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General Information

If your lease says nothing about subletting or subleasing you may replace roommates, or add roommates, without breaking your lease. If your lease says that you can have a certain number of people in the apartment or if the landlord has always allowed a certain number, then you can always have that many people. Keep in mind that if you are not protected under Oakland’s Rent Ordinance or Oakland’s Just Cause Ordinance, and they find out that you added a new tenant, they may retaliate.
If you are covered under Just Cause [modal] and your roommate is moving out, it is your right to replace them. It does not matter if your lease says you cannot sublet, or if you are a subtenant, co- tenant or master tenant. The ordinance states that a 1-to-1 tenant replacement is not a Just Cause reason for eviction if the owner was told about the change and didn’t deny it within 14 days. If your lease says that you can have a certain number of people in the apartment or if the landlord has always allowed a certain number, then you can always have that many people. Note that if the last person on the original lease moves out, the landlord may be able to issue a new lease to the remaining tenants and raise the rent to market value. If your lease says that you need the approval of your landlord in writing or that the prospective tenant must fill out an application, you should comply. After receiving the roommate replacement letter or the application of the new roommate, the landlord has 14 days under the Just Cause Ordinance to process the application. If they do not approve the tenant within that time period, this is considered an automatic approval and you can move in the new tenant (who then becomes your sub-tenant).
If you are covered under Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Ordinance and Oakland’s Just Cause Ordinance the landlord cannot raise the rent because of a one- to-one tenant replacement. However, note that if the tenant moving out is the last one on the original lease, the landlord can raise the rent to market value under the Costa Hawkins Act (see “Rent Increase Basics” ). When someone new is moving in, try to establish them as a tenant regardless. You can do this by establishing a direct relationship between the new tenant and the landlord. New tenants can do this by paying rent directly in their name (ie. via personal checks), and/or having written documentation from the landlord that acknowledges their tenancy.
If your lease says no subletting or assignment, you can still replace a roommate using a one-to-one replacement (see “Replacing a Roommate With/Without Just Cause”). You just can’t sublet (go away and rent your room to someone during that time) unless you write the landlord for approval. Be wary of services such as AirBnB if your lease says you cannot sublet without landlord approval. Using these services can be a Just Cause for eviction. If your landlord sees your profile they will have enough evidence to evict you.
If your unit is rent controlled and your lease does not say the number of tenants that can live with you, this is an illegal rent increase (see “Rent Increase Basics”). If you have Rent Control and your landlord tries to charge for an additional tenant, you can file a petition at the Rental Adjustment Program for an illegal rent increase to have a hearing on the issue. If your lease specifically limits how many people can live in the unit, going over that limit is a material violation of the lease. It could be a Just Cause for eviction. You may receive a 3-day notice to perform covenant or quit as the start of this process. If a tenant adds new occupants after the start of the tenancy (per the lease), the landlord can petition the Rent Board for a 5% rent increase for each new occupant (not including the CPI increase). This increase does not apply to the (biological, adopted, or foster) child, parent, grandparent, spouse, or registered domestic partner of any current tenant or a caretaker needed due to a disability. The increase goes away if the amount of occupants decreases.
If your landlord charged you a security deposit when you moved in, how can you be sure to get it back at the end of your tenancy? First, everything your landlord charges you before your tenancy, except an “application screening fee” that cannot be more than $39.47 per tenant and adjusted for inflation (CA Civil Code 1950.6), is refundable. This include pet fees, key fees and all others. The most your landlord can charge for a security deposit is two month’s rent, or three month’s rent for a furnished unit. As a tenant, you are not responsible for ordinary wear and tear of a unit, only damage outside of ordinary wear.
After you put in your 30 days notice of your intent to move, you can request a walk through of your unit when you’ll be mostly cleaned up. Legally your landlord is supposed to allow you this inspection before you move out. After the inspection your landlord should send you a list with each item that they want to deduct from your deposit. Then, you can make repairs on any of the deductions before leaving. When it is time to move out, it’s a good idea to make an appointment for the landlord to come to the property and do a final walk-though, and do an exchange of the full security deposit for your keys to the property. (Keep in mind that your landlord legally has 21 days to return your security deposit.) If your landlord refuses to do a walkthrough, be sure to document this by writing them a letter that says you tried to make an appointment and they refused, and that describes the condition of the unit. Document how the unit looked when you moved out. Take pictures, including a photo with a newspaper with the date in it. This way, if you end up in court you can prove the state of the unit.
If you have not heard from your landlord in 21 days, have not received your deposit or the itemized list of deductions with receipts from your landlord, or if you have received part of your deposit, but want to demand the rest, you can write a letter asking for the deposit. If you don’t hear back from your landlord or do not agree with what the landlord is charging you (don’t cash the check, if you can), you can sue your landlord in small claims court. This might take a couple of months. Make sure to take the letters you’ve sent your landlords, pictures of the condition of your unit and any other evidence you think is appropriate.
Your ex-landlord must transfer the deposit to the new landlord. Make sure your new landlord has received the deposit as soon as possible.
