The Tenant Protection Act and You

On January 1, 2020 AB 1482 (the California Tenant Protection Act of 2019) went into effect for 10 years. The Act was implemented to prevent price gouging and protect tenants through January 1, 2030.

Landlords Must Provide a “Just Cause” to End a Tenancy

After a tenant has continuously occupied their apartment for 12 months, the landlord may not terminate their tenancy without providing just cause. A rental agreement that expires at the end of a lease is not a just cause to force a tenant to leave.

What is “just cause?” It is simply one of several legal reasons to evict a tenant. Landlords are required to inform tenants exactly why they being asked to vacate. Typical just causes include failure to pay rent on time, creating a nuisance, participating in criminal activity at the property, and creating health or safety hazards for other tenants or neighbors. If a tenant chooses to challenge a just cause eviction, they can focus on refuting the landlord’s specific claim in an unlawful detainer.

AB 1482 also addresses “no fault” just cause. This might occur if a landlord (or a relative of the landlord) wishes to occupy the rental, or wants to withdraw the property from the rental market under the Ellis Act. Sometimes tenants must vacate due to orders issued by government agencies or courts to vacate the property.

Some types of rentals are exempt from just cause regulations, such as:

  • Specialty housing – dormitories owned by schools, tourist/transient hotels, licensed care facilities, etc.;
  • Single-family owner-occupied homes where no more than 2 units or bedrooms are rented. This includes Accessory Dwelling Units;
  • Commercial/business tenants; and
  • Housing in which a tenant shares a bathroom or kitchen facilities with a landlord who also resides there.

Limitation on Rent Increases

Woe be unto some California landlords who try to jack up or double your current rent. Statewide, annual rent increases are now capped at no more than 5% + the percentage change in the cost of living (CPI – Consumer Price Index) or 10% – whichever number is lower. If your landlord raises your rent too much, they are in violation of the Act. Different California cities and rural areas have widely different CPIs, and local regulations may override statewide protections. Note AB 1482 applies to rent increases retroactively to March 15, 2019.

Landlords are not allowed to raise rents more than twice in a 12-month period to reach the maximum allowable increase. A landlord still has a right to charge any amount of rent to a brand new tenant  – the Act only limits increases for existing tenants. In San Francisco, the Rent Ordinance allows a rent increase amount of 2.3% through February 28, 2023

Rent Increase Exemptions to AB 1482

Units built within the last 15 years (on a rolling date) are exempt, as are duplexes if the owner occupies one of the units for the entire duration of the tenancy. Single family homes and condos are only exempt if they are not owned by a REIT, (Real Estate Investment Trust), corporation or LLC with at least one corporate member, and the landlord provides written notice the tenancy is not subject to just cause and rent increase limitations. Most subsidized housing for low-to moderate income households is exempt.

If You Think You’ve Received an Unlawful Rent Increase

The actual language of AB-1482 is complex and is full of key dates and tricky exemptions. If you believe you received an illegal rent increase, you have some options. For San Francisco tenants , contact the Rent Board at 415-252-4600. You can get detailed information on allowable increases and file an official report with resources found on their website. Your landlord will be notified if your report is deemed valid.

The Tenant Protection Act was Created For You

The housing crises drove the Legislature to put stronger brakes on sharp increases on rents. The Act is relatively new, and local regulations vary widely. Think of this 10-year experiment as uncharted waters.  Many attorneys and even judges are not yet familiar with the nuances of the Act. If you believe your rent was illegally increased, or you are facing a “just cause” eviction, contact a tenant attorney.

Know Your Rights. Protect Yourself.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Real Estate Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Mary Catherine Wiederhold
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