Have you heard about rent control? Do you have questions about rent-controlled housing? If so, listen up because we’ve got some answers about rent control laws.
Most of America is NOT subject to rent control laws.
Right now, landlords in most areas of the United States can charge whatever they want for rent. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part landlords are free to set the rent to whatever people are willing to pay.
I have seen rents soar over the last year, as more jobs moved online and higher-earning households were suddenly untethered and able to move anywhere. In the area where we’re currently trying to find a rental, the monthly rent has increased by 50% or more in the last two years and many people are being priced out of their homes. It’s definitely frustrating.
To combat this problem, many states are implementing various types of rent control laws. As of the creation of this video, rent control only exists in five US states. We’ll talk more about rent control in a minute.
There are many different forms of rent control.
There are many different forms of rent control. At its core, rent control refers to an ordinance, statute or law that limits the amount that landlords can charge for rent. It is what it sounds like – a law that creates control over rent prices.
However, rent control laws can differ widely. Some rent control laws simply limit how often the rent can increase or by what percentage it can increase. Other areas may take a more aggressive approach and enact rules that govern rent amounts, mandate arbitration, and limit causes for eviction. It all depends on what type of rent control laws the local government implements.
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These are the states and cities with rent control laws.
As of the creation of this list, the United States has enacted some form of rent control laws in six areas. These include the District of Columbia, the states of Oregon and New York. Certain areas within New Jersey, Maryland and California also have some form of rent control.
In the District of Columbia, rent control laws were established with the Rental Housing Act of 1985. This Act is fairly aggressive. Landlords of units covered by the Act must follow several rules regarding rent increases. These rules state that rent can only be raised once per year. Most of the time, rent can only increase 2% plus the amount of increase in the Consumer Price Index. Elderly and disabled tenants cannot have their rent raised by more than 5% per year. The rent stabilization portion of this Act applies to all non-exempt units, but the eviction protections apply to all rental units.
In 2019, Oregon became the first state to impose statewide rent control laws. This law caps rent increases at 7% plus inflation within any 12 month period. Every September, state economists calculate the rent increase cap for the following calendar year. This policy does not apply to buildings that are less than 15 years old or to government-subsidized rents.
In New York, rent control laws exist in New York City and certain parts of other counties. This control is limited to residential buildings built before February 1947, in which the tenant or the tenant’s lawful successor has been living there continuously since July 1, 1971. Each property covered by this rent control is assigned a maximum base rent that is adjusted once every two years to reflect changes in operating costs. When the tenant or successor moves, the property is removed from rent control and the property becomes either rent stabilized or unregulated.
Rent stabilization covers a different set of buildings. These properties have assigned maximum rates for rent increases. Tenants in rent-stabilized apartments cannot be evicted except for grounds allowed by law.
In New Jersey, more than 100 cities and townships have passed rent control laws. Each one is different, so that’s a lot of information to track, so if you’re looking for information on this, I highly recommend that you contact your local city or township hall for more information.
Several counties and cities have enacted rent control laws. According to Landlord.com, rent control exists in College Park, Frederick County, Takoma Park and Washington County. For example, Takoma Park limits rent increases to one annual increase equal to the amount of increase in the Consumer Price Index for the Washington/Baltimore region.
On January 1, 2021, Governor Newsom approved a statewide rent control law that restricted most rent increases to no more than 5% per year plus the price of inflation.
The state law also clearly stated that if the local government had stricter rent control laws, the local law would take precedence so that tenants would have the maximum protection.
In California, there are many areas that are covered by some form of additional rent control. These include Berkeley, Beverly Hills, East Palo Alto, Hayward, Los Angeles, Los Gatos, Oakland, Palm Springs, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Campbell, Fremont, Gardena, Glendale, Pasadena, San Diego and San Leandro.
Berkeley’s “Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance” applies to about 19,000 of the 26,000 rental units in the city. This ordinance uses something called “vacancy decontrol,” which means that landlords can choose whatever rent they want when a new tenant signs a lease. The rent that the landlord establishes at the start of the lease becomes the “rent ceiling” and cannot be increased without approval from the Rent Board. With very few exceptions, all Berkeley residents are covered by the eviction rules in the ordinance.
