Guide to Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Program
Rent Control & Eviction Protection
The following ordinances and statutes are either unique to the City of Berkeley or relatively new statewide requirements. This is not an exhaustive list of laws affecting landlords and tenants.
Residential Housing Safety Program. Most rental property owners must certify that their units meet housing safety standards by a City-prepared checklist by July 1st of each year, and give a copy of the certification to the tenant. For more information, contact the city’s Housing Department at (510) 981-5445, or follow the link from the Rent Board’s website under Habitability & Repairs.
Carbon monoxide alarms. State law required owners of all existing single-family homes with an attached garage or a gas appliance to install carbon monoxide alarms in the home by July 1, 2011. The device must be approved by the state fire marshal. This requirement went into effect for all multi-family dwellings on January 1, 2013.
Recycling in apartments. Recycling services are now mandatory for all buildings with five or more units. The first phase, effective July 1, 2012, requires recycling of paper, cardboard, and food and beverage containers. Beginning July 1, 2014, food and other compostables must also be recycled. To establish recycling service, and for free assistance, collection containers, and instructional posters, call the City’s Customer Service Call Center at 311 or call (510) 981-7270. The new requirements are imposed by state law and the Alameda County Waste Management Authority. You can get more information from that agency at www.recyclingrulesac.org/.
Soft Story Ordinance. The City of Berkeley has compiled an inventory of several hundred wood-frame buildings that have five or more units with a large opening, such as a garage or storefront, on the ground floor. The Soft Story Ordinance (B.M.C. Chapter 19.39) requires owners of these buildings to: provide written notice to every tenant that the building is included on the inventory, and send a copy of that notice to the City; post a warning sign in a conspicuous place near the building’s main entrance; and obtain a seismic engineering evaluation of the property. For more information contact the City’s Building & Safety Division at (510) 981-7440.
Smoking bans. A state law that took effect in January 2012 (Civil Code section 1947.5) allows landlords to ban smoking in residential dwellings, even if previously allowed. However, this law does not preempt local ordinances such as Berkeley’s Rent Ordinance, which prohibits tenants from being evicted for not agreeing to a landlord-imposed change in the terms of a tenancy. Thus, while a landlord and a tenant may agree to a smoking prohibition on the premises, the tenant is not required to accept such a ban where none existed before. This is clarified in Regulation 1313.
Tenant screening fees. Before collecting a fee from prospective tenants to run a credit check or process a rental application, landlords must furnish a “Tenant Screening Fee Rights” statement and disclose the maximum fee allowed under state Civil Code section 1950.6(b). (B.M.C. Chapter 13.78.)
Electronic payments. Landlords cannot require tenants to pay rent electronically, online, or through an automatic deduction system. Tenants may agree to pay rent in one of those ways, but they also have the right to rescind such an agreement at any time. (Civil Code section 1947.3.)
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