Stabilizing Rental Housing with Tenant Protection Ordinances

Cluster of Housing Graphics

September 26, 2022

By Dominique Clark, Senior Associate

The topic of tenant protection is not new to California. During the last few decades, many jurisdictions have established rent control ordinances. Notably, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (California Civil Code Section 1954.50, et seq.) was established in 1995 to limit the kind of rent control policies that cities can impose. Specifically, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act prohibits cities from establishing rent restrictions on units constructed after 1995, protects a landlord’s right to increase a unit’s rent to market rate once a tenant moves out, and exempts single-family homes and condos unless the property is owned by a corporation or real estate investment trust. The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act also prohibits vacancy control on residential properties and exempts certain kinds of units from rent control (e.g., new construction and single units with separately alienable titles, such as single-family houses and condos). 

In 2019, the California State Legislature enacted the Tenant Protection Act (Assembly Bill 1482, California Civil Code Section 1946.2, et seq.) to further protect tenants, many of whom are experiencing significant rent increases and/or evictions.  Statewide, the Tenant Protection Act limits annual increases to 5% plus any rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), not to exceed 10%. Additionally, the Tenant Protection Act prevents tenant evictions without just cause in situations where all tenants have lived in the unit for at least 12 months or where at least one tenant has occupied the unit for at least 24 months. Some types of units are exempt from the rent control and/or just cause eviction requirements (e.g., new construction and owner-occupied duplexes). The Tenant Protection Act will be effective for 10 years through December 31, 2029.

With inflation continuing to squeeze the wallets of households across the nation, many jurisdictions throughout California are creating or strengthening their Tenant Protection Ordinances (“TPO”) to include protections that exceed the State requirements. Tenant Protection Ordinances can be designed to meet a number of goals, including but not limited to the following:

  • Limiting rent increases, including mobilehome space rents;
  • Prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants without a just cause;
  • Banning the practice of landlords refusing to rent to low-income tenants who receive Section 8 vouchers or other types of financial assistance; and
  • Protecting tenants of landlords seeking to remove their unit from the rental market.

Establishing or updating a TPO requires carefully balancing the competing goals of providing renters access to stable housing and ensuring that landlords can earn a fair return on their investment. RSG has extensive experience assisting several communities throughout the state with establishing and updating their TPOs, including Carson, Santa Ana, and San Jose. Some communities reach out to us to help them administer newly adopted TPOs. Others need our assistance with cleaning up their TPO to clarify ambiguous language and/or better reflect current best practices. Still others retain us to evaluate or even administer their rent stabilization program.

If your jurisdiction wants to learn more about establishing a Tenant Protection Ordinance or strengthening your existing ordinance or rent stabilization program, please email Dominique Clark at [email protected]webrsg.com.