The Berkeley Rent Board Mailbag

Eviction Issues

Q:  I'm a tenant in a building that is being converted to condominiums. Since I cannot afford to buy my unit, will I need to vacate once the conversion has been completed? Is it true that condominiums are exempt from rent control? (May 2006)

A conversion to condominium has a number of implications for both owners and tenants. However, under the condo conversion ordinance amended by the City Council in October 2005, many protections exist for tenants. First, tenants may not be evicted from a unit due to a conversion to condominium. In fact, all sitting tenants are allowed to remain in the unit with a regulated rent tied to the increase in the Consumer Price Index. Furthermore, tenants may only be evicted for a "good cause"-nonpayment of rent, violation of the lease, and ongoing disturbance of other occupants are examples of good cause for eviction. For units converted to condo after October 2005, owners may not evict a sitting tenant in order to owner-occupy the unit. To address your question regarding condos being exempt from rent control: A rented condominium is exempt from rent control only if it has been rented out after being bought by a new owner after conversion. However, eviction and security deposit protections still exist even for rented condos. As noted above, for sitting tenants in units that were converted to condominium after October 2005, rents must be limited to annual increases equal to 65% of the increase in CPI.

Q: I signed a sublease agreement for an apartment for 6 months, but I may want to stay longer than that. Will I be able to?  (June 2004)

Tenancies do not automatically terminate in Berkeley, even at the expiration of a lease period. At the end of a lease or sublease period, the lessor may offer the tenant or subtenant another lease; if not, the tenancy continues on a month-to-month basis at the rent established in the initial agreement. It can only be terminated for one of the 12 good causes specified in the Rent Ordinance. One cause is if a lessor wishes to move back into the unit, as agreed upon in the rental agreement. If your sublease says nothing about the lessor moving back in, then you do not have to move out at the end of the agreement.

Q: I am a tenant and my landlord has locked me out of my apartment. What should I do?  (May 2004)

It is not legal for a landlord to lock a tenant out of an apartment. A landlord who wishes to evict a tenant must have one of the just causes listed in the Rent Ordinance and take the proper steps. These steps would involve serving a notice giving you an opportunity to correct the 'cause' or quit and, if necessary, filing an unlawful detainer action in court. You should contact the police and request that they escort you and facilitate your lawful re-entry. You might also want to contact an attorney about seeking recompense for your illegal exclusion from your unit.

Q: My tenant never pays his rent on time. His lease authorizes a $20 late fee each month the rent is late. I never used to enforce the late fee, but in January I wrote him a letter stating that I would start to enforce it beginning with the February rent. Since then, his rent has been late twice, but he has not paid any of the late fees. How do I now enforce them? Can I evict him for non-payment of late fees if his rent is paid but the late fees are not?  (April 2004)

Late fees must be stated in the lease and must be reasonable (probably not more than 4 - 6% of the monthly rent). However, they are not considered part of the rent, so you may not evict a tenant for non-payment if his rent is paid but fees are not. Your recourse is to write him a letter demanding payment of the late fees; if he does not comply, you can file suit in small claims court. Of course, whenever the rent is late, you can serve your tenant with a Three Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit; if he doesn't pay within 3 days, you may proceed with the eviction action. You may also be able to serve him with a Notice to Perform Covenant or Quit, to recover the late fees or to evict for chronic lateness, but you should consult an attorney for more specific information about evicting the tenant.

Q: On December 15 of 2002, my landlord gave me a new lease to sign because my old one was going to expire at the end of the month. It was substantially the same as the old lease, but I decided not to sign it because I didn't want to commit to another year, so on December 20th he gave me a 60 day notice to move out. I understand that my refusal to sign a new lease with terms substantially identical to my current lease is good cause for eviction. My question is, since he is evicting me, do I have to notify him of when I'm moving out, or can I leave at any time within the 60 days?  (February 2003)

You must give your landlord 30 days' written notice if you're planning to move out before the end of the 60-day period, unless your lease states otherwise. If you don't, you can be charged rent until the end of the 60 days, even if you move out earlier. Also, you have the right to request that your landlord perform a walk-through inspection with you during the last 15 days of your tenancy, so he can tell you what needs to be done in order for you to get your security deposit back after you move out.

