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Is it legal to raise rent more than 10% in California?

California has some of the strictest laws in the nation regarding rent control and limiting how much a landlord can raise rent each year. In most cities in California, landlords are restricted from raising rent more than 10% each year. However, there are some exceptions and specific circumstances where larger rent increases may be allowed. Overall, California’s rent control laws are designed to provide stability and protect tenants from excessive rent hikes.

California State Rent Control Laws

California state law allows local governments to enact rent control ordinances that regulate how much landlords can increase rents each year. Cities and counties can adopt rent control laws that limit annual rent increases to a certain percentage. Most cities in California that have rent control cap rent increases between 3-10% each year.

The state law known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act outlines the basic parameters for local rent control ordinances. Under Costa-Hawkins, landlords have the right to raise rents to market rates when a tenant moves out (vacancy decontrol). It also exempts certain types of rental units, such as single family homes and condos, from rent control. However, Costa-Hawkins allows local governments to regulate rents on other types of housing within their jurisdictions.

So in most cities, rent control laws limit annual rent increases to around 5-10% on covered rental units while a tenant remains in occupancy. Landlords can raise rents to market rates when there is a vacancy between tenants.

Limits on Rent Increases in Specific Cities

Here are some examples of rent increase limits in major California cities:

San Francisco

San Francisco has some of the toughest rent control laws in the state. The maximum allowable rent increase in San Francisco for 2023 is 4.5% on covered rental units. This applies to apartments and multi-family rental housing built before June 1979. The 4.5% limit includes any pass through costs for capital improvements or building upgrades.

San Francisco’s rent ordinance is administered by the Rent Board and is designed to prevent excessive rent increases that displace long-term tenants. Landlords in San Francisco must petition the Rent Board for any rent increase over 10%.

Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles allows a maximum rent increase of 4% for apartments covered under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO). The RSO applies to rental units built before October 1978 with exceptions for single family homes and some condos.

Landlords in the City of Los Angeles are required to give tenants at least a 90 day advance written notice for rent increases of 10% or less. For any rent increase above 10%, landlords need approval from the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department by filing a justification.

San Jose

San Jose caps annual rent increases at 8% for eligible apartments covered by the city’s rent control ordinance. Rent control applies broadly to most multi-family rental units built prior to September 1979 in San Jose. Landlords are required to report all rent increases over 5% to the City’s Housing Department.


Oakland’s rent control ordinance limits annual rent increases to the rate of inflation (CPI) plus 5%. For 2023, the maximum allowable increase in Oakland is 6.7% based on the prior year’s inflation rate. Oakland’s rent control law applies to multi-family properties built before 1983 but exempts duplexes and single family residences.

San Diego

San Diego does not have rent control at the city level. However, California state law AB 1482 limits rent increases statewide to 10% plus the rate of inflation. Under AB 1482, the maximum allowable rent increase in San Diego for 2023 is about 13% (10% + CPI of ~3-4%). This state cap applies to rental units over 15 years old and exempts single family homes unless owned by corporations.

When Can Landlords Impose Rent Increases Over 10%?

In most cities, landlords need to petition the local Rent Control Board and provide evidence justifying any rent increase over 10%. Reasons a Rent Board may approve a large rent hike over 10% include:

– Extensive renovations or capital improvements – If major upgrades like remodels or new appliances add over 10% in value to the unit. Landlords can pass through a portion of these costs.

– Operating expense increases – If costs to maintain the rental property have increased significantly, for example due to large hikes in property taxes or building maintenance costs.

– Utilities – If utilities were previously included in rent but landlord wants tenant to pay separately, this could justify a rent increase over 10%.

– Market rate adjustment – If rents on comparable units in the area have increased significantly and the unit is under market. In such cases, the landlord may request bringing the rent closer to prevailing rates.

– Change in number of tenants – Adding or removing tenants from a rental unit allows a proportional rent increase.

Even with the Rent Board’s approval, the rent increase cannot exceed 10% plus the rate of inflation. The unit must be subject to the local Rent Control ordinance for this cap to apply. On rental units not covered by rent control, landlords can raise rents by any amount with proper notice.

Exceptions to Local Rent Control Laws

Several types of housing units are exempt from local rent control in California cities:

– Single family homes, condos and townhomes – Except in unique circumstances, rentals of single family residences are not covered by local rent control laws. However, state law AB 1482 provides some protections.

– New construction – Rent control does not apply to buildings constructed after the ordinance’s cutoff date, which varies by city. In LA it’s 1978, in SF it’s 1979, and in San Jose it’s 1979. Newer construction is exempt.

– Owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes – These are also exempt from local rent control limitations.

– Corporate owned units – Single family homes or condos owned by corporations rather than individuals are subject to AB 1482 rent increase cap of 10% plus inflation but not local rent control.

– Section 8 and government subsidized affordable housing – These income restricted units are governed by federal regulations and are not subject to local rent control. Rent increases on them are limited by the tenant’s eligibility for the rental assistance program.

So in summary, rent control ordinances in California cities limit annual rent increases to around 5-10% for protected units. Landlords retains the right to raise rents to market rates upon vacancy between tenants. Rent increases above 10% require approval from the Rent Board based on evidence of justification.

