Guide to Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Program
Rent Control & Eviction Protection
January 2015


Requirement to Register

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.)

Partially Exempt

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.

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.

Completely Exempt

These units are exempt from all aspects of the Rent Ordinance.

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.)

Consequences of Failing to Register

Berkeley Business License Required for Most Landlords

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.)

Table of Contents  

Back to top