California Passes Rent Cap and Eviction Protections with AB 1482

In September, the California Legislature approved AB 1482, the Tenant Protection Act of 2019. Governor Newsom signed the bill on October 8, making California the third state this year to impose statewide residential rent control, behind Oregon and New York. The legislation also includes “just cause” eviction provisions.

Until its repeal date of January 1, 2030, AB 1482 limits rent increases for many residential buildings. For covered buildings, during any 12-month period, the bill prohibits a landlord from increasing a tenant’s rent by an amount that is the lesser of: (a) 5% plus the percentage increase in the cost of living based on the regional CPI (for the Bay Area, roughly 4% or a total of about a 9% increase based on the 2019 CPI), or (b) 10%. The cap applies to rent increases imposed after March 15, 2019, and for existing tenants, a landlord may not increase the rent more than twice in a 12-month period.

In an effort to address the impacts of the rent cap on new construction, the Legislature included an exemption for housing constructed in the past 15 years. AB 1482 also exempts certain affordable housing, college dormitories, single-family homes, and owner-occupied duplexes and condominiums (except where the owner is a REIT, corporation or limited liability company where at least one member is a corporation). The bill does not apply to housing that is already subject to local rent control measures. The City of San Francisco currently imposes rent control on buildings constructed before June 13, 1979. The San Francisco Rent Ordinance caps annual increases in residential rents based on a specific formula tied to the regional CPI. Since the 1980s, the effective rate cap has ranged from 0.1% to 7.0%, and the current cap in effect through February 29, 2020 is 2.6%. These protections will continue to apply. The AB 1482 rent cap provisions will apply to buildings that received certificates of occupancy between June 13, 1979 and December 31, 2004. A building constructed in or after 2005 will not be subject to the new AB 1482 rent caps until the building is at least 15 years old.

The legislation also imposes “just cause” eviction procedures, which apply to tenants who have continuously and lawfully occupied a residential property for at least 12 months (or at least 24 months in the case of one or more new adult tenants), unless the eviction results from an “at-fault” or “no-fault” just cause, as defined in the bill. For a “no-fault” eviction, such as an owner move-in or substantial renovation, the landlord must provide tenants with relocation assistance or a rent waiver in the amount of one month’s rent. The exemptions are similar to those for rent caps, and also include dormitories for K-12 schools, housing associated with a nonprofit hospital, religious facilities, extended care or licensed residential care facilities, hotels, and individual rooms or accessory dwelling units rented out by a homeowner. Local just cause ordinances such as San Francisco’s prevail, provided they were either in effect on or before September 1, 2019, or are adopted thereafter but are more protective than the state legislation.

The bill faced substantial opposition, led by the California Apartment Association – which ultimately dropped its opposition – and the California Association of Realtors. Opponents raised concerns that the bill would chill housing production, curtail economic development, and complicate the eviction process.

While many tenants’ rights groups supported the legislation, others remain critical of certain provisions, including the lack of vacancy control and longer-term tenant protections. Bay Area Mayors London Breed, Libby Schaaf and Sam Liccardo endorsed the measure.