda County moratorium, the lawsuits against it – both the one brought by the City of Alameda in superior court and the two brought by housing providers in federal court – are more or less ‘moot.’ As to the two federal cases that included the city of Oakland’s moratorium, they are essentially on hold, pending the decision in three related cases pending before the 9th Circuit court of appeals. Those three cases are set for oral argument April 10. However, it is unknown when the appellate court will issue a ruling, upon which the lower court might base a decision as to the legality of the Oakland moratorium. So, as always, stand by for updates and developments!
Question 3: I think I read that the recent attempt to impose a countywide rent registry and impose a new ‘just cause’ ordinance in Alameda County has failed, despite indications earlier it would pass. What is the status of that effort?
Answer 3: That Tuesday’s hearing was a ‘win’ for housing providers in Alameda County. In addition to putting an end to the eviction moratorium, supervisors at that meeting rejected a trio of anti-housing regulations, specifically the rent registry you mention, the “just cause” eviction restrictions and a “fair chance” ordinance, that would have limited a housing provider’s ability to use criminal background checks to screen a prospective tenant. As reported by a local news source,
“For more than two months, renters in unincorporated Alameda County were so close to gaining some of the hard-fought protections that tenants in neighboring cities have long enjoyed. This came to an end Tuesday night after the Alameda County Board of Supervisors reversed course and voted against three renters’ protections ordinance they had originally approved on Dec. 20. Last December, a pro-renter Board of Supervisors narrowly approved a Just Cause ordinance, Fair Chance ordinance that prohibits landlords from using a rental applicant’s criminal history for approving tenancy, and a rent registry. After nearly 11 hours of testimony, a new board that now includes pro-landlord Supervisor Lena Tam, and missing the recently passed Supervisor Richard Valle, rolled back each ordinance. Supervisors David Haubert, Nate Miley, and Tam abstained on Just Cause and the rent registry. Supervisor Keith Carson voted yes. What comes next is unclear, however, Miley and others voiced support for going back to the drawing board. Miley suggested waiting before starting work on Just Cause and a rent registry until a replacement is appointed to the late Supervisor Valle’s seat.” What this reversal makes so clear is that voting matters. The article can be found here: https://eastbayinsiders.substack.com/p/alameda-county-supervisors-roll-back
Question 4: Do we have to provide any notice to a two-year lease term tenant in South San Francisco that has defaulted on payments many times during her lease term? Her lease ends soon and we do not want to renew. Do we have to provide 30 days’ notice or any notice at all if we are not going to offer a renewal to this tenant?
Answer 4: Generally speaking, when a term lease terminates, the tenancy is terminated and the tenant is unlawfully holding over if he or she remains in possession and no notice is required (unless the lease itself requires it, so you should check for that). However, that general rule is changed when a residential eviction control law applies, as is the case in all of California (AB 1482) for tenancies of more than one year, subject to limited exceptions, most notably for new construction (less than 15 Years old), or single family homes (SFD) if the tenant has been provided notice of the SFD exemption. If exempt, a notice to the tenant that you do not intend to renew the lease, or allow it to go month to month, would be an appropriate courtesy, to allow the tenant the advance notice they may need to relocate timely. But if the tenant is not paying the rent, you have ‘just cause’ to terminate the tenancy if the tenant fails to pay the rent after proper service of a proper three-day notice to pay or quit.
Question 5: Can you please include the allowable rent increases for Alameda, Berkeley, and San Francisco in your next article? Thanks!
Answer 5: According to their respective websites, the new rent increase amounts for those cities are listed below. The Alameda and AB 1482 amounts, which are approaching their end dates, will be revised once the new percentages are published.
Alameda: 2022 AGA: 3.5% – Effective September 1, 2022 – August 31, 2023* (Link to the website)
Berkeley: Beginning January 1, 2023, landlords may raise rent ceilings by 4.4% for all tenancies starting prior to January 1, 2022, after giving tenants a proper written notice of rent increase. (Link to the website)
San Francisco: Effective March 1, 2023, the allowed rent increase percentage is 3.6%. The percentage is effective March 1, 2023 through February 29, 2024. (Link to the website)
And as to AB 1482, the statewide rent control law passed in 2019, which limits rent increases to 5% plus the increase in the local cost of living, it is 10% in Alameda County for rent increases that take effect on or after August 1, 2022.
Question 6: Our tenant moved out February 18, 2023, but on March 7, refused to accept the security deposit refund bank cashier check. She only took the repairs’ itemized list and all the estimated copies and wanted all of the security deposit refunded without deductions and she refused to provide a forwarding address. Please advise, and thanks.
Answer 6: The process for accounting for the tenant’s security deposit is described in detail in Civil Code 1950.5, which I always recommend every landlord review prior to undertaking that process. As long as you follow those rules, that is about all you can do. If the tenant does not accept your deductions, he or she can request a small claims judge to decide whether the deductions were appropriate or not. But as long as they were made in good faith, you should not face any liability other than refund of any amount the judge decides was not necessary. And there is no obligation for the tenant to provide a forwarding address, though it is always a bit alarming when they fail to do so.
Question 7: Occupant, not a resident, has started a daycare and homeschooling business in the unit she occupies with her boyfriend. She has applied to care for up to eight children a day from 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM daily. The lease states that “The RESIDENT agrees to rent or lease from OWNER for use SOLELY AS A PRIVATE RESIDENCE”. Does the occupant have any rights to start a business in the home she occupies?
Answer 7: Yes, as to the tenant, but the answer may be complicated by the status of the actual daycare operator. Cal. Health & Safety Code §1597.41 is a statute that allows occupants to have a family daycare center. There are various provisions discussed in the statute, including that “A prospective family daycare home provider who resides in a rental property shall provide 30 days’ written notice to the landlord or owner of the rental property prior to the commencement of operation of the family daycare home.” Also, where a tenant commences, or the landlord or owner becomes aware that the tenant is operating a family daycare home, the landlord or owner may require payment of an increased security deposit, notwithstanding that a lesser amount is charged to tenants who do not operate family daycare homes. However, the total security deposit charged cannot exceed the maximum allowable under existing law. [Health & Saf.C. § 1597.41(d)(4)]. But given the overall importance of that development for all concerned, you may want to get a specific legal review.
Question 8: The master tenant of our lease wants to add another tenant. We want to have both the master tenant and new tenant sign a new lease. Is there a specific document or any advice to proceed with this process (agreement to terminate previous lease to have them sign a new one)? The reason for this is we want to use the AOA lease instead of the California Association of Realtors lease (that they are currently signed to).
Answer 8: It is always a question for the landlord when to add a new person on the rental agreement. While it is good to have everyone who occupies the unit identified in the lease, as it makes them all responsible for the rent and other obligations of the rental agreement, that approach runs the risk that the new person will be considered an ‘original occupant’, in the event the original tenant moves out. In that case, the possibility of a ‘Costa Hawkins’ rent increase to market rate may be lost. But if the unit is not subject to local rent control, but rather the state version, that is not such an issue, as rent increases for such units are much more generous than units subject to local rent control. Also, some local rent/eviction control laws prohibit compelling a tenant to sign a lease that is different from their existing/original lease, if the new lease has any materially different terms, or removes any ‘housing service’ the tenant already enjoys. So, you should check for that aspect in your locality.
Richard Beckman, of Beckman Feller & Chang P.C., has been practicing landlord-tenant law for over 26 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 510-548-7474; email [email protected] or by visiting the website www.bfc-legal.com.