Local COVID-19 Protections

Frequently Asked Questions About the End of the City's Declaration of Local Emergency

Updated November 10, 2022

 

Background

On October 18, 2022, the Alameda City Council passed Resolution 15993(PDF, 126KB), terminating the Declaration of Local Emergency that had been in place since March 2020. This action begins the process of winding down the remaining local protections that were established as an extra safety net for renters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these changes take effect immediately, while other protections will remain in place for several more months. 

The extra protections included a moratorium on rent increases for most multi-unit properties in Alameda, a moratorium effectively preventing landlords from terminating a tenancy based on certain “no fault” grounds, the establishment of an affirmative defense to eviction based on failure to pay rent due to substantial loss of income related to the pandemic, and a requirement for landlords to refrain from shutting off a tenant’s utilities except for emergency repairs.

The gradual end of these protections returns the City’s rental market to the regulations established in September 2019 by Rent Ordinance 3250(PDF, 3MB). Among other things, the Rent Ordinance imposes a limit on the annual rent increase for most rental units in the City. This cap is known as the Annual General Adjustment or AGA. If a landlord does not increase the rent by the full amount allowed by the AGA, the Rent Ordinance allows the landlord to “bank” the unused portion and impose it in a later year; however, such increases are subject to numerous restrictions.

The moratorium on rent increases was partially ended by Ordinance 3315(PDF, 338KB), which allowed landlords to begin serving their tenants with notices of rent increases as of May 1, 2022; however, these increases could not exceed the AGA. Use of any “banked” rent increases remained unavailable while the Declaration of Local Emergency was in effect. Now that the local emergency has ended, tenants may begin to receive rent increases that are in excess of the current AGA. 

For complete regulations addressing issues related to the end of the local emergency, please see Rent Control Ordinance Regulation 22-02(PDF, 286KB). The document also contains an attachment that presents several scenarios and explains how a landlord would be permitted to increase the rent in each case.

What rental units are subject to limits on rent increases?

The AGA applies to multi-unit properties built prior to February 1, 1995, also known as fully-regulated properties. A multi-unit property has two or more units on a legal lot of record, even if a property owner lives in one of the units.

What does the end of the Declaration of Local Emergency mean for the moratorium on rent increases?

Landlords have been able to serve notice of rent increases since May 1, 2022; however, these increases could not exceed the AGA. Use of any “banked” rent increases is not permitted until 60 days after the end of the Declaration of Local Emergency. This means that, as of December 18, 2022, landlords may serve notice of a rent increase in excess of the AGA, but they must follow all of the rules for doing so outlined in Rent Ordinance 3250.

What does "serve notice" mean?

Landlords must follow all requirements of state law when increasing the rent, including providing tenants with advanced, written notice of the increase. See the California Tenants guidebook for more information on state requirements, including how much advance notice is required and the difference between the “notice date” and the “effective date,” when tenants must begin paying the new rate.

I rent a unit subject to the AGA. By how much is my landlord permitted to increase my rent?

Landlords were not permitted to serve notice of a rent increase prior to May 1, 2022. At that time, the AGA was 2.7%. A new AGA of 3.5% went into effect on September 1, 2022. Therefore:

  • Any notice served on or after May 1, 2022, with an effective date on or before August 31, 2022, could not exceed 2.7%.
  • A rent increase served prior to December 18, 2022, with an effective date on or after September 1, 2022, may not exceed 3.5%.
  • A rent increase served on or after December 18, 2022, with an effective date on or before August 31, 2023, may exceed 3.5% only if the landlord meets all the requirements for implementing a “banked” rent increase.

My landlord increased my rent by 2.7% effective June 1, 2022. Does the end of the local emergency mean they can increase my rent again in January?

No. Rent Ordinance 3250 limits landlords to just one rent increase within any 12-month period. In this case, the landlord would need to wait until June 1, 2023, to raise your rent again.

When was the moratorium on rent increases in effect?

If you rent a fully regulated unit subject to rent control and received any rent increase with an effective date between April 22, 2020, and June 1, 2022, it may have be in violation of the moratorium on rent increases. Please request a review of the notice by Rent Program staff as described below.

How do I know how much my landlord has “banked”?

It depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Did your rent increase between September 2019 and April 2020 when the moratorium began?
  • Did your landlord notice you with a rent increase after May 1, 2022?
  • Has the property changed ownership?
  • When did your tenancy begin?

Annually, the Rent Program mails letters to tenants and landlords with the Maximum Allowable Rent or MAR for each rental unit, based on registration information submitted by the landlord. The MAR reflects what the rent would be if the landlord had taken every eligible AGA rent increase if not for the moratorium. Therefore, the difference between your current rent and the MAR essentially tells you how much the landlord has "banked." Keep in mind that the banking restrictions listed below may prevent your landlord from simply increasing your rent to the MAR with the next annual rent increase. Tenants also have an opportunity to challenge the MAR calculation if they think there has been an error. 

What rules apply to using a “banked” rent increase?

