California Rent Control Laws


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:

  • Berkley
  • East Palo Alto
  • Hayward
  • Oakland
  • 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 rent adjustments.

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.

Mobilehome Parks

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 before 1990

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.