Guide to Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Program
Rent Control & Eviction Protection
Most residential rental units in Berkeley are covered by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance.
Owners of rental property covered by the Ordinance must file an Initial Registration Statement that lists each unit’s base year or initial rent and housing services included in the rent. Owners must also pay an annual registration fee for each unit. (Regulation 801.) The fee is due July 1st of each year.
For each tenancy beginning on or after January 1, 1999, owners must file a Vacancy Registration (VR) form that includes the current rent, the number of occupants, and the housing services provided. (Regulation 1013 (K).) (There is no fee for filing a VR form.)
When the status of a rental unit changes from exempt to covered or the reverse, the owner must file an Amended Registration Statement within 60 days of the change and pay prorated registration fees that may apply. (Regulation 803.)
A residential rental unit is a dwelling unit with permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation (Regulation 403(A)). Rental units are most often found in duplexes and apartment buildings. But in a rooming house, defined as a property that has at least five rooms rented to five individuals under separate leases, each room is a rental unit. Rooming houses are typically found in single-family dwellings. In multi-unit properties, however, if one of the units has at least four bedrooms that are rented separately, each of those bedrooms is a unit that must be registered. (Regulations 403(B), 403.5).
Some rental units are exempt from some or all provisions of the Rent Stabilization Ordinance. (B.M.C. section 13.76.050.)
Owners of the following types of units must pay interest on security deposits and have good cause to evict, but they are not required to register the units and their rents are not controlled.
- Rental units owned by the Berkeley Housing Authority.
- Units leased to tenants assisted under the Section 8 or the Shelter Plus Care Programs, or similar federal rent subsidy programs, but only if the rent does not exceed an “authorized Payment Standard.” (Contact the Rent Board for more information.)
- Rental units constructed after June 30, 1980, as long as the units were not created by rehabilitation or conversion.
- Units owned by non-profit organizations, rented to low-income tenants, and covered by an agreement with a government agency that controls the unit’s rent levels, except for units rented by tenants who occupied the unit before the non-profit group bought the property.
- Single-family residences first covered by the Ordinance on or after January 1, 1996.
- Single-family residences re-rented on or after January 1, 1996, unless: (1) the landlord evicted the prior tenant for owner-occupancy or by changing the terms of tenancy; (2) the landlord receives a financial contribution from a public entity in exchange for reducing the rent; or (3) the unit contains serious, cited code violations that have been outstanding for at least 6 months. (Regulation 508.)
Note: A single-family residence is defined as a unit that can be sold separately from the title to any other dwelling unit, and includes condominiums that the original owner has sold separately to a buyer for value. (Regulation 508.) But a single-family home rented as a rooming house, discussed above, must be registered.
Owners of units in a facility leased or owned by a non-profit group to operate a treatment, recovery, therapy, sanctuary or shelter program, where the units are provided as part of the client’s participation in the program, are covered only by the Ordinance’s good cause for eviction provisions.
These units are exempt from all aspects of the Rent Ordinance.
- Rental units on a two-unit property where one unit was owner-occupied on December 31, 1979, and one unit is currently owner-occupied. “Owner-occupied” means the unit was the principal residence of an owner of record of at least a 50 percent interest, both on December 31, 1979, and when the exemption is claimed.
- Rental units where the tenant shares kitchen or bath facilities with an owner of record who holds at least a 50-percent interest and maintains his or her principal residence there.
- Rental units owned by a government agency (except the Berkeley Housing Authority); units rented primarily to transient guests for less than 14 consecutive days; non-profit cooperative housing owned and controlled by the residents; rental units in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, home for the aged, and the like; units rented by certain institutions of higher learning to its faculty, staff or students. (See B.M.C. section 13.76.050 or contact the Rent Board for more detail about these exemptions.)
An owner can get an official determination of a unit’s status by making a written request to the Rent Board. The Board will issue a written determination, which the owner may challenge by filing a Petition to Determine Exempt Status. (Regulation 521.)
A tenant may file a Petition for Rent Withholding for Failure to Register if he or she reasonably believes the property is not exempt or not properly registered. (Regulation 1501.)
- Owners may be unable to evict tenants. (B.M.C. section 13.76.130 C.) (Decisions on eviction lawsuits are issued by a state court judge and not by the Rent Board.)
- Owners may be ineligible for all or part of an annual general adjustment. (Regulation 1100.) (See p. 6.)
- Owners may be assessed late payment penalties. (B.M.C. section 13.76.080 F.)
- Tenants in a covered unit may petition the Board for authorization to withhold rent until the unit is registered. (Regulation 1501.)
- A landlord petition for a rent increase will not be accepted unless the affected property has been properly registered for 30 days. (Regulation 1206.) If during the petition process registration is found to be incomplete, any decision awarding a rent increase will be delayed until the owner has properly registered. (Regulation 1277.)
Owners of properties containing three or more dwelling units must obtain a City of Berkeley Business License and pay an annual license fee, which is separate from the Rent Board registration fee. Contact the city’s Customer Service Center at (510) 981-7200 for more information. (Other laws affecting landlords and tenants are listed on pp. 22-23.)
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