Per Rent Ordinance 3250:

  • Regardless of how much a landlord has banked, no rent increase may exceed the current AGA plus 3.0%.
  • A landlord that serves a rent increase that makes use of any banked amount must also serve the tenant with Form RP-203(PDF, 289KB). Within three calendar days, the landlord must also file with the Rent Program a copy of the rent increase notice and a proof of service(PDF, 89KB).
  • A landlord may not implement a rent increase that uses banked amounts in consecutive years
  • A landlord may not implement a rent increase that uses banked amounts more than three times during a tenancy.
  • Banked rent increases do not transfer to a new owner when a property changes hands.
  • Banked amounts from a prior tenancy cannot be imposed on new tenants.
  • While unlikely to affect most tenancies due to other restrictions, a landlord may not bank more than 8.0%.

A key to understanding "banked" rent increases is that the landlord may not increase rent (a) to an amount that exceeds the Maximum Allowable Rent or MAR, or (b) by a percentage that exceeds the current year's AGA plus 3.0%, whichever, i.e. (a) or (b), is smaller. After December 18, 2022, tenants should not receive a rent increase larger than 6.5% (at least until a new AGA takes effect on September 1, 2023). Nor should the new rent exceed the MAR as identified by the Rent Program.

The Rent Program has scheduled special informational workshops on November 30, December 7, and December 14 to keep landlords and tenants informed about the Rent Ordinance’s banking restrictions. Visit the Workshops page for more information and to register.

What do I do if I believe my landlord has given me a notice that violates the rules for rent increases?

Reach out to the Rent Program as soon as possible to request a review so staff can determine whether the notice complies with all the City’s rent regulations. Tenants may do this by submitting Form RP-100(PDF, 263KB) and Attachment C(PDF, 450KB) by email, mail, or fax. Alternately, tenants may submit Attachment C by creating an account in the Rent Registry and clicking on the green “File a Petition” button. (For more information, see the Rent Registry User Guide(PDF, 1MB).)

What if my landlord notices me with a rent increase before I receive the letter with my unit's Maximum Allowable Rent for 2022-2023?

You may always contact the Rent Program if you have questions about a rent increase notice you have received.

What does the end of the Declaration of Local Emergency mean for the moratorium on “no fault” terminations of tenancy?

Rent Ordinance 3250 prevents landlords from terminating a tenancy except for certain allowable grounds and requires a relocation payment in cases where the termination is not the fault of the tenant. Thirty days after the end of the Declaration of Local Emergency, landlords may resume terminating tenancies based on Owner Move-In. They may also terminate a tenancy based on receiving approval from the Rent Program to carry out a qualifying Capital Improvement Plan. Landlords may not serve notice based on these “no fault” grounds until November 18, 2022.

Landlords must follow the noticing requirements of state law when terminating a tenancy. The California Courts Self-Help Guide has more information on the different types of notices under state law and in which circumstances they may be used, or review the California Tenants guide for additional information.

The moratorium did not apply to permanently withdrawing a property from the rental market in accordance with the City’s Ellis Act Policy(PDF, 495KB). Notices terminating a tenancy based on Withdrawal of the Rental Unit from the Rental Market may be served prior to November 18, 2022.

Can my landlord evict me for unpaid rent?

In general, “for cause” evictions fall outside the scope of the Rent Ordinance and the Rent Program’s administration of it. Landlords are not required to file terminations of tenancy based on “for cause” grounds, including nonpayment of rent, with the Rent Program. Tenants who have received such a notice from their landlord are encouraged to seek out a legal service provider. The City Attorney’s Office Mediation Program may also be able to provide information and assistance in resolving a landlord-tenant dispute; call (510) 747-4772 or submit information via form.

At the state level, the governor has issued a number of executive orders and the state legislature has enacted a number of laws, the intent of which are to protect tenants from evictions due to unpaid rent caused by circumstances arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. These protections are complex and to some extent overlap with the local rental protections passed by the City Council. The Rent Program is not able to provide guidance or advice on state rental protections.

For unpaid rent between March 1, 2020, and November 17, 2022, local rental protections provide that tenants have an affirmative defense to an eviction action if the non-payment of rent was due to a "substantial loss of income" arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. This affirmative defense is available for 13 months following the end of the Declaration of Local Emergency; however, assuming state law pre-empts the local protections, the affirmative defense will be available for only seven months. In addition, tenants must begin regular and ongoing repayment of rent by no later than November 18, 2022, or be subject to eviction for failure to pay rent.

For more information on eviction defenses; repayment requirements; and the interaction between local, county, and state protections, please review Rent Control Ordinance Regulation 22-02(PDF, 286KB) and/or the staff report and presentation made at the City Council’s October 18, 2022, meeting.

What assistance is available to tenants who are behind on rent or utility payments due to COVID-19?

The Rent Program has prepared a Resource Guide(PDF, 121KB) that has information on free or low-cost legal services for tenants, social services, charitable programs, and more.