The Berkeley Rent Ordinance’s rent control protections (“Berkeley Rent Control”) keep Berkeley tenants housed by limiting rent increases to reasonable amounts.  For units protected by Berkeley Rent Control, the landlord is limited to annual increases set by the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board. The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board refers to these annual permissible rent increases as Annual General Adjustments.

What Units Are Covered Under Berkeley Rent Control?

Berkeley Rent Control covers all residential rental units in the City of Berkeley, except:

  • Rental units owned by a government agency;
  • Rental units rented primarily to transient guests for fewer than fourteen consecutive days;
  • Rental units in nonprofit cooperatives owned and controlled by a majority of the residents;
  • Rental units leased to tenants assisted under Section 8 (42 U.S.C. section 1437f) or Shelter Plus Care Program (42 U.S.C. section 11403 et seq.), or other similar federally funded rent subsidy programs.  However, this exception will not apply where the landlord collects rent greater than the authorized program payment standard;
  • Rental units in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, health facility, asylum, or nonprofit home for the aged;
  • Rental units in golden duplexes;
  • Rental units where the owner shares kitchen or bath facilities with the tenant(s) and occupies part of the unit as their primary residence;
  • Newly constructed rental units with an initial certificate of occupancy issued after June 30, 1980;
  • Rental units rented by a nonprofit, or university to students, faculty, or university staff, where the nonprofit or university owned the unit on or before January 1, 1988;
  • Rental units owned by 501(c)(3) nonprofits rented to low-income tenants where the government controls the unit’s rent levels via regulatory agreement;
  • Rental units owned or leased by 501(c)(3) organizations operating a treatment, recovery, therapy, sanctuary, or shelter program for clients, where rental units are provided incidentally to the client’s program participation;
  • Rental units or rooms rented by active UC Berkeley fraternity or sorority associations;
  • Rental units in residential property containing a lawfully established and fully permitted cottage or accessory dwelling unit where the owner resides at the property as their principal residence. Berkeley Municipal Code § 13.76.050.

Please note that some units exempted from Berkeley Rent Control may be covered under California Rent Control.

Under Berkeley Rent Control, How Much Can A Landlord Increase the Rent?

Around October 31st of each year, the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board announces the permissible Annual General Adjustment, which takes effect January 1 of the new year.  Berkeley Municipal Code § 13.76.110.    This number – a percentage to be applied to the tenant’s base rent – represents the maximum amount a Berkeley landlord can increase a Berkeley tenant’s rent for the year.  The maximum amount of rent a Berkeley landlord may charge is referred to as a rent ceiling.  Berkeley Municipal Code § 13.76.100.

Effective January 1, 2020, the Annual General Adjustment for Berkeley rent-controlled units in 2020 is 2.1%. Click here to calculate your 2020 AGA!

How do Berkeley Tenants Calculate Their Berkeley Rent Control Base Rent?

For tenancies created after May 31, 1980, the tenant’s initial rent paid is the base rent.  Berkeley Municipal Code § 13.76.100.  For tenancies created on or before May 31, 1980, the base rent is the rent in effect on May 31, 1980.  Id.

What Rent Increase Requirements Apply to Berkeley Landlords?

Although the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board publishes Annual General Adjustments, Berkeley landlords must follow state and city law when increasing rent.  Berkeley Municipal Code § 13.76.110.  To increase the rent, landlords must serve written rent increase notices that provide 30 days’ notice where the rent increase is less than ten percent.  California Civil Code § 827.  For rent increases of ten percent or more, the landlord must provide 90 days’ written notice.  Id.  Rent increases that took effect during the previous 12 months are included for purposes of calculating rent increase percentages.  Id.

How Can Berkeley Tenants Fight Annual General Adjustments?

Under Berkeley Rent Control, Berkeley landlords cannot increase rent where:

  • The landlord has not complied with Berkeley Rent Stabilization Orders regarding the Berkeley Rent Ordinance;
  • The unit is uninhabitable;
  • The landlord has made repairs required by the Berkeley housing inspector; or,
  • Acting in bad faith, the Landlord has not completely registered the rental unit by July 1. Berkeley Municipal Code § 13.76.110.

Please note that a landlord who was previously out of compliance comes into compliance with the Berkeley Rent Ordinance, all lost Annual General Adjustments may be restored.  Regulations of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Regulation 1278.

Does Berkeley Rent Control Permit Rent Increase Banking?

Yes, Berkeley Rent Control permits Berkeley landlords to bank lawful rent increases to save for later use.  However, landlords must comply with California Civil Code section 827 and provide 90 days’ written notice for rent increases of ten percent or more. California Civil Code § 827.

Can the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Adjust Rent?

Yes, in addition to annual allowable increases, the Berkeley Rent Ordinance permits a landlord to petition the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board for an individual rent increase for certain reasons.  Berkeley Municipal Code § 13.76.120.  Under the Berkeley Rent Ordinance, a landlord can petition to increase the rent for, in part, increased occupancy, capital improvements, or due to a change in space or services. A tenant has the right to contest a landlord petition for rent increase.  Notably, the Berkeley Rent Ordinance permits a tenant to file a petition for a decrease in services for, in part, substantial deterioration of the unit, the landlord’s failure to provide adequate services, or breach of the rental agreement.

My Landlord May Have Violated the Berkeley Rent Control, Do I have a Claim?

Yes, you may have a claim for unlawful rent increase or wrongful eviction, which could entitle you to money damages.  Unscrupulous Berkeley landlords often increase rent to an amount in violation of Berkeley Rent Control, or in lieu of performing a Berkeley Ellis Act eviction, or Berkeley owner or relative move-in eviction.  Contact Astanehe Law to discuss the Berkeley Rent Ordinance, Berkeley Rent Control, or California Rent Control with an attorney today.