Beverly Hills has a Rent Stabilization Ordinance that restricts the amount that rent can be raised each year. This ordinance also prohibits evictions without a just cause. Eligible tenants who are subject to no-fault displacements may also be eligible for relocation assistance.
East Palo Alto
East Palo Alto has a Rent Stabilization Board that determines how much landlords can increase the rent each year. As usual, the ordinance is complicated.
According to these rent control laws, each unit is assigned a Certificate of Maximum Allowable Rent. This certificate is issued when the rental unit is registered with the city and when a new tenant moves in. The amount of Maximum Allowable Rent is calculated by the Rent Stabilization Administrator using a system of formulas. The amount that the landlord charges for rent, including any fees or housing services, cannot exceed the Maximum Allowable Rent.
It appears that landlords who have set the rent less than the Maximum Allowable Rent appear to be able to increase the rent by up to 10% every 12 months.
However, landlords who have already set the rent to the Maximum Allowable Rent can increase the rent once per year, and by no more than the amount allowable by the Rent Stabilization Board. The board increases are determined as a percentage and are usually around 2%.
If the landlord does not want to increase the rent, they can “bank” the increase for up to three years. However, the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant that they are banking the increase. It appears that a banked increase can be applied any time within the next three years, but increase can only be banked three times during any one tenancy.
Landlords who choose to increase the rent must provide 30 days notice to the tenant.
Hayward’s rent control laws exist in their Rent Stabilization program. This restricts rent increases to allowable amounts. It also provides a dispute resolution process, prevents landlords from harassing or retaliating against tenants, and requires landlords to provide a just cause for tenant eviction. Notably, it also makes efforts to stop income bias (such as discriminating against people with Section 8 vouchers).
The rent increase limits only apply to housing units built before July 1, 1979. They also have many exceptions, including affordable housing units with other rent controls, transitional housing, hotels and boarding houses, owner occupied properties and more.
Tenants in covered units can file a Petition for Rent Review. If you want to do that, you will need to contact the City of Hayward’s Rent Review Office within 30 days after you receive notice of any of the following:
- An annual rent increase above 5%,
- A banked increase will be applied
- An increase in utility costs that exceeds 1% of the tenant’s current rent
- The property has health, safety, fire or repairs that the landlord will not fix
Los Angeles County has rent control laws. Their Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) restricts rent increases that can happen over any 12 month period. It also provides a “just cause” rule for evictions that applies to most units within unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.
In order to be covered by the rent increase limits, a unit must be located in unincorporated Los Angeles County, be a residential dwelling on a property with two or more rental units, and have an initial Certificate of Occupancy or equivalent that was issued on or before February 1, 1995.
For these units, rent can only be increased based on changes in the Consumer Price Index. In some circumstances, though, the landlord may be able to get an exemption and increase the rent by a greater amount. Exceptions can be granted if the landlord has made improvements or can prove that they are not receiving a fair return on the property.
The Los Gatos Rent Ordinance applies to properties that have three or more rental units under common ownership. Covered properties are only allowed to increase the rent once per year and it cannot exceed 70% of the annual CPI change or 5% of the existing monthly rent. Landlords may be able to get certain specific exemptions to this limit, if the property has been improved or they meet other criteria.
If tenants feel they have been treated unfairly or retaliated against, they can open a dispute with the Rental Dispute Resolution program.
In the City of Oakland, each tenant must receive a “Notice to Tenants” or RAP Notice when they move in to the unit. This notice explains the Rent Board and the tenant’s rights. If you were not provided this notice about the area’s rent control laws, then the landlord cannot increase the rent until six months after you have received the notice.
When new tenants move into a unit, the owner can set the rent to the market rate. However, if any tenants are original occupants under a prior tenancy, the rent must meet the Oakland Rent Adjustment Ordinance for rent increases.
The Oakland Rent Adjustment Ordinance allows increases based on the regional Consumer Price Index. These are called CPI increase. The increase allowed by the CPI increase is a percentage, which is determined by the Oakland Rent Board every year.
