A landlord can increase rent without limitations whenever a unit becomes vacant. This is sometimes called “vacancy de-control,” and is made possible by the 1995 state law known as Costa Hawkins, which counteracted some of the “strong” rent-control measures previously put in place by cities like Berkeley and SF.
Original Occupants and Vacancy De-Control
In San Francisco, vacancy de-control is also regulated by city ordinance §6.14.
Costa Hawkins allow landlords to raise the rent on an otherwise rent controlled unit to market rate when the “last original occupant” no longer live in the unit. In San Francisco, to raise the rent legally, a landlord must file a “Petition for a Determination Pursuant to the Section 6.14 and/or Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act” with the San Francisco Rent Board. A judge will hear evidence presented by the landlord and the tenant, and issue a ruling on whether the current tenants are entitled to continued rent control.
What does “last original occupant” mean?
Original occupant(s) means one or more individuals who took possession of a unit with the express consent of the landlord at the time that the base rent for the unit was first established with respect to the vacant unit. The original occupant doesn’t have to be named on the lease but must be able to show they moved in at the same time as the named person on the lease. A “Subsequent occupant” means an individual who became an occupant of a rental unit while the rental unit was occupied by at least one original occupant.
Costa Hawkins Rent Increase Notices
If you’re a tenant who’s received notice of this type of petition, it’s not a lost cause. Depending on your relationship with the landlord, the length of your tenancy, and other factors, you may still have a right to rent control. A tenant’s attorney can advise you on the validity of the landlord’s petition, and possibly represent you at the Rent Board.
No Rent Control for Single Family Homes or Condos
Costa Hawkins also is the reason why rent control measures can only apply to properties with two or more units. Single family homes, as well as most condos (when a landlord owns only one unit in the building), are excluded from rent control (with some exceptions).
Rent Control and Eviction Control Limited to Buildings Built Pre 1995
Costa Hawkins also is the reason why newly constructed buildings are exempt from rent control and eviction control protections in California. While in San Francisco only buildings built prior to June 1979 are covered by the Rent Ordinance, Costa-Hawkins technically sets the cut off for applicable rent ordinances at 1995.