Q: I heard new state laws affecting tenants and landlords take effect this year. Can you tell me about them? (January 2003)

Several new laws went into effect January 1, 2003. Those with the broadest impact concern security deposits, eviction notice periods, and notice for landlord entry.

Security Deposits The statute governing security deposits (Civil Code section 1950.5) has been amended to establish a procedure for informing departing tenants what they must do to avoid deductions from their security deposit. The law requires a landlord, at the tenant's request, to do a walk-through inspection of the unit no earlier than two weeks before the tenancy is to end. Based on the inspection, the landlord must prepare an itemized list of repairs or cleaning that the tenant must undertake before the end of the tenancy for the full deposit to be returned. These items are limited to deductions that allowed by the statute, for instance, damages beyond ordinary wear and tear. One of the allowable purposes for withholding from the security deposit is "cleaning the premises upon termination of the tenancy." The amended law elaborates on this standard for tenancies beginning on or after January 1, 2003: a deposit may be used for cleaning of the premises "necessary to return the unit to the same level of cleanliness it was in at the inception of the tenancy." Thus, it is now even more important for landlords and for tenants to document the level of cleanliness at the start of the tenancy. The new law also increases the amount of damages that may be awarded to tenants for a landlord's bad-faith claim or retention of the all or part of the deposit, from $600 to twice the deposit amount.

60-Day Notice Required for Some Evictions Most evictions that formerly required a 30-day notice now require a 60-day notice. Only 30 days' notice is required if: 1) the tenant has resided in the unit for less than a year; or 2) the unit is a single family home or condo, the owner is selling to a buyer who intends to reside in the unit for at least one year, and owner opened escrow no more than 120 days before the notice is given. (These are amendments to Civil Code section 1946.1.)

Notice of Entry Landlords must now give written notice of entry, except in an emergency. The law governing landlord entry, Civil Code section 1954, retains the requirement that notice must be "reasonable," and that 24 hours' notice is presumed reasonable. The new law adds that 24 hours' notice is reasonable if it is personally delivered or left on the front door. If notice of entry is mailed, it is presumed reasonable only if mailed at least six days before the intended entry. If the purpose of entry is to show the unit to a prospective buyer, notice may be oral if the landlord has, within 120 days, given the tenant written notice that the property is for sale and that the tenant might be given oral notice of entry to show the unit. Twenty-four hours' oral notice is presumed reasonable, and the owner or agent must leave written evidence of having entered.

Q: I've lived in my rented apartment for eight years. The owner is selling the building, and we residents are concerned that we might be evicted. All eight units are occupied. Can the new owner evict us?  (October 2002.)

It's possible, but not because the property changes hands. The sale of a property is never cause for eviction. However, there are some circumstances in which the next (or current) owner could evict tenants.

If the new owner wants to abandon the rental business completely, he could take all the units off the rental market and evict all the tenants under the state Ellis Act. To do so, he must give every tenant 120 days' notice, or if a tenant of at least one year is at least 60 years old or disabled, one year's notice; he must pay relocation benefits to tenants who claim and prove they are low-income; and if he re-rents a unit within two years after an eviction, he is liable to the displaced tenant for actual and punitive damages.

The owner can also evict the tenants of one unit so he or his spouse, child, or parent can live in the unit as their primary residence. In this case, an owner of five or more residential rental units anywhere in Berkeley cannot evict anyone who has lived on the property five or more years, unless all the units are occupied by tenants who have been there five or more years. If that is the case, then an owner can move in a qualifying relative who is at least 60 years old or disabled; or move in himself, but only after he has owned the property for at least five years and if he is at least 60 or disabled. If any of the owner's Berkeley rental units becomes available before the tenant vacates, the owner must offer it to the tenant.

Your lengthy residency affords you some protection, but your neighbors may be more vulnerable. A tenant who is evicted for an owner or relative move-in does, however, have the right to move back in at the old rent amount if the owner or relative vacates. Also, qualifying low-income tenants who have lived in the unit for a year or more are entitled to a $4500 relocation benefit.

