Berkeley has the strictest rent control in the nation. If you are a tenant of Berkeley, that means good news for you, since this city has rent ceilings, requires just causefor eviction, and forces landlords to pay interest payments on security deposits.

Rent Ceilings

A rent ceiling is the maximum rent a landlord can charge the tenants for a certain unit. Landlords can only raise the rent for an existing tenant by a certain amount each year, or the Annual General Adjustment (AGA). This rent ceiling increase is established by the Rent Stabilization Board.

A landlord must give at least 30 days notice of this increase to the tenant. If a tenant is on a fixed-term lease, the landlord must wait until its expiration before applying the AGA.

However, when the the property is “decontrolled”, the landlord can raise the rent to the market value. A residential unit becomes decontrolled when the the last tenant of the original tenancy group has moved out, voluntarily or having been evicted. When a new tenancy begins, the property is considered “re-controlled”, and the rent ceilings apply once more.

Some rental units are exempt from rent ceilings:

  • Government housing
  • University housing
  • Units leased by the Berkeley Housing Authority, or to Section 8 tenants
  • Single-family residences (some exceptions)
  • New Construction – Rental units built after June 30, 1980 not including units created through rehabilitation or conversion

Just Cause

The landlord can only evict the tenants when he or she has “just cause”. Under the provisions of the Berkeley Rent Ordinance, a landlord may give a tenant notice to vacate for the following reasons:

  1. Failure to pay legal rent
  2. Tenant violates rental agreement
  3. Tenant willfully causes damage
  4. Tenant refuses to accept new rental agreement after old one expires (if substantially identical)
  5. Tenant is disturbing other tenants
  6. Tenants refuses to allow landlord acces after proper notice.
  7. Landlord wishes to make substantial “housing code” repairs where the tenant cannot live there while the repairs are being made.
    1. When repairs are made in 60 days or fewer and tenant agrees to leave, landlord cannot reclaim unit.
    2. If landlord owns another property he or she must notify tenant of the existence of vacant units and offer tenant:
      1. A new agreement in these units at not more than the rent he or she is currently paying
      2. A temporary agreement
  8. Landlord wishes to demolish building
  9. Landlord wishes to move in self, child, or parent
    1. Landlord may not recover possession if a vacant unit is available or if one becomes vacant prior to tenant vacating.
    2. Landlord must be at least 50% owner
  10. Landlord seeks to recover possession for his/her principal residence
  11. Tenant fails to vacate under agreement of temporary agreementNote: When landlord evicts tenants to move in self or family, landlord or family must reside there for at least 6 months.

Measure Y, which was passed in 2000, adds more conditions to “just cause”:

  • Landlord or relative must move in within 3 months and reside for 3 years and must be at least 50% owner.
  • Landlord cannot evict if:
    • They own an available and comparable unit in Berkeley
    • The tenant is disabled or over 60 and has been a resident of the unit for over 5 years
    • They have 10% or more ownership interest in 5 or more units in Berkeley
  • The above exceptions do not apply if landlord owns 3 or fewer units in Berkeley
  • Landlord must allow tenant to return if unit becomes available
  • Low-income tenants who are residents for at least a year recieve $4,500 from the landlord

Interest Payments on Security Deposits

Security deposits must be deposited in an interest-bearing account. The tenant must recieve this interest on an annual basis, by January 10. If the landlord does not credit the interest by January 10, the tenant is entitled to 10% of the deposit, not merely the actual rate of interest.

When advance rent is required for periods of six months or more, the tenant is entitled to 20% of the amount held, to be paid at the end of the year.

Exemptions to Rent Control

In addition to those exempt from rent ceilings, other residential units are exempt from the provisions of rent control entirely:

  • Non-profit co-op housing
  • Units where the tenant shares kitchen or bath facilities with the owner (or at least 50% interest) if it is the owner’s primary residence
  • Units rented primarily for less than 14 consecutive days and subject to the hotel tax
  • Units on a two unit property where one unit is the principal residence of a 50% owner
  • Units in a hospital, nursing, or health facility, asylum, or non-profit elderly home

Additional Documents: