New Berkeley Eviction Control Laws: Good for Tenants. Landlords? Not so Good.Doug Brien
March 14, 2017
For property owners, it always seems to be something.
On Election Day, November 8, multiple Bay Area cities considered ballot initiatives related to rent and eviction controls. Significant measures passed in four of them—Oakland, Alameda, Richmond and Mountain View. A smaller, but still important measure—and one that landlords and property owners can’t afford to ignore—passed in Berkeley.
As you might have guessed, rent and eviction control is popular in Berkeley. And this ballot measure was no different: voters overwhelmingly supported a measure strengthening existing laws by a margin of 73% to 27%.
To be sure, Berkeley already had tough laws on the books, banning evictions that were not based on a “good cause.” Such causes, as landlords in the area know, can include failure to pay rent after a 3-day notice, violations of the rental agreement by a tenant, willful and substantial damage to a rental unit by a tenant, unlawful activity by a tenant, and a few other conditions.
(These, and more, can be found, in great detail, here.)
More Ways Out
As per the existing laws—and typical of other eviction control laws in the Bay Area—and owner could evict a tenant if the owner or a close relative of the owner planned to move into the unit.
But there are—and read this closely—some exceptions. They include:
- If the tenant has lived in the unit for five or more years and the landlord has a 10% or greater stake in 5 or more rental units in Berkeley
- If the tenant is at least 60 years old or disabled and has lived in the unit for 5 years and the owner has a 10% stake in 4 Berkeley units
On top of all that, sorry, a landlord had to pay a $4,500 relocation payment to low-income tenants that are evicted in these cases.
The new measure passed last month makes it even more difficult and expensive to evict a tenant because of an owner move-in.
Believe it or not, now an owner must pay a whopping $15,000 to tenants evicted in these cases. And, there’s an additional $5,000 that has to be thrown in for low-income, disabled, elderly, and families with minor children. Or… tenancies that began before 1999.
If that wasn’t enough for property owners to get their heads around, the new law also prohibits owner move-in evictions of families with school-age children during an academic year. In other words: landlords have to wait to take action until school is out for summer.
Finally, the new law clarifies how much you should pay out on security deposits. Interest should be at a rate equal to the 12-month average of the average rates of interest paid on six-month certificates of deposit by banks doing business in Berkeley. That’s a mouthful – and costly. (That rate right now is 0.1%, but it may begin to rise gradually now that the Federal Reserve has begun raising short-term interest rates.)
Landlord Bottom Line: Call Your Attorney
What was difficult then is now, well, more difficult.
If you’re planning to evict a tenant for any reason at all from your Berkeley rental, proceed with extreme caution! Landlords need to follow both Berkeley and California laws to the letter. Failing to do so could cost you dearly. In fact, your best bet is to consult a lawyer before doing anything. And make sure your property manager is on board as well—and understands the new, beefed-up regs.
Who ever said it was easy to be a landlord in Berkeley?