Q: I give up. My landlord has been trying to get rid of me for several years because I've lived here for six years so my rent is low. I'm finally moving out because I'm sick of dealing with the constant harassment, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant. In the past two years, the water has been shut off twice because he has neglected to pay the water bill. He ignores my requests for repairs, or does such a poor job fixing things that I hesitate to ask. The last time he "fixed" my toilet, I couldn't use my bathroom for over a week! In the past, I've been granted temporary rent reductions through Rent Board petitions, but they really don't stop the harassment. I'm finally moving out, but I resent that I am being "forced" to move because of his illegal actions, or inactions, as the case may be. I think I am due some compensation for what I've endured, and I don't think he should be rewarded for his bad behavior with a big rent increase for the next tenant. Do I have any recourse? (September 2002.)

Yes, though it won't be easy. You can sue your landlord for constructive eviction resulting from his breach of the "covenant of quiet enjoyment." This covenant, or promise, is implied in every lease or rental agreement, and is meant to protect tenants from acts or omissions of the landlord that disturb the tenant's peaceful occupation of the premises; if the landlord substantially interferes with your quiet enjoyment, he has effectively forced you to move. Additionally, a breach of the implied warranty of habitability - a landlord's failure to keep the premises in good repair - can result in a constructive eviction. In small claims court, where the procedures are somewhat streamlined and attorneys are not allowed, you can sue for up to $5000. If you seek more than that, you should consult an attorney to determine if your case is worth pursuing in Superior Court. Either way, you will have a hard time winning unless you have documented well the actions and inactions of your landlord.

As for a rent increase for the next tenant, give written notice to your landlord that you are moving out because he has constructively evicted you (30 days' notice is not required in such cases), include details about his improper behavior, and send a copy to the Rent Board. The Rent Board has the authority to limit the rent for the next tenant to the current rent ceiling where the prior tenant vacated due to a landlord's conduct that is illegal, constitutes constructive eviction, or breaches the covenant of quiet enjoyment. (Rent Board Reg. 1013 (B)(1)(e).) The landlord also loses the right to charge a new rent if there are outstanding citations for serious health, safety, fire or building code violations issued by a government agency at least 60 days before the vacancy. (Reg. 1013 (B)(1)(d).)

Tenants who feel pressure to move because they feel their landlord is harassing them or otherwise disturbing their peaceful occupation should write a letter stating so to the landlord, with a copy to the Rent Board. This may be the most effective way to stop such activity. If the landlord truly desires to force a tenant out just to get a higher rent from a new tenant, then removing the right to charge that higher rent will likely end the inappropriate behavior. 

Q: I recently moved into a two-bedroom apartment. I received the owner's permission to move in, but pay rent to my roommate, who has lived here for four years. She originally signed the lease with someone who moved out after a year, so she has had the place to herself for a few years now. She acts like she owns the place, saying I can't use the living room because she's writing her "great American novel" there, and has papers all over the place. She further threatens that since I'm not on the lease she has the right to kick me out if I don't obey her every command. What are my rights? (July 2002)

It doesn't matter that your name is not on the lease, because you are as much a tenant as your roommate, and you are protected by the Rent Ordinance in that you can be evicted only for one of the good causes listed in the ordinance. You are a subtenant and she is your landlord, but have the same right to occupy the apartment as she does.

Your roommate's ability to exclude you from the living room is governed by your original agreement with her. If you agreed to share the living room, or reasonably assumed this was the case, then you have a right to use that space. (This is a good reason to put a subtenancy agreement in writing.) But if it was clear when you moved in that the living room was her space, then you probably can't insist on being able to use it.

In any case, your rent cannot exceed an amount proportional to the space you occupy. In other words, if your roommate pays the owner $1,100 for the entire apartment and you occupy half of it - say, you each have exclusive use of a similarly-sized bedroom and share the rest of the space - your rent should not exceed $550. If your roommate has exclusive use of the living room, then your rent should be less than $550, reflecting her greater share of the unit. You should try to negotiate a lower rent if you think you're paying more than your fair share, but if you cannot work out your differences, you may file a petition with the Rent Board. If it is determined that your roommate either reduced the space originally available to you, or is charging more than your proportionate share of rent, your rent will be reduced.