If you have a month-to-month lease, you must give 30 days written notice to enforce your rights to end your contract, even if you plan on moving out due to a rent increase via 60-day notice. You do not need to give this notice on any particular day; you can give it on October 12th and move out November 12th, and only pay through November 12th’s rent. If you have a fixed term lease, you can leave at the end of your lease. If you want to leave earlier, you might be breaking a legal contract unless you’re leaving due to harrasment or habitability issues. If this is the case, please talk to a housing ourganization first to see what your options are and how you can enforce your right to keep yourself safe. If you do break your lease and haven’t taken the appropiate steps, acccording to law, your landlord must attempt to minimize losses and re-rent the unit as quickly as possible. However, if your landlord tries and is unable to re-rent the unit for some months, you may be held responsible for the lost rent. If your landlord is difficult and you think they will try to charge you for lost rent, you can post your unit on Craigslist and find some potential tenants. Then, write your landlord saying you have found potential tenants with their information. If your landlord demands a small amount of money for you ending your lease, you might be able to negotiate with them to use some of your deposit to avoid a conflict. Remember to get anything you agree to in writing.
An official decrease in service is a change in terms of your lease. If you’re month to month, the change has to be made by a writen 30 day notice of change in terms. If you’re covered unders Oakalnd’s Rent Ordinance, you might be able to get rent reduction for the decrease in housing service through Oakand Rent Adjustment regulations. To do this, you would have to confirm that you’re covered under Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Ordinance and complete a Rent Adjusment Petition with the Rent Adjustment Program. To do this, you can start by calling the Rent Adjustment Program (510) 238 – 3721 and asking them if your unit is covered under the rent Ordinance. If you have Just Cause, you also might be able to sue. Call one of these organizations for more information. (Resources) If you have a fixed term lease, you can leave at the end of your lease. If you want to leave earlier, you might be breaking a legal contract unless you’re leaving due to harrasment or habitability issues. If this is the case, please talk to a housing ourganization first to see what your options are and how you can enforce your right to keep yourself safe. If you do break your lease and haven’t taken the appropiate steps, acccording to law, your landlord must attempt to minimize losses and re-rent the unit as quickly as possible. However, if your landlord tries and is unable to re-rent the unit for some months, you may be held responsible for the lost rent. If your landlord is difficult and you think they will try to charge you for lost rent, you can post your unit on Craigslist and find some potential tenants. Then, write your landlord saying you have found potential tenants with their information. If your landlord demands a small amount of money for you ending your lease, you might be able to negotiate with them to use some of your deposit to avoid a conflict. Remember to get anything you agree to in writing.
As a tenant under Section 8, you have many of the same rights as other tenants in the City of Oakland. Some things that are different are the ways you receive and fight against rent increases, how long your eviction notices are and the avanues you can take to get repairs done. Here are the details: Rent Increases: Under Section 8, there are special rules and regulations that validate a rent increase. If you have section 8, your landlord has to submit rent increase petitions to the Oakland Housing Authority. OHA would then deny or approve the request and send both you (the tenant) and your landlord a form with the increase amount and any changes. They would also have to send you and OHA authority a copies of a 60 day notice increasing your rent. If you have further questions pleae contact Oakland Housing Authority (510) 874-1653. Evictions: You have the same protections as any other tenant in Oakland meaning that if you are covered under Oakland’s Just Cause Ordinance, your landlord has to have a “”Just Cause”” reason to evict you. Check out our evictions page for more info on this! The only difference is that if you do get an eviction notice because of a Just Cause Violation or termination of lease (if you don’t have Just Cause), you might be entitled to a 90 day notice vs. a 30 day or a 60 day notice. If you do receive a notice where they are “”opting out””, contact Bay Area Legal Aid immedietly. Repairs: You can write letters to get your repair issues addressed. You can also call city agencies to get inspections done. The one thing you can’t do is use the Rent Adjustment Program to adjust your rent for code violations since section 8 does not fall within Oakland’s Rent Ordinance. The good news is, that unlike tenants without Section 8, you can inform Oakland Housing Authority of your needs for housing repairs. We recommend using this method as a last resort since Oakland Housing Authority is able to stop paying their portion of the rent to your landlord if they fail inspections. If failed inspections continue it can lead to an eviction. In our tenants rights clinic, we’ve seen landlords use this method to push tenants out of their units.
The Oakland Buyout Ordinance requires that landlords provide each tenant in a unit with a city approved form informing each tenant of the following: A. Tenants can refuse to enter any buyout negotiations B. landlords CANNOT use retaliation against a tenant for refusing to enter buyout negotiations — If they do, it would be a form of tenant harassment which is illegal C. Tenants have 25 days to rescind a buyout agreement after signing papers. D. Tenants may be eligible to receive relocation payments e. if a tenant is elderly, disabled, or catastrophically ill, a landlord may face penalties for violating the Oakland Buyout Ordinance. If you have a fixed term lease, you can leave at the end of your lease. If you want to leave earlier, you might be breaking a legal contract unless you’re leaving due to harrasment or habitability issues. If this is the case, please talk to a housing ourganization first to see what your options are and how you can enforce your right to keep yourself safe. If you do break your lease and haven’t taken the appropiate steps, acccording to law, your landlord must attempt to minimize losses and re-rent the unit as quickly as possible. However, if your landlord tries and is unable to re-rent the unit for some months, you may be held responsible for the lost rent. If your landlord is difficult and you think they will try to charge you for lost rent, you can post your unit on Craigslist and find some potential tenants. Then, write your landlord saying you have found potential tenants with their information. If your landlord demands a small amount of money for you ending your lease, you might be able to negotiate with them to use some of your deposit to avoid a conflict. Remember to get anything you agree to in writing.
Every buyout agreement must in writing through a city-approved form. If you only speak Spanish or Chinese., you must get a copy of the notice in your respective language.

