Housing is a basic human need; however, many people cannot afford the average housing price in California. This is due to gentrification and higher-income earners moving into areas that you once considered affordable. Real estate has turned into an investment market where prices rise with demand or lack thereof. Many renters can’t keep up with rising housing costs, are evicted from their homes, or can’t find housing in the first place.

California’s rent control law is considered one of the most comprehensive in the nation. It limits residential rent increases and eviction proceedings while requiring owners to petition for allowable increases if they wish to move forward with a new renter. Renters have protections to ensure they are not being displaced or harassed by landlords. You must understand these rights before signing a lease agreement as a renter. Here are six things every Californian should know about rent control in the state.

  1. All Cities Can Adopt Their Rent Control Policy

Rent control policies are decided at the city level in California. If you live in an area like Berkeley, Santa Monica, or Beverly Hills – your rent control laws will differ from most cities across the Golden State. Each town has its way of enforcing the rent control policies, with some towns setting their cap on annual rent increases. In contrast, others only allow policies to affect certain buildings or apartment units. For example, many cities will only apply rent control to buildings with five or more units.

  1. There Are Typically Two Types of Rent Control Laws in California
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There are two types of rent control policies that each city can establish – market-based and tenant-based. Market-based policies use the average cost of housing in an area as a reference for the price. This allows the city to set rent-control prices at 1 or 2 percent above average market value for rental housing. Tenant-based policies use the tenant’s income as a guide for establishing rent control laws. These rates can be less than market-based policy, depending on income levels and how much the renter can pay.

  1. A Landlord Cannot Raise the Rent on a Whim

One of the most important rights is that renters can stay in their current housing for as long as they like. Once agreed upon, monthly rental rates are locked in for the duration of certain rental agreements. For month-to-month leases, landlords must provide at least 30 days’ notice before increasing your monthly rent payment. You can do this by mailing a letter or email notifying the renter of the upcoming change.

Month-to-month leases typically last for a minimum of 1 year and require 60 days’ notice before increasing monthly rent. However, some landlords may choose to raise your rent after just 30 or 45 days if they have been renting the same property for fewer than four years.

  1. Landlords Are Required to Petition for Allowable Rent Increases

For a landlord to raise the price of a rental unit, they must petition the city’s rent control board. This board exists in most cities with rent control policies and only increases monthly housing costs if it falls within state law. A petition for an increase must be submitted by the landlord (or representative) and will typically result in public hearings where both parties can present evidence to support their case. The board then decides whether or not to allow the petition based on current market conditions, tenant hardship, and building/maintenance costs, among other factors.

  1. There Are Some Exemptions to AB 1482
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AB 1482 is a new law that allows landlords to increase rent by market value when they offer a tenant-based rental assistance voucher under the Section 8 housing program. The reason for this exemption is that units with these vouchers are typically subsidized and, thus, require more income from renters to cover the rent. Other exemptions that apply to AB 1482 include rent control exemptions, local ordinances exempting properties from rent control, or rent-controlled units with tenant-based rental assistance. It is vital to understand the possible legal ramifications of such legislation, before signing any document.

  1. You Can Be Evicted From Your Home for Just Cause

Eviction policies vary by city, with some only allowing a landlord to remove a renter from their property if they fail to pay monthly rent. However, most cities will allow a landlord to evict you for just cause. These include: breaching the rental agreement, failing to pay total rent on time, causing excessive damage or disturbance within your apartment unit, and having unauthorized pets, among other ‘just causes.’

State law does not limit the rent a landlord can charge their tenants. However, you are guaranteed rights with every rental agreement that establishes specific terms for how much you will pay in monthly rent. You also have the right to live at the apartment or house for as long as you want, provided you adhere to your contract’s established guidelines.

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