Q: A friend and I want to buy a duplex and each live in half. Currently there is a tenant in each unit. Can we evict the tenants to move in?  (June 2002)

The provisions of the Rent Ordinance regulating owner move-ins allow an owner of record of at least 50 percent to evict a tenant for the owner's occupancy if he or she owns no more than three rental units in Berkeley. (See Berkeley Municipal Code section 13.76.130 A.9.) However, the ordinance limits owner move-ins to one unit per property, so two owners could not evict all tenants of a duplex to occupy it unless the duplex is completely exempt from rent control. Many other factors, such as the availability of other units you own and the tenants' age, income, and length of residency could affect your ability to evict for owner-occupancy.

The only way for both units to be exempt from the ordinance is if this is a "golden duplex," one in which an owner occupied at least one unit on December 31, 1979, and an owner lives there today. In your case, if an owner lived in one of the units in 1979, and you or your friend are able to occupy one unit, the other unit becomes exempt from the eviction-protection provisions of the ordinance, and the tenant in that unit can be required to move with 30 days' notice or upon the expiration of the lease. Be aware that owner-occupancy in the ordinance means an owner must occupy the unit as his or her principal residence.

If you and your friend plan to occupy the duplex for at least 10 years, you could withdraw the property from the rental market under the state Ellis Act. This decision must be considered carefully because you are liable for a lawsuit for damages by the displaced tenants if you re-rent either unit within two years of the withdrawal, or fail to offer the displaced tenants the right to return if you re-rent within 10 years. Furthermore, since these Ellis constraints limiting future renting are recorded on the deed, they will apply to future owners, which could make it difficult for you to sell the property.

Q: What can you tell me about the new California law that affects leases and eviction notices?

The new law, which took effect January 1, 2002, requires leases and rental agreements to disclose the following:

The name, street address and telephone number of the property manager(s).
The name, street address and telephone number of the owner or a person designated to receive notices for the owner. (Alternative, an owner may post the above information in at least two conspicuous places on the rental property.)
The name, address and telephone number of the person designated to receive rent payments. If this information is not provided, the tenant may pay rent to the person with whom they entered into the rental agreement.
The acceptable form or forms of rent payments (e.g., cash, check, money order).

If the agreement does not specify the form of payment, any form will be considered acceptable. If rent can be paid in person, the agreement must include the days and hours payment will be accepted. If rent can be paid only by mail, then it is presumed paid on the date it is mailed, if the tenant can show proof of mailing. If rent can be deposited at a financial institution, the owner must disclose the account number and name and address of the institution, which must be within five miles of the tenant's residence.

An owner must provide tenants with a copy of their lease or rental agreement within 15 days after the tenant signs it, and, after that, within 15 days of the tenant's request, once each calendar year. If the rental agreement is oral, the owner must, within 15 days of the agreement, furnish the tenant a written statement disclosing the newly required information.

If existing leases or rental agreements do not include the required information, owners may comply by providing a written notice containing the information. Form notices may be downloaded from the Rent Board's website (

Three-day notices to pay or quit must now specify, in addition to the rental amount due:

The name, address, and telephone number of the person to whom the rent should be paid.
The days and hours rent will be accepted, if it can be personally delivered.
The account number and name and address of the financial institution, if rent can be paid there.


Q: My lease says I am not allowed to have dogs living in my unit. My boyfriend lives out of town and visits about twice a month. It's hard for him to find dog care, so it would be nice if he could bring his dogs. The dogs would only be here for a day or two at most. I'm afraid that if I get caught with dogs -- even if they're only visiting - I could be evicted. Can my landlady evict me for this?

