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Oakland Law (for qualifying units)

Oakland is one of 15 cities in California with rent control (Oakland Rent Adjustment Program or RAP). This means that the city regulates the amount that landlords are permitted to increase their rent.

If you are covered under RAP, then:

  • Your landlord can only raise your rent once every 12 months. The allowed percentage from August 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023 is 3%. The first increase cannot be imposed until after the tenant has lived in the unit for a year.
  • Rent Increases above the yearly Consumer Price Index (or 3% if the CPI is higher) must be approved by the Oakland Rent Board prior to being served to a tenant. Your landlord must file a petition with the RAP before raising your rent (unless this increase is for a “banked” rent increase).
  • If a tenant has never had the rent increased, the landlord can bank the increases. This means they can increase the rent all at once for all the years that the tenant hasn’t had rent increases, going back 10 years. There is a 10%  limit on the amount that a landlord can bank the increases. The landlord must provide a 60-day written notice for a rent increase that is more than 10% (as defined by CA Civil Code 827). A new landlord can’t bank on the years that a previous landlord didn’t raise the rent for. 
  • Annual increases are the only legal increases. Landlords cannot increase the rent for additional occupants in the unit.
  • The rent increase notice must include the Notice to Tenants from the Rent Board that informs them of their right to contest the rent increase. If it does not include this, then the increase attempt is illegal.

Who is covered under RAP?

  • Units have rent control if they were built before January 1, 1983 and are not single family dwellings or condominiums
  • Single family dwellings and condominiums occupied since before 1995
  • 2 or 3 or more units on a single parcel of land in which the landlord resides

Who is not covered under RAP?

  • Buildings managed by Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) or Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • Section 8 – Rent increases for Section 8 housing must go through Oakland Housing Authority
  • Units or rooms in non-profit cooperatives
  • Units or rooms in hospitals or senior homes
  • Units or rooms in landlord’s home where kitchen and/or bath are shared with landlord
  • Hotels, motels, inns, boarding houses IF the tenant has not occupied the unit for more than 30 days. 

Capital Improvements

A capital improvement is work that “substantially adds to the useful life of a building.” For example, a new roof, earthquake proofing, renovation of a kitchen, etc. Normal repairs and maintenance do not qualify as capital improvements. 

Prior to enforcing the capital improvement rent increase, the landlord must file a petition with the Rent Board for a hearing on the proposed rent increase. The most common Rent Board petition filed by landlords is for capital improvements. When the landlord files a petition with the Rent Board, a hearing will take place to review the documents, hear testimonies from the landlords and tenants, and the administrative judge will make a decision.

The petition will include evidence of the work that was completed, the cost of the work, the units that benefit from the repair, and the amount that will be increased for each unit. At the hearing, the landlord must prove the actual cost of the work with supporting documentation (work contracts, invoices, bills, cancelled checks and/or credit card receipts to prove when the work was finished, how much it cost and when it was paid for, copies of permits, before and after photos).

The landlord can send the tenant a notice of a capital improvement increase before they get approval from the rent board, but the tenant doesn’t have to pay it until the Rent Board issues a decision. If the rent board approves the increase, it will be imposed retroactively.

There are some cases when capital improvements should NOT increase your rent. These include:

  • If the work was necessary because of negligence by the landlord or because the landlord was forced to do the work to correct code violations due to deferred maintenance.
  • The renovations or repairs do not impact the tenant’s unit.
  • The improvements are excessive and unnecessarily expensive.
  • The tenant moved into the building less than six months after the completion of the capital improvement work.
  • Landlord was compensated by insurance. 

The landlord can unfairly impose capital improvement increases on certain units and not on others as long as the percentage imposed does not exceed what the unit is responsible for.

California Law (for everyone)

  • California Civil Code Section 827(b) says a tenant must be provided with a written notice of a rent increase either:
    • 30 days in advance (for increases 10% or less) or
    • 60 days in advance (for increases greater than 10%)
  • Serving a rent increase properly:
    • Your landlord must deliver the rent increase by first class mail.
    • They can also serve it to you personally or to a responsible member of your household. 
    • That being said, know that many landlords will lie in court and say under oath that they delivered to you in person.
  • Your landlord can’t raise your rent in an act of retaliation.
    • For example:  You call code enforcement to inspect your building and a month later you receive a $500 a month rent increase.
    • California Civil Code 1942.5 
  • Units without rent control: there is no limit to the amount your landlord can raise your rent as long as they give you proper notice.

California Tenant Protection Act (for qualifying units)

The California Tenant Protection Act (TPA) (Effective January 1, 2020) places statewide limits on rent increases (as well as on justifiable reasons for evictions) for covered units. 

Who is covered?

  • Multifamily housing and apartment buildings
  • Single family homes and condominiums owned by corporations, including Real Estate Investment Trusts and LLCs. (Single family homes and condos owned by individuals and family trusts are exempt so long as notice is given to tenants.) 
  • Buildings at least 15 years old (i.e. so in 2021 the law will cover buildings built before January 1, 2006)

Units not covered

  • Hotels or hostels or other short-term stay housing;
  • Non-profit hospital, religious facility, extended care facility, licensed elderly care facility, or adult residential facilities provided by State social services;
  • Student dormitories;
  • Single Family Home or Duplex where the landlord lives on the property. (This includes Accessory Dwelling Units and in-law units); OR
  • Affordable housing, subsidized housing, HUD housing, or deed-restricted housing.

If you’re covered with TPA:

  • Your rent can only be increased by 5% + your area’s Consumer Price Index or a maximum of 10% (whichever amount is lower) over the course of 12 months (unless Oakland rent control protects you, which is stricter).
  • Rent can only be increased 2 times within any given 12 month period. If rent is raised twice within a year, the rate of the second increase will be factored from the original base rent from the start of that year, not the recently increased rate.
  • A master tenant cannot sublease the premises to a subtenant at higher rate than the allowable rent amount charged by the property owner.
  • In order to legally raise the rent, landlords must continue to provide proper written notice to tenants.
  • There is no vacancy control. This means that when a covered tenant vacates or leaves their home, the landlord can change the rent price to whatever rate they choose.
  • Rent Roll-Backs!: If your unit is covered and you received a rent increase that was greater than the maximum (8.5% in Oakland) between March 15, 2019 and January 1, 2020 then you have the right to demand that your rent be lowered back to what it was before March 15, 2019 + the allowable 8.5% or lower.

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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.

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 that is less than 10 years old (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
  • You live in a recreational vehicle (RV) or wheeled tiny home but do NOT pay rent 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

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

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.