Determining Whether a Unit is Covered by Oakland's Rent Adjustment Program, and how Landlords and Oakland Property Managers Can Get it Excluded

Published: Nov 09, 2020

The City of Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program has been around since 1980. The regulations outlined in the Rent Adjustment Ordinance are intended to promote affordable, fair housing for Oakland’s diverse population. 

“We believe community begins with where you live, and we’re committed to fostering healthy relationships between property owners and renters,” the Rent Adjustment Program website states.

Landlords and Oakland property management companies should always familiarize themselves with the details of the ordinance, as codified in OMC Chapter 8.22. The regulation outlines what types of rental units are subject to the ordinance, as well as how much Oakland property owners can increase rents each year, among other policies. 

But we understand not everyone has time to pour through pages and pages of legislation.

So we’ve put together a series of articles to help you understand the most important pieces. In this post, we share an overview of what types of rental units are subject to the Rent Adjustment Program in Oakland, what types of units are exempt, and the process by which you can file for rent control exemptions.

What Units are COVERED by the Rent Adjustment Program?

The ordinance defines a “covered unit” as any dwelling unit, including joint living and work quarters, and all housing services located in Oakland and used or occupied in consideration of payment of rent with the exception of those designated as exempt herein.

Wait… what?

Unless you’re planning to read the full ordinance, that definition doesn’t tell you very much.

In short, a unit is covered if your building was built before 1983, and there are two or more units in your building. All covered units must abide by the rules and regulations set forth in the ordinance, including paying a $30 annual “ fee” to the City of Oakland. 

Additionally, Oakland landlords must obtain an Oakland Business License to lease covered properties.

Houses covered by the rent adjustment program

What Units are EXEMPT from Oakland’s Rent Control Ordinances?

There are a number of reasons why a rental unit may not be covered by the Rent Adjustment Program. The most important exemption is for units built after January 1, 1983

This exemption does not apply to any newly-constructed dwelling units that replace covered units withdrawn from the rental market; it must be entirely newly constructed or created from space that was formerly non-residential.

Other exemptions include:

  • A unit in a property that has been divided into a maximum of three units, one of which is occupied by an owner of record as his or her primary residence. The owner-occupant must live there for at least two years before filing for an exemption.
  • Substantially rehabilitated buildings.
  • Oakland apartments whose rents are controlled, regulated, or subsidized by any governmental unit, agency, or authority.
  • Units exempt pursuant to the Costa-Hawkins, the statewide rent control regulation. This includes most single-family residences and condominiums that can be sold separately.
  • Rooms in motels, hotels, inns, tourist houses, rooming houses, and boarding houses, provided that the tenant does not occupy the unit for more than 30 continuous days.
  • Units in any hospital, extended care facility or dormitory owned and operated by an educational institution.
  • Rental units in a nonprofit cooperative that is owned, occupied and controlled by a majority of the residents.

How do Landlords File for an Exemption?

In order for a rental property to be exempt from the ordinance, the owner must obtain a “Certificate of Exemption” from the Rental Adjustment Ordinance.

If an Oakland landlord does not already have this certificate, he must file a petition with the city to receive the certificate. 

The form is simple. 

It asks for some basic information about the property, and asks the respondent whether they are applying for an exemption based on new construction, substantial rehabilitation, or as a single-family residence or condominium exempt pursuant to Costa-Hawkins. 

Any documents supporting the claim should be attached and filed with the City of Oakland. Staff from the Rent Adjustment Program will review the facts of the case to determine whether an exemption is warranted.

Even if the unit is clearly exempt from the ordinance, the Oakland landlord will be required to appear before the at a hearing. A Hearing Officer will make a decision about the petition within 30 days of the hearing. If it is determined that a unit does not qualify for an exemption, the property owner has 20 days to request an appeal. 

Once the appeal has been heard, the decision becomes final.

Bottom Line on Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program (RAP)

One final piece of information: it’s important for landlords and Oakland property managers to understand that units exempt from the Rent Adjustment ordinance are not automatically exempt from the city’s eviction controls. 

The exemptions from eviction controls are different, and can be found in the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance.

For more information, contact the City of Oakland.

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