Tenants in Berkeley may only be evicted for "good cause" as set forth in the Berkeley Rent Ordinance. Breach of a material term of the lease is one such good cause for eviction. In your case, it sounds as if keeping dogs in your apartment, even temporarily, may be grounds for eviction. Before you could be evicted, however, your landlady would have to serve you with a three-day notice to quit. If the dogs were out by the end of three days, you would have cured the breach. But, were you to bring the dogs back, your landlady could argue that you'd never actually cured the original breach, and she might renew her eviction action.

Perhaps you should first discuss your situation with your landlady. She may be willing to make an allowance once in a while. If she is, you should make a written amendment to your lease that sets forth the duration and frequency of the dog visits, in order to avoid future problems.

Q: My two brothers and I own a two-unit property. We own no other property in Berkeley. One of my daughters will likely attend U. C. Berkeley in the fall, if she can occupy one of the units in our building. May we evict one of the tenants so that my daughter can move in?

An owner holding a 50% or greater interest in a property can evict for his/her own occupancy as a principal residence, or for use as the principal residence by a child, parent, spouse or domestic partner. Rent Board Regulation 1382(C) provides that ownership interests in property may not be combined to satisfy the 50% ownership requirement of the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for purposes of owner/relative evictions or owner-occupancy exemptions from registration requirements. Therefore, if you and your brothers own equal interests in property, none of you can evict for owner or relative move in, even if you are all in agreement about wanting the tenant to leave. It should be noted that there is an exception to this rule, and that married couples and registered domestic partners whose combined interests exceed 50% will satisfy the requirement.

As a follow-up question, what is the definition of "principal residence?" Will it make a difference, if my daughter intends to come home for the summer?

A principal residence, as defined in Regulation 503, is "that dwelling place where the person actually resides a majority of the time." In determining an owner's principal residence, the following factors are considered: (A) whether the person carries on basic living activities at the dwelling place; (B) whether the person maintains another dwelling and, if so, the amount of time spent at each; (C) whether the person has filed for and obtained a homeowner's exemption for the dwelling place; (D) whether the person is a registered voter at the dwelling place; and (E) other relevant factors. For the purpose of the Rent Ordinance, a person may have only one principal residence. Thus, if your daughter actually resides a majority of the time in the Berkeley unit so that it becomes her principal residence, that she may later spend the summer in your home, will not change this finding.

Q: What is Measure Y?

Measure Y, which goes into effect on December 15, 2000 is the voter-approved amendment to the Berkeley Rent Ordinance that restricts a landlord's ability to evict for a landlord/relative move-in, and imposes certain obligations upon landlords who terminate a tenancy for such a move-in.

Measure Y prohibits owner or relative move-in evictions if:

(1) The landlord owns less than a 50% recorded interest in the property;
(2) A tenant in the unit has lived on the property more than five years and the landlord owns a 10% or greater interest in 5 or more residential units in Berkeley; 
(3) A tenant in the unit is at least 60 years old or disabled, has lived on the property at least five years and the landlord owns a 10% or greater interest in at least 4 residential units in Berkeley; 
(4) The owner is otherwise entitled to evict the tenant but owns a comparable unit in Berkeley that is currently vacant or that will be vacant within the next 90 days.

Exceptions. Eviction prohibitions (2) and (3) above do not apply where all of the landlord's Berkeley units are occupied by such tenants as are described in (2) and (3), and: (a) the landlord has owned the property for five years and is at least 60 years old or disabled; (b) the landlord's relative is at least 60 years old or disabled; or (c) the landlord owns three or fewer units in Berkeley.

Under Measure Y, landlords have the following obligations: (A) to offer the displaced tenant any unit the landlord owns in Berkeley that becomes available before the tenant vacates the unit; (B) to provide a $4,500 relocation assistance payment to any low-income tenant who has resided in the unit for one year or more, provided that the tenant notifies the landlord and the Rent Board in writing of a low-income status claim within 30 days of the receipt of any notice of termination of tenancy received after November 15, 2000; (C) to move into the unit within three months of the termination and live in the unit for at least 36 months; (D) to give the terminated tenant the right to re-occupy the unit when the landlord or relative moves out; and (E) to pay the tenant's attorneys' fees if the tenant prevails in an owner/relative move-in eviction action.

