Sacramento just passed an ordinance to protect renters. Here’s what you need to know about it

Renters in Sacramento now have more safety and stability when it comes to their homes.

The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday adopted the Tenant Protection and Relief Act, which gives people a safeguard when renting in the city. It sets limits on yearly rent increases and reasons for eviction, and creates a process for petitioning excessive raises in rent or wrongful evictions. It also provides renter assistance through Sacramento Self-Help Housing.

Councilmembers Steve Hansen, Eric Guerra and Rick Jennings worked with Mayor Darrell Steinberg and City staff to craft the ordinance, following nearly a year of community outreach that included input from non-profit housing advocacy groups, labor unions and other stakeholders.

“This is the most significant thing any Central Valley city has done to stabilize the housing market,” Hansen said at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

City officials said they believed the new ordinance, which goes into effect Sept. 12, strikes a balance between tenant and landlord interests and will not impede new apartment construction. The act does not supersede existing state law regarding landlords and tenants.

“Rising rents have contributed significantly to the crisis of homelessness that we face,” Steinberg said. “These reasonable limits will help prevent more people from being forced out on the street.”

Here are some frequently asked questions about the new ordinance:

What rental properties are covered by Tenant Protection and Relief Act?

This ordinance will apply to most apartments and duplexes built before February 1, 1995.  Rental units under the ordinance include single room occupancy (SRO) hotels rooms if rented for 30 days or longer and mobile home rentals if built before February 1, 1995.    

What are the rental rate restrictions?

  • Rent Restriction: The rent increase cannot exceed 6% plus the change in the Consumer Price Index. (The CPI has run between 2 and 3% in recent years.) Further, the ordinance imposes a maximum rent increase of 10% limit unless the landlord obtains approval for a higher rent rate (a “fair rate of return”).
  • Annual Increase: The rent cannot be increased more than once in a 12-month period. 
  • Base Rent: The rent increase is measured from the amount of rent owed as of July 2019. The rent increase cannot be higher that 6% plus CPI calculated from the base rent. 
  • Vacancies: When a tenant voluntarily vacates the rental unit or the rental agreement is terminated as allowed under the ordinance, then the landlord can set the initial rent level for the new tenant.  
  • Fair Rate of Return: A landlord can increase the rent higher than the 6% plus CPI limit if an independent hearing examiner authorizes the higher rent increase. The landlord must file a petition with the City with documentation to support the request that the higher rent increase is necessary. The hearing examiner must decide based on the facts presented.

What are the protections regarding eviction?

Once a tenant has resided in the rental unit for more than 12 months, the landlord cannot terminate the rental agreement and require the tenant to move out unless the tenant has violated the terms of the agreement or for the following reasons: 

  • Tenant violations: fails to pay rent, breach of rental agreement, criminal activity, nuisance activity, or refusing access to make repairs or perform inspections.
  • Landlord reasons for eviction: necessary repairs for health and safety of the building, owner move-in, or withdrawal of rental unit from the market.

What can a tenant do if they feel their landlord has violated the Tenant Protection and Relief Act?

The City investigates a landlord’s compliance with the ordinance based primarily on complaints. A person can file a complaint and remain anonymous. Specific details on how to file a complaint will become available in the coming weeks.

What is the hearing process for tenant and landlords?

A tenant can file a petition for a hearing if he or she believes that the landlord has violated the ordinance such as by increasing the rent higher than what is allowed or terminating a rental agreement without cause. A landlord can submit a petition for a fair rate of return hearing. An independent hearing examiner will consider all relevant evidence presented and render a decision based on findings of fact. 

For more information, read the City Council report about the new ordinance.


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