Associations representing tenants and landlords are getting flooded with questions about the statewide rent- and eviction-control law that took effect in California Jan. 1.
The most common one is: “Does this apply to me?”
The answer generally depends on the type of property, its age, whether the owner is a person or business entity and how long a tenant has occupied the unit.
AB1482, the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, limits annual rent increases to 5% plus an inflation rate, or 10% — whichever is less. It also prevents landlords from evicting tenants, even after their fixed-term lease runs out, except for a limited number of “just causes.” An individual property could be exempt from rent control, eviction control, both or neither.
The new law generally does not apply to units that are already subject to a local rent control ordinance. However, a unit could be exempt from a local ordinance but subject to the new state law, said Sasha Harnden, a housing policy advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
Here are brief answers to common questions. For more details, consult a landlord or tenant association or attorney or read the law online.
Q: What properties are exempt from rent control under AB1482?
A: Any type of rental property that was completed (based on its certificate of occupancy date) within the past 15 years is exempt. Once it turns 15 years old, it becomes subject to rent control, even if it’s in the middle of a lease, unless it qualifies for a different exemption.
The rent cap does not apply to single-family homes and condo units, regardless of age, as long as it meets two tests. It must be “separately alienable,” meaning it can be sold separately from any other dwelling unit. And the owner generally must be a person or revocable trust set up by one. The owner cannot be a real estate investment trust, corporation or limited liability corporation that has at least one corporation as a member.
To get this exemption, the owner must provide a specific notice to the tenant.
A duplex, triplex or larger apartment building is not separately alienable. The law, however, specifically exempts duplexes if the owner lives in one unit during the entire time of the tenancy.
The law does not define a duplex, so it’s unclear whether a single-family home with a detached unit, like a backyard cottage, would qualify as a duplex under this exemption, said Stephanie Shirkey, senior policy and compliance counsel with the California Apartment Association, which represents landlords.
There are also exemptions for “affordable housing” units, where rents are restricted by deed or government agency, and college dorms. There is disagreement as to whether renters with Section 8 vouchers are protected under the state law.
More information on state rent control
For tenants: To see if you are protected, find allowable rent increases and other information, use the interactive tool at https://tenantprotections.org or call 1-888-428-7615.
For landlords: The California Apartment Association has information and new forms incorporating AB1482 for members at caanet.org. Nonmembers who register as a guest can access an overview of the law and interactive tools to see if they are exempt and calculate allowable rent increases.
Read the law:bit.ly/carentcontrol
Q: What properties are exempt from eviction control?
A: The properties above that are exempt from rent control are also exempt from the new eviction controls. Two property types are exempt from eviction control, but not rent control: Properties in which a tenant shares a bathroom or kitchen with the owner, and owner-occupied properties (other than duplexes) if the owner rents no more than two units or bedrooms. The latter exemption would cover a home with an accessory dwelling unit or triplex if the owner occupies one unit, Shirkey said.
Q: What notices does a landlord have to provide?
A: Individuals who own a single-family home or condo only get the exemption from rent and eviction control if they give tenants a written notice of their exemption using a specific statement in the law. If the tenancy starts or renews on or after July 1, the notice must be provided in the rental agreement. For existing tenancies, landlords should provide a stand-alone notice as soon as possible. For tenancies that start between now and June 30, landlords can provide a stand-alone notice or put it in the lease, Shirkey said. When the tenancy renews, the notice must be in the lease.
Failing to provide this notice “could be a gotcha” for single-family rentals, Shirkey said.
If a unit is subject to both rent and eviction control under AB1482, the landlord must provide a notice informing the tenant of those protections.
If the unit is subject to neither — because it’s less than 15 years old or an owner-occupied duplex, for example — no notice is required.
Q: What is the rent cap in my area?
A: The cap is 5% plus an inflation rate that varies by region. It takes effect Jan. 1 for all units subject to the rent cap. However, if a landlord increased the rent by more than the allowable amount between March 15, 2019, and Jan. 1, the rent on Jan. 1 must be rolled back to the rent as of March 15, 2019, plus the allowable increase. The landlord does not have to refund any rent paid between March 15, 2019 and Jan. 1 that exceeded the allowable increase.
Q: What is the inflation rate?
A: It’s the annual percentage change in the consumer price index between April 1 of the current year and the previous year.
In four metro areas — San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside — it’s the annual change reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for that area. For the San Francisco area (San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Alameda and Contra Costa counties), the inflation rate for last April is 4.01%, so the total allowable rent increase is 9.01%.
For all other areas, it’s the change in the California consumer price index reported by the Department of Industrial Relations. It’s currently 3.34%, for a total cap of 8.34%.
Q: Can an owner raise the rent more than 5% plus inflation to cover capital improvements?
A: No, some local ordinances allow this; the state ‘s does not.
Q: How does eviction control work?
A: Landlords have always been able to evict tenants for not paying the rent, violating the lease, conducting criminal activity on the property or other causes for which the tenants are at fault. That doesn’t change under the new law.
Under previous state law, landlords could also evict tenants for no cause, with the required advance notice, and could choose not to renew a fixed-term lease (unless the unit is subject to local eviction-control laws).
Under the new state law, landlords can only evict tenants who have occupied the unit for a certain length of time for specified “just causes.” These include causes for which the tenant is at fault, and a limited number of causes for which they are not at fault.
These no-fault causes include the owner’s intent to occupy the unit or move in a spouse, domestic partner, children, grandchildren, parents, or grandparents; demolish or to substantially remodel the property; or take the property off the rental market. They can also evict if a government orders it.
Before evicting a tenant, however, the landlord must give the tenant, in writing, the reason for the eviction and whether it’s an at-fault or no-fault cause. For no-fault evictions, the landlord must pay the tenant one month’s rent to cover relocation expenses.
Q: How long does the tenant have to occupy the unit to be protected under the law?
A: Tenants are protected under the rent-control provision as of Jan. 1 no matter how long they’ve occupied it.
Tenants are protected under the eviction provision after they have occupied the unit for at least 12 months. However, if a tenant brings in another adult over 18 (i.e. a roommate) before the original tenant has occupied the unit for at least 24 months, then the tenants are not protected under AB1482 until one of them has been there at least 24 months. “If I have already lived there two years, I can move in a roommate” and still be protected, Harnden said.
Q: Who enforces the new law?
A: The law did not set up an enforcement mechanism, so it’s unclear. Harnden said it could be enforced through legal aid groups that do eviction defense. Parties with a gripe may need to hire a lawyer.
Q: Is there any limit on what a landlord can charge when a tenant moves out?
A: No, the law did not establish vacancy control, so owners of non-exempt units can raise the rent to any amount after a tenant leaves.