Rent Ordinance Comes Before Council Feb. 16

The City Council is scheduled to consider the Rent Stabilization and Tenant Protection Ordinance at its Feb. 16 meeting. If passed, the ordinance would require landlords to offer one-time, one-year leases to prospective or in-place tenants. The new ordinance would not allow landlords to increase rents more than once in a 12-month period. 

The ordinance would not place a cap on maximum-allowable rental increases. If the rent increase is 5 percent or less, the ordinance would require landlords to notify tenants of the availability of a review process using the Housing Authority’s Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC). 

An increase of more than 5 percent would require landlords to notify the Housing Authority and would trigger a hearing before RRAC. Landlords could not increase rents until the review process is complete. If landlords fail to properly notify tenants and the Housing Authority, the ordinance would not permit them to increase rents for 12 months. 

Not all rental units would be subject to the new ordinance. The state of California’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (Costa Hawkins) exempts single-family homes and condominiums from rent increase limitations but only if the tenancy commenced on or after Jan.1, 1996. The act would not exempt these dwellings from the ordinance’s just-cause eviction provisions. 

The ordinance does put an appeals process in place. If the landlord or a tenant does not agree with RRAC’s decision and the rental unit is not exempt under Costa Hawkins, either party can file a petition to have a neutral hearing officer consider the rent increase. The officer’s decision would be binding. 

If a rental unit is exempt under Costa Hawkins, RRAC’s recommendation is non-binding. Parties may appeal RRAC’s decision to the City Council but that recommendation is likewise non-binding.

All rental units in Alameda, including those exempt under Costa Hawkins, would be subject to the new ordinance’s limitations on evictions. The ordinance allows landlords to evict tenants “for cause.” These causes include failure to pay rent, breach of lease, nuisance and failure to give access. No relocation assistance and no limitation on rent increases for new tenant apply in “for-cause” evictions. 

The ordinance also defines “no-fault” evictions. These include an owner moving into the property, an owner demolishing the property, or the owner substantially rehabilitating the property. The latter would be subject to an approved capital improvement plan.
Finally, the ordinance allows landlords to evict for “no cause.” However landlords must reimburse the tenants. The ordinance also limits rent increases for new tenants and puts the brake on the number of “no-cause” evictions landlords could enforce in a 12-month period. 

If passed the ordinance would sunset on Dec. 31, 2019.