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Learn About Rent Stabilization

In 1979, the San José City Council appointed a task force to address issues in rental housing. In July 1979, the City Council adopted a rent stabilization ordinance for mobilehome parks and apartments, and created the City's Rental Dispute Program (now known as the Rent Stabilization Program) to administer the Ordinance. In 1985 the City Council voted to separate the Rent Stabilization Ordinance into two ordinances - one for mobilehome parks and another for apartments. 

The City has several ordinances that govern rental housing. The Apartment Rent Ordinance and its companion regulations limit rent increases on approximately 38,000 apartments in San Jose.

Below is a short video regarding the Apartment Rent Ordinance:

Woman speaking to camera

Apartment Rent Ordinance Coverage

Properties covered by San José's Apartment Rent Ordinance include apartments with three or more units that were built and occupied prior to September 7, 1979.

Rental housing developments exempted from the ordinance include single-family homes, in-law units/granny flats/accessory dwelling units, duplexes, condominiums, townhomes, hotels, boarding houses rented to transient guests for periods of less than 30 days, nonprofit homes for the aged, school dormitories, rental units owned and operated by any government agency, any rental units first rented after September 7, 1979, and properties in unincorporated areas of San José.

To determine if a property is rent stabilized, you can view a map of rent stabilized properties for an initial search. Use the map to search for properties and view other information about a property. Click on the orange icon associated with the property address to see if it is rent stabilized, how many units it has, if it is covered by other ordinances, and what tier it has been assigned by the Code Enforcement Department.

Please contact City staff at (408) 975-4470 if you have questions or to confirm the status of a particular property.

Map illustration

Allowable Rent Increase Under the Ordinance

Under the Apartment Rent Ordinance, the maximum allowable rent increase is 5% in a 12-month period.

Exceptions to the Allowable Rent Increases

Rent increases that are exempt from these requirements include an increase after a rental unit has been voluntarily vacated, and an increase after a lawful eviction.

A landlord can petition to pass through costs to tenants for the following reasons:

  • Specific Capital Improvements: The total monthly amount imposed may not exceed three percent of the monthly rent charged and is not considered rent. The improvement must have been completed within 12 months prior to the filing of the petition.
  • Fair Return Increase: A special permanent rent adjustment may be approved by the City when the landlord offers proof that their operating expenses exceed income.

Tenants may also file a joint petition with their landlord for a 5% increase in rent per additional occupant.

Service Reductions

A service reduction has occurred when the level of service provided by the landlord has been reduced without a corresponding decrease in rent. The ARO allows tenants to request an administrative hearing for a service reduction claim. The tenant has the burden of proof and must support their claim by submitting evidence such as maintenance record requests, photographs, and/or testimony. If the claim is proven, the Hearing Officer will determine the percentage that the usability of the rental unit was reduced and the duration of the reduction. If the rent increase is unreasonable, the Hearing Officer may reduce a rent increase, order a credit against paid rent, and/or impose a permanent or temporary reduction in rent.

Housing Code Violations

A housing code violation has occurred when there are health and safety defects which violate the San José Housing Code and/or California Civil Code Sections 1941.1 and 1941.2. The tenant has the burden to prove their claim by submitting evidence such as a Code Enforcement Inspection, which is considered presumptive evidence. Unless there is sufficient evidence to the contrary, violations listed in the report are considered to have been proven to exist. Issues of this type may also be classified as 'service reductions' under the City's ordinance. The Hearing Officer may reduce, disallow or reasonably condition any rent increase based on the severity of any violations.

Freedom to Exercise Rights

Apartment owners may not do the following in retaliation for tenants demanding their rights under the Ordinance:

  • Threaten to sue, evict or terminate the tenancy of the tenant(s);
  • Harass you until you leave;
  • Reduce your services;
  • Increase your rent; or
  • Impose a security deposit or any other new charge.

If any of these actions occur, provide a written complaint to the Housing Department's Rent Stabilization Program.

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