RAP is an Oakland law (O.M.C. 8.22) that establishes how much landlords can legally increase the rent charged to tenants of certain covered rental units. RAP provides some protections, but is not as strong as it could be - Oakland’s RAP exempts several categories of rentals, and permits increases that are more generous than some jurisdictions, and various loopholes remain in the law as it is currently written and implemented. Below is a brief overview of key provisions of the Rent Adjustment Program. For more, see the following resources:
Your unit is covered if your building was built before 1983, and there are two or more units in your building,
Exceptif you rent a unit in a single-family home or a condominium unit from the owner
Except if you live in a two or three unit building, and your landlord has lived in one of the units for at least 2 years
Except if you rent any form of government subsidized housing (more here) NOTE: Your unit may still be covered by the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance (see below)
If your unit is covered, your rent can only be raised by the annual allowable increase, based on the rate of inflation (CPI). Under certain circumstances rent can be raised by more than the allowable increase (see below).
The allowable increase is 3.5 percent for increases from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020
A landlord can raise the rent by more than the allowable CPI increase under certain circumstances but never by more than 10 percent in any year, or by more than a total of 30 percent over a 5-year period. These circumstances include any of the following:
If your landlord makes “capital improvements” to the unit or claims an “operating expense increase,” a portion of these costs can be charged to your rent. Not all types of capital improvements or expenses are eligible to be passed on as a rent increase.
If your rent has not been raised in recent years, your landlord can “bank” up to 3 years of allowable rent increases and apply the total increase in a single year. However, rent increases cannot be banked for more than 10 years.
For any increase above the CPI amount, your landlord is required to file a petition with the RAP before raising your rent (unless this extra increase is for “banked” rent increases). You should receive an official written notice from the RAP office if your landlord files a petition.
Your rent cannot be increased more than once per year (any 12-month period), regardless of the justification or amount.
Your rent cannot be increased without an official “RAP Notice” (on City letterhead) accompanied by a written notice from the landlord of the rent increase amount. This notice should provide justification for any increases above the allowable CPI amount (e.g. "capital improvements" or "banking").
Tips for Tenants
Tenants are solely responsible for ensuring that landlords comply with the rent law. If you believe your unit is covered and your rent is being raised illegally, or if your housing conditions have been changed without your consent, YOU must file a petition with the Oakland Rent Adjustment Program (RAP) within 90 days of the landlord’s written notice. (How to file a petition here).
RAP protections apply whether you have a written lease or verbal agreement, as long as you pay rent and your landlord accepts that rent.
If your landlord takes away a service or amenity you currently have (like a parking space or laundry) or increases your share of utility costs, you should petition for a decrease in rent to match the “decreased housing services.”
Always file a petition with RAP if your rent is increased by more than the allowable amount (usually less than 3% per year). You are entitled to a hearing and if the landlord cannot prove legal grounds, the rent increase is not valid.
If your unit is the subject of an outstanding building code violation or a formal code compliance letter has been issued, your landlord cannot legally raise your rent by any amount until the Building Department has certified that the issue has been fixed. To file a code compliance complaint, call the Code Enforcement office at 510-238-3381.
Seek advice if you're not sure what your landlord is doing is legal. You can call the Rent Adjustment Program office at 510-238-3721 or visit the office at 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza (next to City Hall) Suite 6301 (6th floor). See the tenant resources listed herefor help with your situation.
Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance
Oakland is a “Just Cause for Eviction” city. This means that landlords cannot evict a tenant in good standing unless the owner can prove a violation of one of the eleven (11) “just causes” spelled out in the City’s eviction protection law (O.M.C. 8.22.300). Most Oakland tenants are covered by the “Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance” (also known as Measure EE, which was passed by voters in 2002, and was further strengthened by Measure JJ in 2016. This means you CANNOT be evicted because a new owner bought the building, or the bank foreclosed on the property, or the owner wants to charge more rent, or for any reason not specified in the law.
All rental units in buildings built before 1996 – including rented single-family homes and rented condominium units - are protected from illegal eviction, with the following exceptions:
the building contains only 2 or 3 units and the landlord lives on-site in one of the units.
the owner has removed the building from the rental market under the permitted procedures of the “Ellis Act.” Tenants in buildings that have been “Ellised” (approved for removal under the Act) are eligible for extended periods of occupancy and for relocation payments (see below).
an elderly tenant or tenant with “protected status” is being replaced by the owner or owner’s close relative who also qualifies for “protective status.”
the building or unit was “red-tagged” by City Building or Fire officials and is required to be vacated. Tenants in such buildings are eligible for relocation payments, and have the right to return at their same basic rent if the building is returned to the rental market.
the owner initiates major repairs or remodeling that cannot be done unless the unit is vacant. Tenants in such buildings are eligible for relocation payments, and have the right to return at their same basic rent when the building is returned to the rental market.
11 Legal "Just Causes" for eviction
The tenant has not paid their rent
The tenant has continued to violate a provision of the lease after written notice to stop.
The tenant refused to sign a new lease that is identical to the old one (when the old one expires.)
The tenant has substantially damaged the unit and refused to stop damaging it or pay for repairs after written notice.
The tenant has continued to disturb other tenants and neighbors after written notice to stop.
The tenant uses the unit for for something illegal (like selling drugs).
The tenant will not let the owner into the apartment, even with a 24 hours’ written notice.
The owner wants to move back into the unit, if allowed by a written agreement with the tenant or it is allowed by the lease.
The owner or family member wish to move into the unit, unless the tenant is over 60 years old, disabled, or catastrophically ill, and has lived in the unit for at least 5 years.
The owner wants to remove the unit from the market through the Ellis act.
The owner wants to perform substantial upgrades to the unit which cannot be completed with the tenant living there.
Relocation Payment for No-Fault Evictions
In situations listed above where eviction or vacation of the unit is required -- either temporary or permanent -- and where the vacation of the unit is not due to the fault of the tenant, the tenant is eligible for relocation payments from the owner as set forth in O.M.C. 8.22.450(A) for “no fault” evictions:
$6,500 for Studio or one bedroom units
$8,000 for two bedroom units
$9,875 for three or more bedroom units
Each of the above amounts increases by $2,500 if the vacating household contains a person who is elderly, disabled, low-income, or are a family with minor children,
The relocation payment amounts are adjusted annually by the applicable cost-of-living index (CPI) by the RAP.
In addition to the stipulated relocation payments, vacated tenants may also collect amounts on deposit, including prepaid last month’s rent, as well as deposits for security damages, and pet deposits.
In event that the owner does not or is unable to make the required relocation payments to the tenant, the tenant may file a request under O.M.C. Chapter 15.60 with the Real Estate officer to be paid instead by the city. The City will then apply available legal means to mandate reimbursement from the owner. The tenant may also file a complaint with the City Attorney who is authorized to bring civil action against owners who violate this Chapter.
Tenants who experience difficulty with owners concerning their rights under the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance may bring civil action in court on their own, but are advised to first seek assistance from these city-financed services:
In November, 2014, the Oakland City Council adopted the Tenant Protection Ordinance or“TPO” (O.M.C. 8.22.600) in response to growing incidences of intimidation and harassment of tenants, many of whom feel constrained by language, residency, of lack of information and access to available remedies to make reports under state law. Of the original TPO proposal, the Council adopted the measures and definitions, but delayed enacting the implementation and remedies sections to an unspecified later date. The TPO is meant to deter harassment by property owners.
Harassment is defined as the owner engaging in any of the following behaviors in bad faith:
1. Threaten to, or interrupt, or terminate, or fail to provide housing services. 2. Fail to perform repairs and maintenance. 3. Fail to perform due diligence when completing repairs. (For example, not minimizing exposure to noise, dust, lead paint, mold, asbestos, or other building materials with potentially harmful health impacts.) 4. Abuse the Owner’s right of access to the rental unit. 5. Remove personal property, furnishings, or other items without the prior written consent of the tenant. 6. Intimidate or threaten to report the tenant to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 7. Offer payments more than once in a six (6) month period to a Tenant to vacate. 8. Attempt to coerce a Tenant to vacate with offer(s) of payments to vacate in addition to threats or intimidation. 9. Threaten the tenant by word or gesture with physical harm. 10. Substantially and directly interfere with a Tenant’s right to quiet use and enjoyment of the rental unit. 11. Refuse to accept or acknowledge receipt of a Tenant’s lawful rent payment. 12. Refuse to cash a rent check for over thirty (30) days unless a written receipt for payment has been provided to the Tenant. 13. Interfere with a Tenant’s right to privacy. 14. Request information that violates a Tenant’s right to privacy. 15. Commit repeated acts to substantially interfere with or disturb the comfort, repose, peace or quiet of any tenant. 16. Remove a housing service for the purpose of causing the Tenant to vacate the rental unit.
The Ordinance requires owners of rental building with an interior common area. to post a notice of the TPO in at least one such common area in the building using the form prescribed by City RAP Staff.
Contesting a violation
Before a Tenant may file a violation of the TPO, the Tenant must first notify the Owner of the problem. The tenant must allow fifteen (15) days for the owner to correct the problem. The owner can notify the tenant that the repairs will take more than fifteen (15) days. In this case, the owner must provide a reasonable time period for completion. If the repair takes more than fifteen (15) days, the tenant may file a violation if the owner does not take steps to start addressing the problem. The tenant may also file if the owner does not follow through to complete the repairs with reasonable diligence.
Until the implementation and remedies sections of the TPO are enacted by City Council, Tenants have the obligation to file against a violation in civil court. It is possible, however, that the City Attorney may take an interest in the case. OTU recommends that with any filings of violations of the TPO, that a copy of the filing also be deposited with the Office of the City Attorney (510-238-3601).