Fifteen cities across California have some form of rent control. But in each of these cities, rent control is limited in scope. In Los Angeles, the program is confined to apartment buildings constructed prior to October 1978. Similarly, rent control in San Francisco is limited to units in existence as of June 13, 1979–the date the Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance (commonly known as the San Francisco Rent Ordinance) went into effect. Statewide rent control laws were effectively frozen twenty-eight years ago when the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act was passed, eliminating rent control for single family homes, condominiums, and other separately alienable units; allowing California landlords to charge market rate after a tenant vacates a rent-controlled unit; and prohibiting city governments from applying rent control to units in buildings constructed after February 1, 1995.
In November, California tenants will have the opportunity to vote on Proposition 10, which would repeal Costa-Hawkins and empower cities to both strengthen and expand rent control in three especially important and necessary ways.
- Allow rent control to be applied to single-family homes, condominiums, and other separately alienable units.
Costa-Hawkins made it illegal for any separately alienable unit in California, such as a single-family home or condominium, to be rent-controlled. So, if you rent a single-family home in San Francisco–even though it was built before June 13, 1979, you have no rent control thanks to Costa-Hawkins. This law has created a loophole for landlords in rent ordinance jurisdictions like San Francisco by permitting them to effectively evict tenants otherwise subject to just cause for eviction protections by hiking rent to an amount the tenants can no longer afford, forcing them to leave. As a result, landlords realize huge profits. Allowing cities to apply rent control to single-family homes and condominiums will truly protect tenants from de facto “rent hike” evictions from these types of buildings.
- Legalize vacancy control.
Local laws are currently prohibited from including vacancy control, leaving landlords free to increase rents as high as they want to once a rental unit becomes vacant. As time passes and market rates climb, tenants in rent-controlled units find themselves targeted by landlords determined to evict them by any means necessary to enjoy market rents.
The Santa Monica Rent Control Board noted in its 2012 report that 63% of rent-controlled units were going for market rates and blamed Costa-Hawkins. If Prop 10 passes, California cities can elect to apply vacancy control, eliminating financial incentives to evict tenants.
- Legalize rent control on otherwise qualifying rental units built after February 1, 1995.
Costa-Hawkins also prohibited rent control on units otherwise eligible under local laws if those units were issued a certificate of occupancy (i.e., built) after February 1, 1995.
Thanks to Costa-Hawkins, tens and potentially hundreds of thousands of Californians are unable to enjoy the benefits of rent control in cities where it is otherwise available. Expanding rent control would prevent profit-driven evictions, keep families in their homes, and allow tenants to enjoy a greater sense of stability.
At Tenant Law Group, we strongly support any laws that keep renters in their homes, prevent the economic homogenization of cities, and reduce tenant abuse and harassment. If your rent was illegally increased, you were displaced from a rent-controlled apartment without legal justification or harassed by your landlord, or your rights as a renter were otherwise violated, contact us for a complimentary case evaluation. Our goal is to provide all tenants who contact our office, regardless of whether they end up retaining us, with information to help them achieve their desired outcome.