Since 1980, the Palm Springs Rent Control Ordinance has protected renters in Palm Springs. The ordinance covers units built before April 1979, which rented for $450 or less in 1979. Hotels, owner-occupied units and other specific units are not covered by this ordinance.
This ordinance limits rent increases to once per year. It also restricts those increases to 75% of the Consumer Price Index and requires landlords to reduce the rent if they reduce “base year” services.
The base year for the ordinance is 1979. Landlords may be able to increase the rent more if they file a hardship petition showing that they aren’t making a fair return on their investment. The ordinance defines a “fair return” as 50% more than their net operating income in 1979.
Most residential rental units in San Francisco are covered by the San Francisco Rent Ordinance. This ordinance governs evictions, subletting, rent limits, minimum heat requirements, noise problems, buyout agreements, repair problems, security deposits and more. You can view all the terms here.
Since July 1979, San Jose has had a Rent Stabilization Ordinance. The city now has several ordinances that govern rental housing. For more information about their laws, please visit the San Jose Rent Stabilization website.
Santa Monica implemented Rent Control in 1979. These laws control the amount that can be charged for rent. They also require only “Just Cause” evictions and more. The rules apply to residential rental buildings that were constructed before April 10, 1979, and some specific units that were built after that date. Learn more here.
In 1985, the City of West Hollywood’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance has restricted rent costs, established maintenance standard and protected eligible tenants from eviction.
The rules apply to properties with more than one dwelling unit that received their initial Certificate of Occupancy before July 1, 1979. The rules also apply to units with only one dwelling unit on the whole parcel if the tenants moved in before January 1, 1996. Most properties in West Hollywood fall into these categories.
The Rent Stabilization Division establishes the Maximum Allowable Rent for covered units. This limits how much landlords can charge for rent, and when the rent can be raised. There are different MARs depending on when the current tenant moved in. This guidebook provides additional details.
Campbell requires that all rent increases be “reasonable.” They also have other rules that help tenants. For example, a reduction in services without a reduction in rent is considered a rent increase. All renters in Campbell are eligible for information, counseling, conciliation and voluntary mediation services regarding tenant/landlord law. You will need to contact the Campbell Rent Mediation Program for more information.
Fremont has a Rent Review Ordinance. This ordinance covers all residential rentals in Fremont. They provide a review and formal hearing for any proposed rent increases that exceed 5% in any 12-month period.
All landlords in Fremont are required to provide written notice of rent increases to tenants. The notice must include the landlord’s contact information and the amount of the increase, as well as statements required by the Rent Review Ordinance about the availability of rent review in all languages. If the rent increase is over 5%, the notice must include an explanation of why the rent increase is needed.
Of course, the renter can request a Rent Review hearing for any rent increases that exceed the 5% limit.
Gardena requires landlords to provide a copy of the booklet “Rent Mediation and Hearing Procedures” to all new tenants. They also provide landlords to provide 30 days’ notice before increasing the rent 10% or less. If the increase is greater than 10%, the landlord must provide at least 60 days notice. Mobile Home Park tenants are required to receive 90 days notice.
Tenants have 10 days after the receipt of the notice to file a mediation petition with the City. This is done with the “Request for Mediation” form, which must be submitted to the City Manager’s Office. Within 30 days of receipt of the notice, the City staff and the Rent Mediation Board will schedule a hearing.
Glendale’s Rental Rights Program offers many protections to renters in the city. These protections include the right to lease (which requires landlords to offer leases that are at least 12 months long), relocation assistance for tenants who are compelled to move due to a rent increase of more than 7%, and a just cause eviction rule that limits eviction to 12 legal reasons. Details here.
My research indicated that Pasadena has or previously had some form of renter protection laws, but I have been unable to locate details.
My research indicated that San Diego has or previously had some form of renter protection laws, but I have been unable to locate details.
San Leandro has a Rent Review Board Ordinance that offers voluntary arbitration for complexes with two or more units. Tenants who receive notice of an eligible rent increase can request a hearing before the Rent Review Board.
Eligible rental increases include:
- An increase of more than 7% of the current rent
- More than one rent increase in a 12-month period
- The required City of San Leandro notice was not included in the rent increase notice