Many California cities implement rent control laws to prevent landlords
from raising rent above a certain amount. These rent controls intend to
help tenants by ensuring that a landowner cannot force a tenant out by
arbitrarily increasing their rent to an exorbitant amount. However, if
a rent control law does not provide the landlord with a reasonable adjustment
return, it may constitute an unconstitutional taking in violating of due
process. This article discusses rent control schemes in California cities,
and the requirements for tenants and landlords under these laws.
Local Rent Control Laws
Some cities or counties typically institute a rent control scheme that
sets a maximum on the amount by which a landlord can increase rent.
The following California cities have rent control laws in effect:
- East Palo Alto
- San Francisco
- Beverly Hills
- Los Angeles
- Santa Monica
- West Hollywood
- Palm Springs
Some rent control schemes also require property owners to register rental
units or rents for a fee. For example, the Berkley, East Palo Alto, and
Los Angeles have registration requirements. If a landowner fails to comply
with registration requirements, they could be prohibited from receiving
rent adjustments or even evicting tenants.
A typical rent control scheme allows landowners to make general adjustments
that take effect periodically or when a tenant vacates the unit. Some
rent control ordinances explicitly determine adjustment amounts. For other
rent control laws, the Consumer Price Index serves as a basis for proper
Most rent control ordinances impose criminal and civil liability for rent
control violations. A landlord and tenant may not enter a contract that
purports to circumvent local rent control laws. As a result, a provision
in a rental agreement that indicates that the parties agree that rent
control laws do not apply is unenforceable.
Vacancy Decontrol Under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act
The Cost-Hawkins Rental Housing Act imposes what is known as “vacancy
decontrol” for residential rental units throughout California. Under
vacancy decontrol, landlords are permitted to raise rent for vacated units
when a new tenant moves in, contrary to any local rent control laws. However,
once a new tenant rents the unit, the local rent control scheme applies
at the new base rent.
According to California Civil Code section 798.45, local rent control laws
do not apply to newer mobile home park spaces made available for rent
after January 1, 1990. Rental agreements for mobile home park spaces established
Rent Control as a Regulatory Taking
Under both the California and United States Constitution, the government
cannot deprive a landowner of their property for public use without just
compensation. As a result, rent control schemes that do not provide a
fair adjustment formula violate a landowner’s constitutional due
process rights. However, courts presume that a local rent control ordinance
is constitutionally valid. Thus, a successful constitutional challenge
to rent control laws requires a showing that the law amounts to an arbitrary
regulation of property rights.
California Real Estate Representation with Determination
If you need legal advice an issue with regarding rental control ordinances,
you should consult an experienced
California real estate attorney from
Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP. Our clients can benefit from our comprehensive and personalized approach
to legal representation, and so can you. We are dedicated to addressing
the specific circumstances that are unique to your case. We are committed
to helping you protect your constitutionally guaranteed right to enjoy
your property without undue governmental regulation.
Contact Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP online or call us at (888) 998-2031 today to arrange a free initial consultation
with one of our experienced lawyers.