Rent Control Q & A: How Would It Work in Santa Rosa

Friday, May 5, 2017
Kevin McCallum
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Santa Rosa voters face a decision on whether to adopt rent control in Sonoma County's largest city. Here are answers to some of the most frequent questions about Measure C.

Who would be affected by Santa Rosa’s rent control law?

Anyone living in an apartment built before Feb. 1, 1995, would be covered by rent control and just-cause eviction rules. People who rent single-family homes, duplexes or owner-occupied triplexes would not be covered.

How many people is that?

The city has an estimated 11,076 apartments that would be affected, or about 18 percent of the city’s 67,000 housing units. With an average household size of 2.6 residents, that’s about 26,400 people.

How much would the program cost and who would pay for it?

Santa Rosa estimates the program would cost up to $1.4 million per year. The program would be funded by a fee of about $113 per year, half of which could be passed on to tenants. Opponents have been accused of misleading the public by saying the measure “will cost taxpayers $1.4 million annually.” But they point out that landlords and renters are taxpayers.

How long would rent control last?

The law contains a sunset provision that calls for the City Council to reconsider the law — but not necessarily rescind it — if the current 1 percent vacancy rate increases above 5 percent. City Councilman Tom Schwedhelm said he doubts a future council would ever rescind rent control for political reasons.

Would rents be rolled back?

If approved, rents would be rolled back to what was in effect on Jan. 1, 2016. The measure was inserted to dissuade landlords from increasing rents on tenants before the measure took effect.

Could rents be increased more than 3 percent annually?

Yes. Landlords could request steeper rent increases based on a number of factors, including the right to receive a “just and reasonable return” on their property, including rent increases to recoup the cost of certain capital improvements.

Could rents revert to market rate?

Units covered by rent control could be reset to any amount whenever a new tenant moves in; after that, rent increases would be covered by the 3 percent cap.

What reasons for eviction constitute “just cause”?

Landlords seeking to evict residents would need to give a reason, such as failure to pay rent, a pattern of habitual late payment of rent, violation of the terms of the lease or creating a nuisance.

What if the tenant has done nothing wrong?

There are still some situations that can cause a “no-fault” eviction, such as an owner or family member wanting to move into a unit, or renovations as part of an approved capital improvement plan or a landlord withdrawing the units from the market. If any of those happen, the landlord would need to pay relocation expenses.

How much would that be?

Relocation expenses would be calculated as three months of rent plus $1,500. Based on unit averages, the city estimates it would cost from $6,114 for a one-bedroom unit to $9,888 for a four-bedroom unit.

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