Rent Review Ordinance (Milpitas Municipal Code Title XII, Chapter 2, effective 10/15/19)
Purpose and exemptions
- The Rent Review Program (RRP) helps Milpitas tenants and landlords to resolve rent increase disputes.
- RRP applies to all residential rental units except the following categories are exempt:
- School dormitories
- Newer housing (built within the past 15 years)
- Single-family houses or condos (if not owned by a corporation and the tenant is provided a written notice that the unit is exempt from RRP)
- Duplexes (if one of the units is owner-occupied)
Landlord obligations under RRP
- For a rent increase to be valid, landlords must do the following:
- Serve the required written notices of rent increase and the availability of RRP; and
- Participate in good faith in each step of the rent review process, if rent review is requested by the tenant.
Required rent increase notice
- Rent increase notices must follow the procedure in California Civil Code Section 827(b).
- Landlords are strongly encouraged to provide at least 90 days´ notice to allow for the orderly operation of rent review procedures.
- Only one rent increase is allowed in any consecutive 12-month period unless there is a written agreement (separate from the lease) that specifies the amount and effective date for each increase.
Required notice of availability of rent review
- Landlords must provide written notice of the availability of rent review when entering into a new lease agreement and obtain tenants’ written acknowledgment that the notice was received.
- At the time of any rent increase in any amount, landlords must provide written notice of the availability or rent review.
- Notice of availability of rent review may be served by mail, text, email, or personal delivery.
- Rent increases over 5% must include the reason for the increase.
- The City will make available to landlords the required notice form in English and the most commonly used languages.
How to request rent review
- To request rent review, a tenant or landlord must contact the designated service provider (Project Sentinel) at 408-946-6582 or RentReview@housing.org.
- To request a hearing by the Rent Review Board (for rent increases exceeding 5%), Project Sentinel must be contacted within 15 days of the date of the notice of rent increase.
- The requesting party will be encouraged (but not required) to contact the opposite party to attempt resolution of the rent increase dispute.
- Within 3 business days of receiving a request, Project Sentinel will notify the opposite party by phone or email to begin the consultation process. The opposite party must respond to Project Sentinel within 2 business days.
- Project Sentinel will consult with both parties separately to attempt to reach an amicable resolution of the rent increase dispute for a period not exceeding 10 business days.
- If appropriate, Project Sentinel may refer the matter to a neutral mediator to conduct mediation with both parties together.
- Any agreement reached by the parties through consultation or mediation will be made into a written enforceable agreement.
- Consultation and mediation are available for rent increases of any amount.
Rent Review Board
- Within 5 days of completion of consultation or mediation, either party may request review by the Rent Review Board if the rent increase is over 5%.
- Within 45 days of the request, a hearing will be held before the Board to examine witnesses and review documents.
- The landlord will present evidence to explain the reason for a rent increase greater than 5%.
- The Board will evaluate the reasonableness of the rent increase based on a number of factors.
- Within 5 days of the hearing, the Board´s findings and non-binding recommendation will be mailed to the parties.
- If both parties agree with the Board´s decision, they will sign an agreement to that effect, otherwise the rent increase will be effective as provided in the notice of increase.
Enforcement of Rent Review Ordinance
- A civil action to enforce all provisions of the Rent Review Ordinance (RRO) may be filed by the City Attorney or by any aggrieved person or entity.
- Civil liability for the violation of any provision of RRO may be damages of up to 3 times the amount of one month’s rent, punitive damages (up to $400 per violation), plus attorneys’ fees.
- Civil liability for violating any RRO provision is determined separately according each provision violated and each instance of violation.
- Any person who violates any RRO provision is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $1,000 or 6 months in jail.
Landlord retaliation prohibited (MMC Title XII, Chapter 3, Section 3)
- Landlords are prohibited from taking any adverse action against a tenant because of the tenant’s use of any legal remedy, including RRO.
- Adverse retaliatory actions within 180 days of the tenant’s exercise of any right or process under RRO are presumed to be retaliatory conduct.
- Any rent increase in violation of this section is void and the landlord will not be allowed to increase the rent for 6 months.
- Enforcement of this section is identical to enforcement of RRO.