San José Apartment Rent Ordinance
What is the San José Apartment Rent Ordinance?
The original San José Rent Ordinance was established in 1979 to stabilize rent prices in the City of San José. The Ordinance created limitations on the amount rent may be increased each year, capped the amount of costs that could be passed onto tenants, required landlords to provide notice to the City of San José of rent increases, and established a dispute resolution process for tenants and landlords. You may learn more by reading the city’s findings contained in San José Municipal Code section 17.23.020.
- Does my rental unit qualify for rent control under the San José Apartment Rent Ordinance?
According to San José Municipal Code section 17.23.310, a landlord may only raise rent for a covered rental unit by 5% of the rent charged in the preceding twelve months. The San José Apartment Rent Ordinance considers all rental units that are part of a multiple dwelling building or guesthouse that received a certificate of occupancy or was offered for rent before September 7, 1979 to be covered by rent control. As set out by Section 17.23.167(B), there are certain exceptions to this rule.
If you can answer “No,” to all of the following questions, then your unit is likely covered by rent control:
- Is your rental unit part of a hotel, motel, or other similar place of transient accommodation?
- Is your unit located in a monastery, convent, school dormitory, fraternity/sorority house, hospital, extended care facility, , emergency residential shelter, residential care facility, residential service facility, or nonprofit home for senior citizens?
- Is your unit regulated or subsidized by a government agency?
- Is your unit in a building that contains only one or two rental units?
- Does my landlord need just cause for eviction to evict me under the San José Apartment Rent Ordinance?
San José Municipal Code section 17.23.1240 incorporates just cause for eviction protections into its Tenant Protection ordinance. As set out in the Tenant Protection Ordinance Section 17.23.1230, if your unit falls into one of the categories listed below it is covered by San José’s just cause for eviction protections:
- Units subject to rent control under the Apartment Rent Ordinance,
- Units in multiple dwelling buildings except for permitted hotels and motels,
- Guest rooms in any guesthouse, and
- Unpermitted units.
However, despite being covered by San José’s just cause for eviction ordinance, if you answer “Yes” to any of the following questions, your landlord may have just cause to evict you pursuant to the legitimate just causes for eviction listed in Section 17.23.1250:
- Have you failed to pay rent after receiving a notice to pay rent that states the amount legally owed, the name and address of the landlord to which it should be paid, and a period of time at least three days from the date of the notice has expired?
- Have you committed a material (serious) or habitual (repeated) violation of a term of your tenancy, or failed to correct a breach of your rental agreement after receiving a notice and appropriate time to do so?
- Have you caused damage beyond normal wear and tear to your rental unit or the property of which it is a part, and either refused to pay for the damage or to cease causing damage after being given notice to do so?
- Have you refused to sign a new rental agreement with terms that are substantially the same as those in your previous rental agreement after it has expired?
After receiving a notice to stop, have you:
- Engaged in criminal activity
- Acted in a disorderly manner
- Created a nuisance that interfered with the peace of the landlord or any occupant of the property in which your rental unit is a part
- Created a nuisance that interfered with their ability to quietly enjoy the benefits of their own rental units?
- Have you refused to give your landlord access to your unit after being given notice to do so and a reasonable time to comply?
- Are you a subtenant who was never approved by your landlord who continues to occupy a unit after the master tenant moved out?
Is your landlord planning to perform substantial rehabilitation work on your unit that requires you to move out and have they met their requirements to:
- Obtain permits
- Notify you of your right to return
- Pay your relocation expenses?
- Is your landlord removing the property from the rental market?
- Is the landlord moving into your rental unit or moving a spouse, parent, child, or sibling into the unit when the landlord already lives in the same building?
- Is the landlord requiring you to vacate to comply with a court or government order?
- Is your landlord requiring you to vacate to remove an unpermitted unit from the rental market after paying you relocation expenses?
- Have you failed to remove an occupant from the household who has been indicted or held to answer for serious criminal charges, after receiving notice from your landlord to do so?
