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Rent Stabilization Board
Rent Stabilization Board
Penant Masthead

Berkeley Has Rent Control

What is rent control?

In 1980, the voters enacted a law -- the Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance (the "Rent Ordinance") -- that  regulates most residential units in Berkeley with two key purposes:
1) to protect tenants from unwarranted rent increases, and 2) to protect tenants from evictions without a "good cause." With few exceptions, even units not covered by rent control are guaranteed eviction protections.  

And what does it mean for you?
  • Tenants in rent-controlled units can petition to reduce rent due to poor housing conditions 
  • Landlords cannot tell you to leave just because they don't like you, want to sell the property, or can get higher rent from someone else 
  • You have the right to interest on your security deposit 
  • You can get advice on your rights and responsibilities as a tenant 
3 Things You Should Know

The Berkeley Rent Board Can Help

Who We Are
We are dedicated public servants: Professional staff and elected Rent Board Commissioners. 

The Rent Ordinance serves "to address the City of Berkeley's housing crisis, preserve the public peace, health and safety, and advance the housing policies of the City with regard to low and fixed income persons, minorities, students, handicapped, and the aged." Berkeley Municipal Code 13.76.030 

Services We Provide 

  • Rental Housing Counseling and Advice (at our office or on campus
  • Workshops 
  • Mediation and Hearings 

Call and Speak
with a Rent Board Housing Counselor
(510) 981-7368 (RENT)

Students 101_Pt 1_Know Your Status

  STEP 1:     Understand what types of units are covered by rent control, eviction protections
                  and the right to interest on a security deposit. 

 Types of Rent Control Coverage for Units in Berkeley  

 Type of Coverage     Description of Coverage              Examples                       

 Full Coverage     

Your rent is controlled and your rent ceiling can only be raised by an Annual General Adjustment (AGA). You can't be evicted just because the landlord doesn't like you: The landlord must have 1 of the 12 "good causes" to evict as enumerated in the Rent Ordinance in order to lawfully terminate your tenancy. You have a right to interest on your security deposit.

  • Most multi-unit properties in Berkeley that were built before June of 1980    
  • Single-family homes with tenants who moved in prior to 1996    
  • Single-family homes with
    5 or more rooms rented out individually with separate leases    


Partial Coverage

Your rent is NOT controlled by our Rent Ordinance and you don't have a rent ceiling--your landlord can increase your rent without limit at the end of your fixed-term lease. You can't be evicted just because the landlord doesn't like you: The landlord must have 1 of the 12 "good causes" to evict as enumerated in the Rent Ordinance in order to lawfully terminate your tenancy. You have a right to interest on your security deposit.
  • Single-family homes first re-rented on or after 1/1/ 1996 
  • Most condominiums 
  • "New Construction": Units that received a certificate of occupancy after June 30, 1980 from Berkeley's Planning & Development Department.  
  • Section 8 tenancies
No rent stabilization: Your rent can be raised without limit at the end of your lease and with proper notice. No eviction protections: You can be evicted with proper written notice for any or no reason at all. You do not have a right to interest on your security deposit.
  • Units where the tenant shares a kitchen or bath with the landlord 
  • Any duplex that was owner-occupied on December 31, 1979, and currently has an owner living in one of the units ("Golden Duplexes") 
  • Rental units rented by a non-profit, accredited institution of higher learning (i.e., dorms) 
  • Non-profit cooperatives
  • Tenancies started after November 7, 2018 on properties where one unit is an ADU and either unit is owner-occupied.  

 STEP 2:    Tenants in fully-covered units can use My Rent Ceiling to check the rent ceiling. 
                  However, note that the "ceiling" may relate to a prior tenant and is not applicable to 
                  rent charged to you (landlord can reset to market rate rent for a new tenancy--when 
                  all original tenants vacate).

 STEP 3: Call the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Program at (510) 981-7368 (RENT) to check on
                 the status of a property.

