CAN'T PAY YOUR RENT? — DO NOT MOVE OUT — YOU CANNOT BE EVICTED!
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), many people are sick, many are out of work or on reduced pay, companies have closed or reduced hours, unemployment subsidies have run out, the stimulus check has long been spent, and countless people are struggling just to survive or are moving because they anticipate eviction for their temporary inability to pay rent. In response to these very real concerns, eviction moratoriums against non-payment of rent have been enacted by the City of Oakland, Alameda County, the State of California, and the Federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). As enacted, the Oakland and Alameda County eviction moratoriums provide stronger protections for Oakland tenants.
Currently, under the Oakland Eviction Moratorium, which was extended to remain in effect until the Local Emergency is declared over, you cannot be evicted if you live in a unit covered by Oakland’s Just Cause Ordinance. You cannot be evicted for rent that became due during the local emergency if you suffered a substantial reduction of income or increase of expenses due to COVID-19. You cannot have your rent raised beyond 2.7% (the Consumer Price Index or “CPI”) if your unit is covered by the Rent Adjustment Program. You cannot be charged late fees. Oakland tenants not covered under Just Cause (buildings constructed after 1995) are still covered by the Alameda County Eviction Moratorium (see below). Review the following FAQ resources to understand your rights and eligibility under these eviction moratoria:
Q: It seems like I’m covered by one or both of the local eviction moratoria, BUT I just received a 15-day pay rent or quit notice from my landlord. I can’t pay my rent, what do I do? A: Whatever you do, don’t panic! Your landlord is likely attempting to follow the new statewide eviction moratorium, AB 3088 (aka the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020). AB 3088 is a poorly written and confusing law, and it is unclear how it interacts with the stronger local protections in Oakland and Alameda County.
Under AB 3088, from Sep 2020 through Jan 2021, California landlords are permitted to serve tenants with certain documents spelled out in the Act, including an information letter, a Declaration of financial hardship, and a 15-day notice to pay rent or quit. Tenants may receive some or all of the documents only once, or every month up to and including January, 2021.
AB 3088 requires tenants to sign and return the Declaration of financial hardship and pay 25% of their total rent from September–January (5 months) by January 31st, 2020.
While some legal experts agree that the local moratoria supersede AB 3088, some lawyers are advising tenants to sign the Declaration anyway, and to add a statement making it clear to their landlord that they are protected under the Oakland or Alameda County eviction moratorium. An example might be: "This Declaration form is filed under protest as I am covered under (the Oakland Eviction Moratorium) (under the Alameda County Eviction Moratorium) [select one]." The opinion of these lawyers is that if the local eviction moratoria remain in place, the signed Declaration will not have committed the tenant to paying 25% of their September–January rent, and the tenant cannot be evicted.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the law, OTU cannot make a blanket recommendation on whether or not an Oakland tenant should sign the Declaration. By the January 31 cutoff, a number of outcomes are possible: clarifying amendments by the California legislature; federal action to avert the certain and pending nationwide eviction and financial calamity, lawsuits, or other possible actions such that speculation is neither possible or helpful. In the end, reconciliation of the hodgepodge of eviction moratorium legislation will very likely end up in the courts. That said, we can advise you on your rights and options (see below for how to get in touch with us).
For more information on AB 3088 (not specifically for Oakland tenants), read this explainer from Tenants Together.
Q. My landlord says I must move out because they want to remove my unit (or the building) from the rental market. Do these eviction moratoria prevent that?
A: Maybe. California has a law called the "Ellis Act" which allows a property owner to remove a unit or a building from the rental market. The property owner must apply to the City of Oakland to conduct an Ellis Act eviction. There's a chance you could be protected from this type of eviction under the Federal CDC Temporary Eviction Moratorium—detailed inthis explainer document. We recommend you seek immediate legal assistance.
For details on Ellis Act evictions generally, see the ordinancehere.
More Info on Rights and Protections for Oakland Tenants
This page provides information and resources about the following renter protection programs:
California Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (effective January 1, 2020)
Oakland Rent Adjustment Program (RAP)
Oakland Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance
Oakland Tenant Protection Ordinance
California Tenant Protection Act of 2019
Effective January 1, 2020 the California Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (AB 1482, Chiu) is California's first statewide rent cap and Just Cause for Eviction law (albeit with numerous compromises, and a 10-year sunset period)
How is this different from Oakland's rent adjustment and Just Cause laws?
Oakland's existing Rent Adjustment Program (RAP) and Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance still apply (see details below). However, the Tenant Protection Act will cover some units that are not covered already. At this time, protections granted under the TPA are not enforced by the Oakland Rent Board (we're working on that). However, the protections are the law of the land until 2030, so tenants confronting a landlord who refuses to comply may file for action in Small Claims Court.
Tenant Protection Act: Who is Covered?
Applies to rental units in buildings that are at least 15 years old
Example: in 2020, applies to buildings built in 2005 or earlier; in 2021, applies to buildings built in 2006 or earlier, etc
Applies to all units in most buildings with 2 or more units, except:
Does not apply to a duplex where the owner lives on site in the other unit (including "ADUs" aka "in-law units")
Does not apply in student dormitories, deed-restricted affordable housing, hotels, or senior or residential care facilities
Applies to some single-family homes and condominiumsonly if the unit is owned by a corporate entity, like an LLC, or by a real estate investment trust (REIT). (So, if you rent a single-family home or condo from a private individual or family you are not covered)
Tenant Protection Act: Rent Cap
If your unit is covered, the rent can only be increased by 5% + the area's Consumer Price Index (CPI), or a maximum of 10% (whichever is lower) in any given 12-month period.
In Oakland, the CPI for July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 is 2.7% so the maximum allowable increase under state law will be 7.7% for units that are not already covered by the RAP (see below).
Units covered by the TPA (and not already covered by RAP) can have the rent increased twice per 12-month period, but the total amount of increase cannot exceed the maximum.
Reminder: most units in Oakland built before 1983 are covered by the RAP (see below), which offers stronger protections.
Rent Roll-Backs! If your units is covered, and your rent was increased by more than the maximum between March 15, 2019 and January 1, 2020 (note the maximum increase was 8.5% in 2019) then you have the right to demand that your rent starting January 1, 2020 be rolled back to the amount it was on March 15 plus the 8.5% increase. (Sample letters for demanding a roll-back are available by following the links in the resource from Tenants Together provided below).
Tenant Protection Act: Just Cause for Eviction
If your unit is covered per above, and either all the current occupants have lived there for at least 12 months or at least one tenant has lived there for at least 24 months, then you also are covered by the TPA's Just Cause for Eviction protection:
You can only be evicted for one of the 11 reasons specified under state law (see the resources below for more). These are things like failure to pay rent, or violating the lease in some way. In these cases you may be subject to an "at fault" eviction without relocation assistance.
The law also allows for certain types of "no fault" eviction. If you are covered and you are evicted for one of these reasons, then state law requires that you receive relocation assistance in an amount equal to one month's rent. "No fault" eviction reasons:
The owner or their immediate family member is moving in to your unit
The entire building is being taken off the rental market under the Ellis Act
The building is being demolished or substantially rehabilitated (meaning a full gut and rehab job, not minor repairs)
Reminder: Oakland's Just Cause for Eviction protections cover most units built before 1996 (see below). In this case, you are protected by the local Just Cause ordinance.
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 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 2.7 percent for increases from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021
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)
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:
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).