- Will I receive relocation payments if my landlord evicts me for just cause under the San José Apartment Rent Ordinance?
The Tenant Protection Ordinance requires the landlords pay tenants relocation expenses for no fault just cause evictions.
- San José Municipal Code Section 17.23.1150 requires that if you are evicted because the landlord is removing your unit from the rental market, you are entitled to a base payment described in the City’s Ellis Act Ordinance. As an alternative, the landlord may offer an equivalent rent-controlled unit as a substitution, but the tenants are not obligated to accept the substitution.
You are also entitled to an additional qualified payment if you are part
of a lower income household, or one or more of the tenants in your unit is:
- Over the age of 62,
- Cares for someone who is below eighteen years of age and is a K-12 student.
- Section 17.23.1240(B)(1) requires a landlord who is moving into the unit, or is performing substantial rehabilitation, to pay the same base assistance as required by the Ellis Act Ordinance.
- Section 17.23.1240(B)(3) requires a landlord removing an unpermitted unit to pay the same base assistance as required by the Ellis Act Ordinance.
- Section 17.20.2060 requires that if a landlord requires tenants to vacate to comply with a government or court order to bring a unit up to code, then the landlord must also provide alternative housing at no additional expense. However, if the tenant will not be able to return within sixty days, the landlord must pay either three months’ rent or three months’ fair market value for an equivalent unit and moving expenses as relocation assistance.
- Does the San José Apartment Rent Ordinance prohibit landlord harassment?
The City of San José has enacted a Tenant Protection Ordinance to address tenant harassment. If a tenant is displaced by a landlord’s violation of the Tenant Protection Ordinance, the tenant may sue for actual and exemplary damages to punish the bad behavior and discourage future bad acts. The landlord must also pay the tenant’s attorney’s fees. The tenant may also get an order from the court prohibiting the landlord from doing anything similar. Under Section 17.23.1280, if it is shown that the landlord willfully violated the protections of the San José Tenant Protection Ordinance, the landlord must pay triple actual damages.
According to Section 17.23.1270, it is unlawful for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant for exercising rights under the Tenant Protection Ordinance by increasing rent, reducing housing services, reporting or threatening to report a tenant, household, or person known by the landlord to be associated with a tenant to immigration authorities, serving a notice to terminate to quit or notice of termination, threatening to bring or bringing a legal action to recover possession, or causing the tenant to vacate involuntarily.
- What are my remedies under the San José Apartment Rent Ordinance if my landlord improperly raises my rent?
If you believe your landlord has raised your rent beyond the amount allowed by the Apartment Rent Ordinance, you may file a petition with the Rent Stabilization Program as set forth by Section 17.23.350. An examiner will review the case and issue a decision setting the allowable rent.
- What are my remedies under the San José Apartment Rent Ordinance if my landlord evicts me without just cause?
The San José Apartment Rent Ordinance provides tenants a right to sue a landlord for wrongful eviction under Section 17.23.550.
A landlord who evicts a tenant in violation of the Apartment Rent Ordinance is liable to the tenant for a fine of $10,000.00 as well as actual costs including moving expenses. The tenant is also entitled to attorney’s fees and legal costs. If the tenant can demonstrate that the landlord violated the Tenant Protection Ordinance, the tenant may also obtain exemplary damages, or triple damages if the landlord willfully violated the Tenant Protection Ordinance according to Section 17.23.1280 as described above.
If you are forced to move out of a rent-controlled unit, then you may sue your landlord for what is referred to as wrongful eviction and demand rent differential or loss of use.
This amount is calculated as follows:
- First, calculate the difference between the current fair market monthly rental rate for your unit and the monthly rent you were paying at the time of the eviction without just cause
- Next, multiply this by the number of months you would have stayed in the rental unit if you had not been wrongfully evicted
If you are elderly or have a disability, you may also claim triple the amount in damages if you can show that your landlord acted with intentional disregard of the fact you were disabled or elderly and would suffer from the loss of your home.
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