Units fully covered by Berkeley’s Rent Ordinance have a rent ceiling, which is the maximum amount of rent the landlord can charge for that unit.
Every residential Rental unit that is fully covered by Berkeley's Rent Ordinance has a “lawful rent ceiling”
The lawful rent ceiling is the maximum amount of rent that a landlord can charge for the use or occupancy of the unit, and any housing services included in the rent, such as storage, parking, or laundry facilities. Only the Rent Board can increase or decrease rent ceilings. You can look up the rent ceiling we have in our database for your unit through our online rent registry. For more information, see our Unit Information Lookup page.
Partially Covered (Measure MM) residential rental units do not have a rent ceiling
The Rent Board does not control the rent for partially covered (Measure MM) units. The landlord can raise the rent with proper notice at any time after the expiration of any fixed-term lease.
Rent ceilings for tenancies that started before January 1, 1996
Prior to the passage of California state law (“Costa-Hawkins”), rent ceilings and housing services were controlled for the unit even with vacancies. For units that have not had a vacancy since January 1, 1996, the rent ceiling is the base rent (usually the May 31, 1980 rent) plus increases the Rent Board has approved each year via the passage of “Annual General Adjustments.” The base rent includes all housing services provided when that rent was set.
Rent ceilings for tenancies that started on or after January 1, 1996
Starting January 1, 1996, landlords were allowed to set the initial rent for most new tenancies within limits. Since January 1, 1999, landlords have been allowed to set the initial rent at market rate for most new tenancies. This initial rent, which includes the housing services provided at the time the tenancy begins, becomes the new base rent ceiling that can only be raised by amounts approved by the Rent Board.
Once the last original occupant permanently moves out of a unit, the landlord is free to reset the rent on either the remaining occupants or the vacant unit in anticipation of the next occupancy. An original occupant is anyone who was on the original lease, or who moved in within 30 days of the start of the tenancy with the landlord’s knowledge. Signing a new lease to occupy an empty unit is a common way to start a new tenancy. A landlord might also be able to establish a new tenancy at a market rate rent if replacement roommates or subtenants stay in a unit after the last original occupant has permanently left. See our Subletting & Replacing Roommates page for more information. Both landlords and tenants can file a Petition for the Determination of Eligibility to Set Initial Rent if there is a question about whether the landlord can set a new rent. See our Petitions page for more information.
Unit must be a tenant’s primary residence for rent control protections to apply
Only a tenant who lives in a unit as their primary residence has rent control protections. Rental units that are kept mainly as a second residence (like a vacation home or pied-a-terre) or for nonresidential purposes (like storage, commercial use, or office use) are not rent-controlled. A landlord can seek a Rent Board decision that the tenant does not occupy the unit as a primary residence by filing a Petition for the Determination of Occupancy Status. See our Petitions page for more information.