If you rent in California, your landlord can't raise the rent overnight. State law requires the landlord to give you plenty of advance notice before the higher rent kicks in.
The California Department of Consumer Affairs says if your lease runs for longer than 30 days, the landlord can't raise the rent until the lease ends. The law makes an exception if the lease has a rent-increase clause written into it.
Monthly or Weekly
If you're renting on a monthly or weekly basis, your landlord has to give you at least 30 days notice before raising the rent. If the increase is greater than 10 percent, you get 60 days notice. Either way, the landlord has to notify you in writing, either by mail or by giving you the notice — including the amount your rent is going up, and the effective date. If you have a week-to-week rental, after you receive a 30-day notice you'll have slightly more than four weeks at your current rent before the new rate kicks in.
The California state government doesn't set any limits on how much your landlord can increase your rent. However, more than a dozen California cities have rent control ordinances or mobile-home park rent-control rules that do limit rent increases.
In Los Angeles, for instance, landlords with rent-controlled properties have to abide by state laws on notifying tenants. However, as of 2015 the city limits the amount of the increase to 5 percent every 12 months. If your rent is $600, the most it can go up is $30 a year. The landlord can add an extra 1 percent for electricity and 1 percent for gas if she pays for those utilities.
Berkeley's Rent Stabilization Board says the maximum rent increase is 65 percent of the increase in Berkeley's Consumer Price Index.
San Francisco Rules
In San Francisco, the Rent Board sets a ceiling on how much rent can rise every year. The year is calculated from the day the tenancy began. A landlord has to wait 12 months after that to impose an increase. If, say, the landlord raises the rate 18 months after the tenant moves in, he can't raise it again until another year has passed. If a landlord lets a year pass without raising rent, he can bank the increase. For example, suppose the Rent Board authorizes a 4 percent increase this year, but the landlord doesn't impose one. Twelve months later he can impose the next year's increase plus the unused 4 percent.
Rent control doesn't cover all the rental units in these towns. In San Francisco, for example, it only applies to rentals built before June 13, 1979. You can check with the rent board or similar agency in your city if you want to look up a particular address.
A tenant sublets an apartment if she rents space to someone else, either as a roommate for a big apartment or substitute tenant while the tenant is away. Legally, the subtenant has no relationship with the landlord — she's a tenant of the tenant.
Berkeley and San Francisco's rent boards say that as long as the original tenant is still living there, rent control is in force. If all the original tenants have moved out, the landlord may be able to raise the rent to a higher level.
- California Department of Community Affairs: Living in the Rental Unit
- Caltenantlaw: Cities With Rent Control
- Housing Rights Center: Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions — Landlord/Tenant
- Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board: Guide to Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Program Rent Control & Eviction Protection January 2015
- San Francisco Rent Board: Imposing the Annual Increase
- San Francisco Rent Board: Overview of Covered and Exempt Units
- Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board: Subletting and Replacing Roommates
- San Francisco Rent Board: Subletting and Replacement of Roommates