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Most units in Oakland are covered by Just Cause. However, if you live in any of the following, then you ARE NOT covered by Oakland Just Cause.

  • A unit built after December 31st 1995 (If you're not sure, call the County Assessors and they can tell you very quickly) OR
  • You live in the same unit as your landlord, and you regularly share a kitchen or bathroom with the landlord, OR
  • A hospital, skilled nursing facility or healthcare facility OR
  • A nonprofit facility where the primary purpose is short-term treatment for drugs or alcohol, and you were told that the facility was temporary/transient when you moved in, OR
  • A nonprofit facility with a structured living environment where the primary purpose is to assist homeless folks in building skills for independent living, where occupancy is limited to a specific/limited time not greater than 24 months, and you were told that the facility was temporary/transient at the beginning

Effective May 1, 2018, the Oakland Tenant Move-out Ordinance (TMOO, O.M.C . 8.22.700 et seq.) states that landlords must do the following if they wish to offer a tenant compensation to vacate their rental unit:

1) The owner must file a Pre-Move Out Disclosure Certification Form with the Rent Adjustment Program prior to entering into Move Out Negotiations.
2) The owner must give a Disclosure Notice to the tenant prior to entering into Move Out Negotiations. The owner must also file the executed Move Out Agreement with the Rent Adjustment Program within 45 days of the tenant and landlord signing the Move Out Agreement.

Tenants also have these rights under the Move-out Ordinance:
1) The right to not accept - A tenant is not required to enter into a Move Out Agreement or engage in Move Out Negotiations, and:
-The landlord may not retaliate against a tenant for not accepting the offer. 
-Offering payments to a tenant to vacate more than once in six (6) months after the tenant has notified the owner in writing that the tenant refuses to enter into a Move Out Agreement or engage in Move Out Negotiations constitutes harassment under the Tenant Protection Ordinance.