California State Law AB 1482

In addition to local rent control laws, California passed state law AB 1482 which went into effect January 2020. AB 1482 limits rent increases statewide to 5% plus inflation for older buildings.

Specifically, AB 1482 caps annual rent hikes at 10% plus the Consumer Price Index (typically 2-3%) for rental units meeting the following criteria:

– The rental unit is over 15 years old; and

– The tenant has occupied the unit for over 12 months

AB 1482 applies to all rental units except those already covered by local rent control laws, which provide even greater tenant protections. Single family homes and condos are also exempt from AB 1482 unless owned by corporations.

By setting a statewide rent increase cap, AB 1482 provides limited protections for tenants in cities without local rent control. But it does not override stricter local rent control ordinances already in place in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose.

What if a Landlord Imposes an Illegal Rent Increase?

If a landlord imposes a rent increase above the legal limit allowed under a local rent control law or AB 1482, the tenant has certain rights:

– The tenant can file a petition with the Rent Board to dispute the illegal rent increase. The city will notify the landlord to rescind the improper increase.

– The tenant may be entitled to a refund or rent credit for any overpayment of rent due to an unlawful increase.

– The city may impose fees or penalties on landlords who violate rent control laws. Severe or repeat offenses can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.

– The tenant may be able to recover damages through a civil lawsuit against the landlord for collecting illegal rent.

Tenants should notify the Rent Board or Housing Department right away if their landlord imposes a rent increase exceeding the allowable percentages under local or state rent control. The city agency can provide guidance, initiate enforcement action if needed, and refer the tenant to legal resources. Having rent control protections in place gives tenants critical leverage in disputing unlawful rent hikes not based on legitimate costs.

Rent Increase Notice Requirements

In addition to limiting how much landlords can raise rents each year, California law also regulates the notice landlords must provide for rent increases:

– For rent increases of 10% or less, landlords must provide tenants with written notice of at least 30 days.

– For increases greater than 10%, 60 days written notice is required.

– Month-to-month tenants must receive at least 30 days advance notice prior to a rent increase of any amount.

– If the rent increase notice period overlaps with the termination of a lease, 90 days notice may be required.

Proper notice periods apply to all rental units in California, regardless of whether local rent control caps apply. Even properties exempt from rent control must follow state notice requirements for rent increases. Failure to provide adequate notice can result in penalties against the landlord. Tenants are advised to review their lease agreement and research local requirements to ensure sufficient notice is given prior to any rent hike taking effect.

How Often Can Rent Be Raised Each Year?

In cities with rent control, landlords are limited to one rent increase per year up to the maximum percentage allowed. However, there is no limit on how frequently rent can be raised in cities without rent control or properties exempt from rent control.

For example, in Los Angeles rents can only be raised once every 12 months for rent controlled units. But in San Diego, which does not have local rent control, landlords can theoretically raise rents every month if they choose, as long as proper notice is provided.

Statewide, AB 1482 limits rent increases to once every 12 months. After imposing an increase up to the 10% plus CPI cap, the landlord must wait a full year before applying another increase on that unit.

So in practice, most landlords aim to raise rents no more than annually even in places without rent control. More frequent increases tend to result in higher tenant turnover. But nothing prevents a landlord from raising rents multiple times per year outside of rent controlled jurisdictions.

What Can Tenants Do if Their Rent is Raised Too Much?

Tenants do have protections if their rent is raised above the legal limit in California:

– **Review the lease agreement** – Check for any clauses about rent increases, which may specify notice periods and allowable amounts. This sets the basic ground rules the landlord must abide by.

– **Research local laws** – Tenant rights organizations are good resources for learning about applicable rent control ordinances and allowable rent increases in your city. Local rent boards also offer information on annual rent increase limits and notice requirements.

– **Dispute excessive increases** – File a petition with the rent board if your rent is raised above the permitted amount in your area. Alert the city’s housing agency for enforcement help.

– **Withhold rent** – Tenants may withhold payment on the portion of rent exceeding the legal limit, while paying the allowable amount until the dispute is resolved. However, consult an attorney before taking this step.

– **Organize** – Band together with other tenants to negotiate with building ownership or protest unlawful rent hikes. There is power in numbers!

– **Utilize mediation** – If negotiation fails, mediate with the landlord to compromise on a smaller increase that complies with rent control laws.

– **Seek damages** – Tenants can recover financial damages plus attorney’s fees for any rent overpayments due to illegal rent increases. Consult a tenant lawyer to understand your rights.

While it takes effort to fight back against excessive rent increases, California tenants have legal power to curb unlawful raises and hold landlords accountable. Know your rights and work collectively to make rent in your building as affordable as legally possible.


California has some of the nation’s strongest tenant protections when it comes to limiting rent increases. Under local ordinances in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Jose, rents can only be raised 5-10% annually on rent controlled apartments while a tenant remains in place. Landlords must petition a Rent Board for approval of any rent hike above 10%.

Newer construction, single family homes, condos and duplexes are generally exempt from these local rent control laws. But tenants statewide do have protections under AB 1482, which caps rent increases at 10% plus inflation for older buildings.

Tenants have legal recourse if a landlord imposes an unlawful rent increase exceeding local or state rent control limits. However, tenants should educate themselves on their rights and applicable rent control laws in their city. With proper documentation and organizing, tenants can push back against and limit excessive rent increases in California.