While San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have had rent control and eviction protection laws in place for decades, tenants living in other cities around the Bay Area have not been so lucky. As a result, tenants in these cities have seen huge rent increases and a significant spike in evictions. Thankfully, there has been some pushback of late. In November 2016, several cities voted into law new rent control and eviction protections. Below is a rundown of some of the new laws in the Bay Area.
Voters in Mountain View instituted rent control (at 2% to 5% annually, for units built prior to February 1, 1995) as well as a strong just-cause eviction law, which applies to all units built prior to April 5, 2017. Even San Francisco doesn't have that (limited to pre-June 1979 buildings) Measure V, as the law is known, also provides for a rent rollback for covered units to the 2015 rate or the rate established at the initiation of tenancy, and establishes a Rental Housing Committee to enforce the law.
Until early May 2017, the landlord lobbyist group California Apartment Association was fighting the Mountain View ordinance in court, arguing that rent control was unconstitutional and trammeled on the rights of property owners. However, after a judge denied the group’s request for an injunction to halt enactment of the ballot measure, the CAA dropped their lawsuit, leaving renters in Mountain View to enjoy the law’s protections. A full version of the new ordinance can be found here.
Richmond voters passed a similar law to Mountain View’s, which caps annual rent increases at 100% of the Consumer Price Index. (CPI varies each year, but generally this means that rent increases will be capped at 1% to 4% per year.) The Richmond law rolls back some rents to 2015 levels; creates a Rent Board to enforce the rules; and requires just cause for evictions. A full version of the new ordinance can be found here.
Richmond’s rule also puts a pause on rent increases in covered units until September 1, 2017, at which point the Rent Board will determine the allowable rates.
As in Mountain View, the California Apartment Association attempted to block Richmond’s ordinance through legal means. And just like in Mountain View, the CAA dropped their lawsuit after judges rejected the landlords’ arguments.
The Santa Rosa City Council passed a rent control law in August 2016 -- only to have the law blocked by a petition campaign the next month. Now the city is set to put the issue before voters in a special election set for June 6, 2017.
Tenants’ advocates in Santa Rosa are working to muster local support for the ballot measure, while landlords and their lobbyist groups are pouring money into the fight. As of March 20, landlords--including the same CAA that attempted to block Richmond’s and Mountain View’s laws--had contributed $390,000 to a political group opposing Measure C.
If voted in, Measure C would institute just cause eviction protections and cap rent increases at 3% for covered buildings. If you’d like to see Santa Rosa tenants increase their protections, you can get involved, volunteer or donate here. With the new SMART train expected to open in the near future connecting Santa Rosa to San Rafael, housing prices in Santa Rosa will only continue to increase so putting some protections on rent will be critical to maintaining Santa Rosa's affordability.
Oakland voters opted to expand existing protections in four ways.
In Berkeley, renters won bigger relocation payments and some additional rights:
Alameda has a higher rate of homeownership than most Bay Area cities, and perhaps not coincidentally, managed to pass only relatively weak tenant protections in 2016. The 2016 measure, Measure L1, does not establish caps on rent increases; however, it mandates mediation for rent increases above five percent. It also establishes just cause eviction protections for most tenancies, and requires relocation payments in certain cases, such as when tenants are senior or disabled.
East Palo Alto already has had fairly strong tenant laws for many years. This measure clarified a few points, including establishing that rent increases can occur only once per year, and that increases cannot exceed 10% annually.
Taken all together, the 2016 elections demonstrated that many Bay Area cities are ready for tougher tenant protections. What’s more, local organizing for all these movements has strengthened tenants’ groups throughout the region.
Another lesson of 2016? Landlords will not hesitate to fund expensive propaganda and legal campaigns to fight against tenants’ rights. If you support stronger rent control laws, you might consider joining a tenants’ group in your city or county, a statewide organizing group like Tenants Together, or a national network like Right to the City.
Recovered on behalf of a San Francisco couple who were forced to give up their home of over twenty years after their landlord’s dog attacked and killed their dog.Read More
Recovered on behalf of an Oakland tenant who suffered a serious injury due to her landlord’s negligent maintenance of her home.Read More
Recovered on behalf of a San Francisco tenant who suffered personal injuries and was forced to vacate his home of fifteen years after dealing with many months of environmental contamination and disruptive and nuisance construction conditions.Read More
Recovered on behalf of a group of 30 tenants living in an SRO in San Francisco who were living with horrendous conditions in their rent controlled apartments, including rodents, bedbugs, mold, water leaks and harassment.Read More
Recovered on behalf of three families living in a building in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood who were forced to live with substandard conditions for years as a result of their landlord’s negligence, including issues with lack of heat, lack of hot water and cockroach/rat infestations.Read More
Recovered on behalf of a couple living in a rent-controlled home in the outer Sunset neighborhood. Our clients were forced to vacate after the landlord served them with an Owner Move-In Eviction Notice. After the landlords failed to move into the property, our clients filed suit for wrongful eviction.Read More
Recovered on behalf of a San Francisco tenant in Russian Hill. Tenant was forced to vacate her illegal apartment in retaliation for reporting unlawful rent increases to the San Francisco Rent Board.Read More
Recovered for a single long-term tenant in San Francisco. Our client was forced to move out of his apartment as a result of extreme landlord harassment.Read More
Recovered on behalf of three long-term tenants in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood who were constructively evicted due to noise and nuisance conditions created by their downstairs neighbors, which the owner refused to address.Read More
Recovered on behalf of elderly, disabled tenant who was forced to move out of her rent-controlled San Francisco apartment of 50 years after landlord/owner failed to resolve numerous building code violations that remained outstanding for over a decade.Read More
Recovered on behalf of seven tenants living in a makeshift boarding house in East Palo Alto.Read More
Recovered on behalf of two former San Francisco tenants who were evicted via an Owner Move-In Eviction and owner failed to occupy the unit as her primary place of residence.Read More
Recovered on behalf of an elderly long-term tenant who was forced to vacate her long San Francisco apartment as a result of her landlord’s refusal to address longstanding defective conditions, including lack of heat, mold, rodent infestations, and defective plumbing. Read More
Recovered on behalf of a San Francisco tenant who was forced to vacate his home as a result of ongoing, disruptive construction and the owners’ refusal to provide him with alternative housing. Read More
Recovered on behalf of a San Francisco family that was constructively evicted from their home in the Richmond District as a result of unlawful rent increases, defective conditions and tenant harassment.Read More
Recovered on behalf of a tenant living in an illegal “in-law” unit. In this case, a new owner purchased the building and then demolished our client’s unit without permits while she was displaced for seismic retrofitting.Read More
Recovered on behalf of two long term San Francisco tenants who were fraudulently evicted from their home of over twenty years under the pretext of an owner move-in eviction.Read More
Recovered for tenant who was injured when their stairway railing collapsed at the tenant’s Mission District apartment building.Read More
Recovered in action for a group of tenants forced to vacate their San Francisco apartment house due to severe habitability defects including mold and water leaks.Read More