Measure Y adopts the 2000 Federal low-income guidelines as the standard to determine a tenant's eligibility for the $4,500 relocation assistance payment described in (B) above. A household in Alameda County is considered "low-income" if the annual income is at or below the following amounts:

Household Income Limits
July 1, 2004 through current date
Persons per household:     Income no greater than:
1                                             $46,350
2                                             $53,000
3                                             $59,600
4                                             $66,250
5                                             $71,550
6                                             $76,850
7                                             $82,150
8                                             $87,450

Q: My building was recently sold and the new landlord wants two units in the building for himself and his parents. He has offered $2000 to some of the tenants to voluntarily vacate their units. Does this kind of voluntary agreement violate the Berkeley Rent Ordinance? If nobody volunteers, would the landlord evict based on length of occupancy? What if a tenant agreed but changed his mind-would the landlord be able to evict because the tenant didn't vacate as promised?

The Rent Ordinance does not prohibit an agreement to voluntarily vacate a unit. A tenant who agreed to vacate a unit could not be evicted for failing to vacate as promised. (The tenant would, of course, be obligated to refund of any money paid pursuant to the agreement.)

Good cause is required for eviction under the Ordinance. Owner-occupancy constitutes good cause; i.e., an owner may evict so that he/she, his/her spouse, or his/her child or parent, may occupy the unit as a principal residence, but the owner must serve a 30-day written notice. Only an owner with at least a fifty percent recorded interest in the property may evict for owner-occupancy. There is no requirement to evict a short-term rather than a long-term tenant. Generally, a tenant cannot be evicted if there is a comparable unit on the property that was vacant and available for the owner's occupancy within 90 days before the 30-day notice was issued or becomes vacant before the tenant leaves.

To be valid, a 30-day notice must specify the names and relationships to the landlord of all individuals for whom the landlord seeks to recover possession of the property for occupancy as a principal residence. In addition, a copy of the notice must be filed with the Rent Board within ten days after it was served on the tenant. A tenant who receives a 30-day notice to vacate for owner-occupancy should consult his/her own attorney. The tenant may also contact the Rent Board to determine whether the notice is valid.

Finally, if the person named in the notice does not occupy the rental unit as his/her/their principal residence for 36 consecutive months after the tenant moves, the tenant may have a claim against the landlord for a bad faith eviction. A tenant who moves voluntarily will not have any recourse if the landlord simply re-rents the unit.  Additional restrictions are also placed on an owner who wishes to move him/herself or his/her relatives into a unit (see Owner Move-In/Summary of Law). 

Q: Can our landlord sell the duplex we live in as a non-rental residential property and evict us under the Ellis Act?

Your landlord may be able to evict you under the Ellis Act, but eviction under Ellis takes some time, and has certain restrictions. The Ellis Act allows landlords to remove a property from the rental market, but limits the rent that can be charged if the property is returned to the rental market in the next 10 years, regardless of any changes in ownership.

A landlord may sell the property after completing the Ellis process, but if the property is rented at any time during the 10-year period following an Ellis Act eviction, the rent level is limited to no more than the maximum rent that would have been in effect had the previous tenancies continued. In addition, the Rent Board can require that the unit be offered to the tenants who were originally displaced. If the property is rented within two years following an Ellis eviction, the owner would be liable to the displaced tenants for actual and exemplary damages, in a civil action filed by the tenants or by the Rent Board on the tenants' behalf.

Q: We live in a unit with our landlord.  Are we protected under the A good cause for eviction" provisions in the Berkeley Rent law, or could we be evicted for any reason allowed by state law?

A rental unit is exempt from the eviction protections of the Berkeley Rent Ordinance if the tenants share kitchen or bath facilities with a landlord who is a 50% owner of record and who uses the units as his or her principal place of residence.  If the unit is exempt from the eviction protections of the Ordinance, evictions are regulated by state law.   

Q: My landlord just asked me to vacate my apartment because he wants to move in.  I don’t want to move.  Is there anything I can do?  

