Two Bay Area jurisdictions this week adopted regulations to freeze rent increases in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

CAA worked closely with both jurisdictions – the city of San Jose and San Mateo County — to make sure the legislation protects for renters with COVID-19 financial challenges while sparing landlords from overly burdensome financial or administrative requirements.

San Mateo County

On Tuesday, April 28, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a temporary rent increase moratorium. The ordinance took effect immediately and covers all of San Mateo County, unincorporated areas and within cities. The ordinance bans rent increases if a tenant cannot pay the additional rent increase due to COVID-19 financial hardships. The ordinance expires on May 31, 2020 – consistent with state and local declarations of emergencies.

CAA worked closely with the county to ensure accountability and consistency with the county’s existing eviction moratorium. CAA’s recommended amendments include the following:

  • The ordinance closely followed state law and did not regulate, among other things, units built after 1995, single-family homes, or duplexes.
  • For the ordinance to apply, tenants must show documentation within 14 days of their inability to pay and the reason must be related to COVID-19.
  • Pending rent increase notices and lease renewals with rent increases will not be affected.
  • The ordinance is tethered to the county’s eviction moratorium and expires in one month.

The documentation process and expiration date are the same as the county’s eviction moratorium that passed on March 24. The eviction moratorium bans evictions due to non-payment of rent due to COVID-19 and no-fault evictions except for owner move-ins.

Tenants must pay the full missed rent 90 days after the expiration of the emergency. If the tenant still cannot pay, he or she can request an additional 30-day extension with proper documentation. Tenants can ask for three 30-day extensions, but owners are not obligated to give a grace period of more than 180 days after the end of the emergency. The ordinance allows owners to ask for a partial payment during the emergency if the tenant has the ability to pay.

Both ordinances require that landlords provide a form to a tenant when rendering a rent increase or eviction. Both forms are developed and provided by San Mateo County Department of Housing.

City of San Jose

On April 28, 2020, the San Jose City Council approved a freeze on rent increases that took effect immediately and lasts through Dec. 31, 2020. During this time, a rental housing provider who is subject to the city’s rent control laws, also known as the Apartment Rent Ordinance (ARO), cannot provide a notice to increase rents until the ordinance sunsets.  CAA made several recommendations to the city to provide rental property owners greater flexibility to work with their tenants without being penalized by the city’s existing laws. CAA was successful in ensuring the following:

  • The ordinance does not apply retroactively as the City Housing Department proposed.
  • The ordinance will permit owners to give temporary reductions in rent with the ability to increase rent back to the original amount.
  • Extends the late-fee forgiveness of city-mandated ARO fees through the 2020-2021 fiscal year, instead of only the 2019-2020 fiscal year, to provide additional benefits and flexibility to landlords.
  • Waives all permit fees related to repairs to the building, regardless of building size. This was initially capped to buildings with 20 units or less but extended to all buildings.
  • During the term of the ordinance, any service reduction petition that is filed will be denied as long as the reason was compliance with the county’s health order.

In addition to the rent freeze adopted on April 28, the city and the County of Santa Clara adopted an eviction moratorium that bars eviction for nonpayment of rent until May 31, 2020, unless extended. For rent that is not paid during this period, the tenant has 120 days following the expiration of the moratorium to be current. The rent freeze only applies to units subject to the ARO, while the eviction moratorium applies to all residential types. CAA recommends consulting with an attorney on your specific case.