Mountain View: New Rent Control Laws

Doug Brien
March 14, 2017

On election day, November 8, a bunch of Bay Area cities considered ballot initiatives that all related to rent and eviction controls. Important new rules passed in four of those municipalities: Oakland, Alameda, Richmond and Mountain View. In this third of o8r mini-series, we’ll take a closer look at the impact of those new laws on each city. Now up: Mountain View.

The Results

Mountain View voters were pretty clear about their preferences: they opted for rent controls and limits on evictions by a whopping margin of six percentage points: 53% to 47%. Thus, going, forward, the maximum annual rent increase will be set at the 12-month increase in the Bay Area Consumer Price Index (about 2.5%) – with a minimum of 2% and a maximum of 5%.

Some Good…Some Bad

There’s a big “however” that is landlord-friendly: The owner or landlord can “bank” rent increases. That is, if there is no increase in a particular year, that unimplemented increase can be added to the next year’s hike (though no annual increase can exceed 10%.) Not so good: the so-called base rent will be set at the rent tenants paid in October 2015, so many owners will have to roll rents back to that level before increases.

(As we have told you throughout this series – and it bears repeating: State laws exempt all single-family homes and condos, as well as all multifamily apartments built after Feb 1, 1995, from limits on annual rent increases. State laws also allow landlords to charge new tenants whatever they want when a unit is voluntarily vacated, after which the new tenant can be rent controlled by local laws.)

Consider This…

The new measure also establishes a five-member rental housing committee, which will set the base rent, establish new regulations, and determine allowable rent adjustments and penalties for noncompliance. Landlords – and tenants – can petition the committee for adjustments to rent increases: tenants because of unacceptable maintenance of the property, for example. Owners? They can petition for adjustments if they can show that an increase is necessary to provide a fair rate of return on their investment.

Evictions?

Under the new law, evictions must be based on “just cause.” That means if the tenant fails to pay rent, breaches the lease, engages in criminal activity or other problem behavior. Or, if the owner decides to move into the unit or take it off the rental market or demolish it.

Owners also must provide relocation, in the event of an eviction, under certain circumstances.

“A majority of the population that rents in Mountain View can finally breathe a sigh of relief,” Daniel DeBolt, spokesman for the Mountain View Tenants Coalition, told the Mountain View Voice.

In addition, on November 15 the Mountain View city council approved an urgency just-cause eviction ordinance, in order to prevent property owners from evicting tenants before the new law takes effect on December 23. So owners, you may want to put all eviction plans on hold for the moment (and contact an attorney).

The Bottom Line For Landlords

Tread lightly when it comes to evictions – beginning now. The City of Mountain View is putting on two workshops for landlords to learn about the new laws. Details are here.

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