No tenant should move based on an oral request from the landlord.  The Rent Ordinance allows a landlord to evict a tenant so that the landlord, his/her spouse, or his/her child or parent, may occupy the unit as a principal residence, but only after he or she serves a 30-day written notice.  For purposes of an owner-occupancy eviction, only an owner with at least a fifty percent recorded interest in the property is considered a landlord.  Generally, a tenant cannot be evicted if there is a comparable unit on the property that was vacant within 90 days before the 30-day notice was issued or becomes vacant before the tenant leaves.  To be valid, a 30-day notice must specify the names and relationships to the landlord of all individuals for whom the landlord seeks to recover possession of the property for occupancy as a principal residence.  In addition, a copy of the notice must be filed with the Rent Board within ten days after it was served on the tenant.  Any tenant who receives a 30-day notice to vacate for owner-occupancy should contact the Rent Board to determine whether the notice is valid.   Finally, if the person named in the notice does not occupy the rental unit as his/her/their principal residence for 36 consecutive months after the tenant moves, the tenant may have a claim against the landlord for a bad faith eviction.  A tenant who moves based on an oral request will not have any recourse if the landlord simply re-rents the unit. 

Q:  Is it legal for a landlord to issue eviction notices after the fifth of each month?  Isn’t there a grace period before an eviction can be filed?

How soon an eviction action may be brought is controlled by the terms of the lease.  If the lease states that the rent is due on the first of the month, a payment made on the second is late, unless a specific grace period is provided in the lease.  If no grace period is specified, a landlord may give a tenant a three-day notice to pay or quit on the day the rent becomes overdue.  If the rent is paid in full before the end of the three-day period, the tenant cannot be evicted. 

Q:  My roommate and I have been living in a Berkeley duplex for the past 3 years.  On May first, we were given a 30-day notice to move because the house was being sold and the new owners planned to live in our unit.  Given the current real estate market, we were forced to find temporary living arrangements.  Recently, I was searching housing listings on the Internet, and I found our former apartment listed for rent for $1,700 a month; that’s $700 more than we were paying.  The new owners lied to us when they told us they were going to move into our unit.  They just wanted a big rent increase.  The abrupt move was very costly, and we continue to suffer an undue financial burden because of this displacement.  Is there any way we can fight this?

Section 13.76.150B of the Berkeley Municipal Code provides in part that “if it is shown that the event which the landlord claims as grounds to recover possession [of a rental unit] … is not initiated within two months after the tenant vacates the unit, or it is shown the landlord's claim was false or in bad faith, the tenant shall be entitled to regain possession and to actual damages.  If the landlord's conduct was willful, the tenant shall be entitled to … three times the actual damages sustained.”  In your case, it appears that you were deceived into vacating your rental unit.  If you can prove this, you would be entitled to regain possession and to actual damages.  (To return possession, the owner would probably need to pay the current tenants to vacate.)  The alternative is treble damages.  This could be significant.  For example, if you secured comparable housing for $2000 per month, your actual damages would be $1000 per month or $12,000 per year.  If you were able to show that you planned to live in the unit at least 5 more years, your total actual damages would be $60,000.  Trebled, that’s $180,000.  Needless to say, using false pretenses to create a vacancy for the sole purpose of renting a unit for more money could have serious financial consequences.

Q: Although my rental agreement states that we shouldn't be loud after 11:00 p.m., I plan to have a party on Friday that will go on after 11:00. What kind of steps should I take to avoid any action against me?

Inform your neighbors of your plan to hold a party and provide them with your telephone number so that if the noise becomes excessive, they will call you rather than the police or the landlord. Please bear in mind, however, that continuing to destroy the peace and quiet of other tenants of the premises, after being presented with written notice to cease, is one of the just causes for eviction under the Ordinance.

Q: When a property is sold with tenants living there, what are the existing tenants rights? Can all existing tenants be forced to move?

When a building is sold, the tenants rights remain the same as they were before the sale. Tenants would have to vacate only if an owner (with a recorded interest of 50% or more in the property) wished to move into a unit or units and use the property as his or her principal residence; or if the new owner wished to move a child or parent into the property for use as their principal residence.


Have a question?  E-mail us at