What is the Costa-Hawkins Act?

What does this 25-year old law have to do with you and your tenant’s rights?

The California Legislature passed the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act back in 1995. It was aimed at cities with rent control—including San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and East Palo Alto–and its intention was to help out landlords.

What the Law Allows

The Costa-Hawkins Act allows landlords to raise rents to “market” on apartments subject to rent control when the tenant moves out. The idea was to give landlords enough income to continue to renovate their buildings.

Who Got Hurt by the Law

However, now some tenants are reluctant to move because they can’t find similar apartments at the same rental rate. Low-income tenants, one group aimed at being helped by the rent-control law, are particularly hurt by the Costa-Hawkins Act.

The Intricacies

More intricacies occur when the master tenant moves out, leaving sub-tenants. The law permits a landlord to change the rent to a market rate for a sub-tenant if the sub-tenant did not reside there before January 1, 1995. Most importantly, no rent increase usually is permitted if the master tenant lives in the apartment and sublets with the landlord’s consent.

Are you facing a rent increase but are unsure of your tenant’s rights? You should consider contacting an experienced tenant attorney to learn more about how you can fight back.


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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Real Estate Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Mary Catherine Wiederhold
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Courtney Brown
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