California's Rent Increase Laws 2024: What Tenants Should Know

California’s Rent Increase Laws 2024: What Tenants Should Know

California tenants grapple with rising housing costs. Thankfully, certain laws offer some protection against excessive rent increases. Understanding these laws is crucial to safeguard your rights as a renter. This article breaks down California’s rent increase restrictions, highlights city-specific ordinances, and offers guidance on what to do if your landlord attempts an unlawful increase.

California’s rental market is notoriously expensive. Many tenants face the constant worry of sharp rent increases that displace them from their homes. Fortunately, the California Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482) and local rent control ordinances provide some level of stability. If you’re a California renter, knowing your rights is essential to avoid being priced out of your current residence.

The California Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (AB 1482)

This statewide law places restrictions on how much landlords can increase rent in most residential properties. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Rent Increase Cap: Landlords cannot increase rent by more than 5% of the current rent plus the local rate of inflation, or a maximum of 10%, whichever is lower. Inflation is measured using the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
  • Exemptions: AB 1482 does not apply to all rental units. Exemptions include:
    • Single-family homes and condos, unless owned by a corporation or real estate investment trust (REIT)
    • Housing built within the past 15 years
    • Dorms
    • Some government-subsidized or regulated housing
  • Just Cause Evictions: AB 1482 also provides tenants with “just cause” eviction protections. This means a landlord must have a legally valid reason to evict you, such as non-payment of rent or a lease violation.

Local Rent Control Ordinances

Several California cities have their own rent control ordinances, providing even stronger protections for tenants than the statewide law. These cities often have stricter limits on rent increases and more robust just cause eviction rules.

Some cities with rent control ordinances include:

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Oakland
  • Berkeley
  • East Palo Alto
  • Richmond
  • Santa Monica
  • West Hollywood

Each city’s rent control laws vary in the following aspects:

  • Allowed rent increase percentage
  • Types of units covered
  • Just cause eviction requirements

Finding Resources: To understand your city’s specific rent control regulations, contact your local rent control board or housing department. Many cities have comprehensive websites with information about tenant rights and resources.

Notices and Procedures for Rent Increases

Landlords in California must follow strict rules regarding how and when they can increase your rent.

  • Notice Periods:
    • 30-day notice: Required for most rent increases under AB 1482.
    • 60-day notice: Required if the landlord’s rent increase will exceed the state cap (5% + CPI), but still stays under 10%.
    • 90-day notice: Required for rent increases over 10%.
  • Calculating Allowable Rent Increases: Resources like online rent increase calculators can help you determine if your landlord’s proposed increase falls within legal limits. You can find these calculators on your city’s rent board website or tenant advocacy websites.

What to Do If Your Rent Exceeds the Legal Limit

If you suspect that your landlord is trying to raise your rent beyond the legal amount, here’s what you should do:

  1. Document Everything: Keep a detailed record of the following:
    • Your current rent amount
    • The proposed rent increase and its calculation
    • The date you received the rent increase notice
    • Any communication with your landlord about the increase
  2. Know Your Rights: Research the California Tenant Protection Act, your local rent control ordinances, and reliable tenant resources. Knowledge is your best defense against unfair practices.
  3. Contact Your Local Resources: Reach out to your city’s rent control board or tenant advocacy groups. They can offer:
    • Information and advice on your specific situation
    • Mediation services between you and your landlord
    • Legal referrals if necessary
  4. Consider Mediation: If an initial discussion between you and your landlord breaks down, your rent control board may offer mediation services. This helps facilitate a solution before resorting to legal action.
  5. Explore Legal Options: If other avenues fail, you might need to seek legal advice or pursue legal action to protect your rights. Tenant unions or legal aid societies can assist low-income tenants facing unlawful rent increases.

Important Considerations

  • Lease Agreements: Your lease terms may stipulate rent increases. However, the law supersedes your lease if that increase exceeds legal limits.
  • Retaliation: California law prohibits landlords from retaliating against tenants who assert their rights. If you experience retaliation like harassment or threats of eviction after making an inquiry about excessive rent increases, seek legal help immediately.
  • Exemptions: Remember, not all types of housing are covered by rent control laws. Before taking action, ensure your rental unit falls under the applicable laws.

Sources

Here are some helpful resources for California tenants regarding rent increases, rent control, and tenant rights:

Additional Tips

  • Communicate in Writing: Always communicate with your landlord in writing (email or letter) about rent increases. This creates a clear record of interactions.
  • Stay Organized: Keep all relevant paperwork, including notices and correspondence, organized and easily accessible.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Advocate for Yourself: Understanding the laws protecting you is the first step to ensuring your landlord doesn’t take advantage.

Conclusion

California’s rent increase laws offer renters a degree of protection in an expensive housing market. Being informed about these laws and your local ordinances empowers you to make the right decisions for your housing situation. If you face any issues with excessive or unlawful rent increases, don’t hesitate to utilize the resources available to help you navigate the situation and advocate for your rights as a tenant.