Rent Control Policies

Rent Control

There are 15 cities in California have rent control, or Rent Stabilization Ordinances (RSOs), including San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, and Los Angeles. Each city has a different set of rules that protects tenants from unreasonable rent raises.

In Los Angeles, the RSO does not cover every rental home. The ordinance only applies to properties that contain more than one rental unit and were built before 1978.

If your unit is protected by LA RSO, your landlord is legally allowed to raise your rent between 3% and 8% (tied to the Consumer Price Index) every 12 months with proper 30-day written notice.

If your landlord pays for your gas and/or electricity, your allowable rent increase is the legal allowable maximum above plus 1% for gas and/or 1% for electricity.

If your landlord is attempting to raise your rent beyond the legal allowable maximum, you can file a complaint with the Los Angeles Housing Department by clicking here.

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Costa Hawkins is a statewide law that curbs rent control. The law gives property owners in rent-controlled areas the right to set newly vacant dwellings at market rate prices. Typically, the market rate price is far above the previous rent-controlled price. So, when the market rate price is installed, an affordable unit disappears from the city’s inventory of affordable housing.

Costa-Hawkins gives landlords a financial incentive to evict tenants in rent-controlled units so that they can raise the price of the unit. But the law states that a newly vacant dwelling set at market rate must be the result of a voluntary move. Landlords who force tenants out but claim the move was voluntary are breaking the law. As a tenant, you are protected from harassment and no fault evictions.

The law also kicks in statewide for any new apartment units built after 1995. Prominent Los Angeles developer Geoff Palmer won a California Supreme Court case in 2009 using the Costa-Hawkins Act. Palmer was able to bypass an LA city policy that would have required him to replace affordable housing stock lost to his development. Costa Hawkins protects developers like Palmer by giving them the right to set new apartments at market rate, ignoring the dire need for units that are affordable.

Ellis Act

The Ellis Act is another state law that hinders tenant protections.  It gives landlords the right to “go out of business.”

If a landlord for any reason wants to stop renting, the Ellis Act gives them that right. Reasons include using the unit for themselves or their family, but in areas that are being quickly gentrified large developers are the ones benefitting the most. After buying a rent controlled property, developers can legally evict tenants to turn the units into condominiums. By evicting the tenants, they technically go out of the rental business. The evicted tenants experience a harsh reality — market rate prices in their newly gentrified neighborhoods are some of the most unaffordable prices in the state.

Tenants evicted via the Ellis Act have a right to relocation money, however it is rarely enough to sustain living in the area they were evicted from.

The good news is, buildings who face being “Ellis’d” have organized and are largely successful.

Tips on how to organize against the Ellis Act can be found here.