Freeze on Rent Increases and Arbitrary Evictions

Freeze on Rent Increases and Arbitrary Evictions

Rent Freeze: Frequently Asked Questions

In order to calm the rental housing market while the community is considering a permanent rent control policy for the City of Santa Cruz, MHJ proposed a temporary rent freeze ordinance to the City Council in November 2017. On February 13, 2018, the Council acted on this proposal by modifying it, splitting it into separate ordinances to cover rent increases and just cause for eviction, and adopting both as emergency ordinances, meaning that they took effect immediately.

The text of these ordinances is on the City of Santa Cruz website at these links:

Ord. No. 2018-03: Interim emergency ordinance establishing a moratorium on certain residential rent increases not to exceed 2%.

Ord. No. 2018-04: Interim emergency ordinance requiring just cause for tenant evictions within the City.


Summary of City of Santa Cruz Emergency Ordinances on Rent Control and Just Cause for Eviction

Effective period of Moratorium for both ordinances: February 13, 2018 through at least September 1, 2018; longer if ballot measure qualifies.

City enforcement will likely be only on complaint to the City. Tenants retain rights to sue in court.


Emergency Rent Control Moratorium Ordinance No. 2018-03

Maximum 2% rent increase per year allowed during moratorium.

If you recently received notice of a rent increase, an increase of over 2% is illegal if:

  • you received the notice after January 14 for a rent increase of 10% or less (30 day notice required), or
  • you received the notice after December 15 for a rent increase of more than 10% (60 day notice required).
  • the effective date of the increase is less than one year since your previous rent increase of 2% or more. [Note: in the ordinance language, “2% increase per year,” the interpretation of “per year” is in dispute. MHJ believes time should be measured from the previous rent increase. The City Attorney’s interpretation is less tenant-friendly. Contact us if your situation is in this uncertain area.]

Exemptions from Rent Control (but not exempted from Just Cause for Eviction):

  • Short-term rentals (less than 30 days) such as hotels, motels, AirBnB.
  • Institutional housing such as hospitals, nursing homes, and school dormitories.
  • Section 8 and other government subsidized housing.
  • Condominiums and single family dwellings if no other housing unit is on the same parcel (Costa-Hawkins restriction on rent control).
  • Units first occupied after Feb 1, 1995 (Costa-Hawkins restriction on rent control).

No rent roll-back. No limit on rent at the beginning of a new tenancy.

A property owner may petition the City Manager for a higher rent increase with justification for a fair, just and reasonable return on investment.


Emergency Just Cause for Eviction Temporary Ordinance No. 2018-04

Evictions limited to:

  • Non-payment of rent.
  • Substantial breach of lease.
  • Criminal activity on the premises.
  • Failure to allow access.
  • Necessary and substantial repairs requiring temporary vacancy.
  • Owner move-in (protection for long-term, elderly, disabled, or terminally ill tenant).
  • Permanent withdrawal of all units on a property from the rental market.

Exemptions for Just Cause for Eviction (but not exempted from Rent Control):

  • Shared bath or kitchen with landlord in their primary residence.
  • Duplex or ADU if landlord lives on the property.
  • Landlord’s sole rental unit.

Landlord retains right to approve subtenants; may not refuse addition of tenant’s family members.

Landlord retaliation prohibited for tenant reporting violations.

Landlord must be in compliance with the ordinance to evict a tenant.

Landlord not obligated to pay relocation assistance under this emergency ordinance.


If you believe a violation of these ordinances has occurred, contact or call (831) 222-0359.

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