2) The right to consult an attorney before entering into a Move Out Agreement or engaging in Move Out Negotiations.
3) The right to rescind - A tenant may cancel the Move Out Agreement at any time during the twenty-five (25) days after the agreement has been signed by both the landlord and tenant, unless the parties agree in writing to a shorter period of no less than fifteen (15) days . During this time, the tenant may cancel the Agreement as long as the tenant has not moved out, and the decision to cancel is agreed upon by tenants who are part of the Move Out Agreement.
4) Extended right to rescind within six months if the Move Out Agreement does not meet the specifications required under the Ordinance.
5) Relocation amounts for 2020-2021: Move out agreements must be for greater than the amount of the relocation payments to which the tenant may be entitled under Oakland, state, or federal law. The Uniform Relocation Ordinance requires owners provide tenants displaced by code compliance activities, owner or relative move-ins, the Ellis Act, and condominium conversions with relocation payments. The payment amount depends on the size of the unit and adjusts for inflation annually on July 1st. The base payment amounts until June 30, 2021 are:

$ 7,308.37 per studio/one bedroom unit
$8,994.92 per two bedroom unit
$11,103.10 per three or more bedroom unit

Tenant households in rental units that include lower income, elderly or disabled tenants, and/or minor children are entitled to a single additional relocation payment of two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) per unit from the owner.
6) Right to return: Tenants have an option or right to return to their Rental Unit after certain no-fault evictions, such as code compliance evictions after the repairs are completed or Ellis evictions if the units are re-rented. Waiver of these rights, if applicable, may make a Move Out Agreement more valuable.
7) Market rents may be much higher in your area and you may want to check rents for similar rental units before entering into a Move Out Agreement, particularly a Move Out Agreement that removes any options or rights to return to the rental unit that may exist for you.
8) Payments from a Move Out Agreement may be taxable. You should consult taxing authorities or a tax professional for more information or advice on taxability.
9) Public records: Move Out Agreements and documents related to Move Out Agreements that are submitted to the City may be public. The City may redact personal information to the extent possible. Parties of a Move Out Agreement should be notified that information may become public disclosure.

You are covered by Oakland Rent Control UNLESS you live in one of the following:

  1. Housing where your rent is subsidized and/or regulated by the government, including:
    1. A building managed by Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) or the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),
    2. A unit where your rent is subsidized by Section 8 or another government entity (even if the property is privately owned)
  2. A hotel, motel, inn, or boarding houses AND you have not occupied the unit for more than 30 days (if you have been there more than 30 continuous days, you ARE likely covered by rent control)
  3. A unit or room in a hospital, senior home, extended care facility, convent, monastery or school dormitory
  4. A unit or room in a non-profit cooperative owned, occupied & controlled by the residents
  5. A building built on or after January 1, 1983 (Don’t know? Call the County Assessors at 510-272-3787 and ask them to tell you the year the unit was built and the effective date),
  6. A substantially rehabilitated building, IF the owner applied for exemption to rent control before October 20, 2017, and received a certificate of exemption from rent control
  7. A single-family home or a condominium sold separately AND you moved in after 1995

Most tenants in Oakland are covered by the Tenant Protection Ordinance! However, if you live in any of the following, then you ARE NOT covered by the Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO) in Oakland.

  • A hospital, skilled nursing facility, or health facility
  • A nonprofit facility that has the primary purpose of providing short term treatment, assistance, or therapy for alcohol, drug, or other substance abuse, where you were been told in writing that the housing was temporary/transitional when you moved in
  • A nonprofit facility which provides a structured living environment that has the primary purpose of helping houseless people build independent living skills and obtain permanent housing and where occupancy is restricted to a limited and specific period of time of not more than twenty-four (24) months, and where you were told in writing that the housing was temporary/transitional when you moved in
  • A hotel or motel for less than one month

If you don't live in any of the above, then you ARE covered under TPO. Note: if you live in a building owned by a nonprofit, you ARE covered unless the facility meet one of the specific exemptions described above.