Staff Drafts Principles for Rent Ordinance

The Alameda city staff released its principles of agreement detailing precise guidelines for the proposed Rent Stabilization and Tenant Protection Ordinance. The ordinance will be presented to the City Council at its Feb. 16 meeting.

Regarding rent increases, the agreement states that housing providers shall not increase rents more than once every 12 months. However, there will be no cap on an increase if it is allowed during the hearing process. Landlords will, however, have to go through a rent review process. 

If a housing provider, (i.e. landlord) intends to increase rents by 5 percent or less, they must notify the tenant of the availability of a rent-review process through the Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC). The rent increase is void if the housing provider fails to provide proper notice to the tenant, but they can submit the increase again.  

If housing providers intend to increase rents by more than 5 percent, they must notify the Housing Authority, who will schedule an RRAC hearing, and notify the tenant of the review. 

The potential rent increase will not go into effect until the review process is complete. If the housing provider fails to notify the tenant or Housing Authority in a timely manner the increase is void and no new rent increase is allowed for 12 months. The owner of the property must attend the review hearing. 

The agreement also detailed what the committee will be considering before it makes its decision. The committee may take into consideration such factors as the hardship to the tenant, the frequency and amount of prior rent increases, the housing provider’s costs of operation, and providing the landlord with a fair return on the property. The committee may recommend the rent increase it believes is fair. 

If housing providers or tenants do not agree with the committee’s decision, they must file a petition to have a neutral hearing officer consider the rent increase. 

Another new proposal is relocation assistance for “no fault” evictions — due to new ownership, demolition of property, substantial rehabilitation subject to approved capital improvement plan, withdrawal from the rental market and compliance with governmental order to vacate the building. 

If the tenant is forced out, landlords must pay one month’s rent that the tenant was paying for each year (or portion thereof) that the tenant occupied the rental unit up to four months’ rent. So if the tenant stayed at the property for three years landlords must pay the tenants three months’ worth of rent. They also must pay additional fees for moving expenses. 

Finally, the agreement contains details regarding specific penalties for landlords if they do not follow the proposed ordinance.  

Significant fines and penalties can be imposed against a housing provider who violates the ordinance, including misdemeanor charges for illegal behavior that is ongoing or egregious. The city can also ask the court to fine a landlord $10,000 per violation.

According to a memo from Interim City Manager Elizabeth Warmerdam to the Council, the agreement was based on “staff’s notes, as well as the minutes provided by the City Clerk, and reflects staff’s best understanding of the items on which the City Council reached consensus.”