Rent Control

Rent Control is obviously a common point of interest for tenants and landlords alike, albeit for different reasons.  To be precise, “rent control” refers to Chapter 37 of the San Francisco Administrative Code – The Residential Rate Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance.  Rent control was enacted in 1979 in response to, among a myriad of things, the effects of high inflation rates on San Francisco real estate prices, property taxes, and other property related expenses.

Properties Covered by Rent Control

Nearly all rental property in San Francisco is covered by rent control. The exceptions are:

  • The building you live in was constructed after June 1979. This is often referred to as the “new construction exemption” and mandated by state law.
  • College dormitory housing, monasteries, etc.
  • Residential hotels where the tenant resides in a unit for less than 28 days continuously.
  • Subsidized housing such as HUD housing.


How Rental Control Works

Landlords are permitted to raise a tenants rent by a set amount each year.  This increase amount is tied to inflation and is announced by the rent board once per year.  The historical rent increase percentages are noted in the chart below. The rent increase can only be imposed on the anniversary date of a tenants lease.  Annual increases can be “banked” by a landlord and the rent adjustment “caught up”. This means that a landlord need not raise the rent every year in order to eventually raise the rent to the level it would be had the landlord raised it each year. 

Landlords can petition the rent board for rent increases due to capital improvements on the building (a maximum increase of 10%) or increased operating & maintenance costs (a maximum increase of 7%). These must be justified and approved by the rent board. Also, the tenant can petition for a rent decrease if the landlord fails to provide previously agreed upon services (laundry, parking, storage, etc).      

Annual Rent Percentage Increases

March 1, 2005 - February 28, 2006          1.2%

March 1, 2004 - February 28, 2005          0.6%

March 1, 2003 - February 29, 2004          0.8%

March 1, 2002 - February 28, 2003          2.7%

March 1, 2001 - February 28, 2002          2.8%

March 1, 2000 - February 28, 2001          2.9%

March 1, 1999 - February 29, 2000          1.7%

March 1, 1998 - February 28, 1999          2.2%

March 1, 1997 - February 28, 1998          1.8%

March 1, 1996 - February 28, 1997          1.0%

March 1, 1995 - February 29, 1996          1.1%

March 1, 1994 - February 28, 1995          1.3%

March 1, 1993 - February 28, 1994          1.9%

Dec 8, 1992 - February 28, 1993             1.6%

(1992's Proposition H took effect on 12/8/92, eliminating the guaranteed 4% increase)

March 1, 1992 - Dec 7, 1992                   4.0%

March 1, 1991 - February 29, 1992          4.0%

(From March 1, 1984 to February 28, 1991 the annual increase was 4%)

April 1, 1982 - February 29, 1984             7.0%


Some caveats to Rent Control Coverage:

  • State law requires 60 day notice of any rent increase (cumulative “banked” or singular) which raises a tenants rent by 10% or more in a 12 month period.
  • In cases where utilities are paid by the landlord and therefore “included in the rent” the landlord may pass on increases in utility rates to the renter. The landlord must document the rate increases for a full calendar year and be able to provide a year over year comparison to justify the increase.  Tenants have the right to petition the rent board to dispute rent increases due to utility rate hikes.
  • If you live in a single family home or condo and moved in on or after January 1 1996, then you don’t have full rent control coverage. You should contact the rent board to determine your rights and confirm that your housing is indeed a single family home or condo. 
  • If you move into a single family home where the previous tenant had been legally evicted with a 30 day notice, you likely have full rent control protection, Again, contact the rent board to confirm.
  • Tenants in buildings that have outstanding uncorrected housing code violations 60 days old or older have full rent control. You should contact the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection to confirm or report any code violations.
  • A myth exists that 2-4 unit landlord occupied buildings are exempt from rent control.  They once were but are not any longer. Since May 1 1994 these buildings  have had full rent control protection.     
  • In-Law apartments are covered by rent control. Contact the rent board to confirm the criteria for an “in-law” apartment. 
  • Unofficial live/work units where a tenant uses a commercial only space for residential housing are covered by rent control IF the landlord has knowledge that the tenant is residing in the unit.