Students 101_Pt 2_Know Your Rights
Will the landlord ask
for a credit or
background check?

Very likely. Some landlords ask the applicant to bring their credit report, but many obtain information from the parents as co-signors or the student to run a background check. Berkeley's 'Tenant Screening Fee Rights Ordinance' limits the amount the landlord can charge and the application must state that any amount not used must be refunded.

Should I conduct a
'walk through' of the
unit before signing
the lease?

YES! Complete a checklist on the condition of every room in the unit before moving in as this may prove useful in disputes over the security deposit once the tenant(s) vacate.

What can they
charge for a 'security

The property owner/landlord can request up to two months' rent for unfurnished units or three times the rent for furnished units. Security deposits may be used to cover unpaid rent (including last month's rent if the tenant doesn't pay), damage caused by the tenant or his/her guests (less normal wear and tear), or cleaning to return the unit to the condition rented.

How much rent can
they initially charge?

For a new tenancy (an empty unit with no pre-existing group of tenants), a landlord can set initial rent at "prevailing market rate" under state law (Costa-Hawkins Act) which means whatever the market will bear.

Read the lease or
rental contract
closely before

One of the 12 "good causes" for an eviction, as enumerated in the Rent Ordinance, is if the tenant violates a material term of their lease (i.e., not having pets, guests beyond a certain number of days, prohibiting subleasing, etc.) after being asked in writing to stop. As of May 1, 2014, all multi-unit rental properties will require a non-smoking provision in the lease. Thus, be aware of every provision in the lease as it may prohibit certain activities.

Report Repair
for Help

California law requires that landlords provide safe and habitable housing, i.e., a unit that is pest free, has hot and cold running water, heat, weatherproofing, etc. (CA Civil Code Section 1941.1). Once students move in, they should always report in writing to the manager or landlord when repairs are needed. If there is no response or repair in a reasonable time, tenants can request a free housing inspection from the City, or call the Rent Board at (510) 981-7368 (RENT) for further counseling and possible remedies.

How do rent
increases work?

On January 1st, the rent ceiling for units fully-covered by the Rent Ordinance is subject to change by the AGA (small percentage increase to the ceiling). A student's initial rent in a rent-controlled unit cannot be increased until January 1st after the next full year following their initial tenancy start date. For example if your tenancy began in 2014, the first time the landlord can adjust your rent would be January 1, 2016.

Eviction Protections 

"Good cause" is required for an eviction in most rental units in Berkeley. There are 12 "good causes" which include (among others): Failure to pay rent; violation of the terms of a lease; or refusal by the tenant, after written notice, to pay for damage or to cease causing a disturbance. "Good cause" does not include mere expiration of a lease, the property being purchased by a new owner, or foreclosure. A landlord must complete certain procedural requirements before proceeding to court to evict a tenant. Tenants should pay close attention to any warning letters or notices and immediately contact the Rent Board at (510) 981-7368 (RENT) for counseling.

Additional Resources for Cal Students

ASUC's Renter's Legal Assistance ................................................ (510) 642-1755

Cal Legal Services for Students ..................................................... (510) 642-3916

Tang Center for Health and Mental Health .................................... (510) 642-2000

East Bay Community Law Center .................................................. (510) 548-4040

Eviction Defense Center ................................................................. (510) 452-4541

Students 101_Pt 3_Know Your Recourse

Call or e-mail the Berkeley Rent Board with any questions or concerns you may have regarding housing or tenants' rights in the City of Berkeley:

Phone:            (510) 981-7368 (RENT)
Website:          http://www.cityofberkeley.info/rent


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Home | Web Policy | Text-Only Site Map | Contact Us
Rent Stabilization Board, 2125 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704
Questions or comments? Email: rent@cityofberkeley.info Phone: (510) 981-7368
(510) 981-CITY/2489 or 311 from any landline in Berkeley
TTY: (510) 981-6903