How Rent Control Works in San Francisco

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Tenants should know the details of rent control in San Francisco. As with many other things, knowing your rights as a renter will help you avoid trouble with your landlord. 

What Is Rent Control?

Rent control is a restriction that prevents rents from being raised more than a certain amount every year, and it is tied to inflation. Apartments without rent control can have the rent increased by any amount at any time with 30 or 60 days notice. Rent control is administerd by the SF Rent Board at 25 Van Ness Ave at Market st. Usually the rent does not go up more than 3% a year, but since the rate is determined by inflation, high inflation will cause the rent to adjust higher. 

What Apartments Are Covered under Rent Control?

Most rental property in San Francisco is covered under rent control.

Notable exceptions:

  • Your building was constructed after June 1979. This is the largest exemption category in San Francisco and it cannot be changed or given exemptions. The city Assessor’s website has a searchable database for when your building was constructed. 
  • You live in subsidized housing or housing projects. 
  • You live in a dorm (or nunnery/monastery)
  • You live in a residential hotel and have less than 28 days of continuous residence there. 

Limited rent control:

  • Single family homes do not have full rent control protection. 
  • Condominium that you moved into on or after January 1, 1996 do not have full rent control. 

Exceptions to limited rent control:

  • If the single family home’s previous tenant was evicted by a 30 day notice, then you will have full rent control protection. (The information on evicted tenant is available on the city’s Rent Board.)
  • If, when you moved in, the condominium or single family home had housing code violations uncorrected for 60 days, you will have full rent control. 
  • If the condo you live in is still owned by the subdivider of the building, you are covered under full rent control protection. 

Rent Control on Unconventional Housing

  • Live Work Units and commercial spaces where you actually live full time are covered under rent control, even if the rental agreement says commercial only. 
  • Landlord occupied buildings with 2 to 4 units are covered under full rent control since Proposition 1 passed in 1994. 

Rent Increases

Rent increases are determined by the city using the Bay Area Consumer Price Index, and the amount changes every year based on inflation. In the years since 1993, the increase has never exceeded 3% a year. There are some costs that can be passed directly on to the renters in addition to these rent increases, such as 50% of recently adopted bond measures. If the landlord has made improvements to the property and wants to raise the rent, they will have to petition the Rent Board to get approval before passing that cost on to you. 

The Bottom Line

Finding a rental that is covered under rent control is fantastic way of establishing a measure of financial security in your rental situation. Rent control apartments are a great way to live in San Francisco with peace of mind.

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