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Berkeley Rent Control: Who is Exempt?

Rent control is always a hot button topic around the Bay Area, whether you're a renter or a landlord you're apt to keep your eye on how things change with the times. With a housing shortage and UC Berkeley students literally homeless, Berkeley is one of the cities that stays at the forefront of rent laws. There is a lot to cover in the realms of rent control, so let's start with exemptions.

To be exempt from rent control means that you are not beholden to the rent board's rules regarding rent increases or evictions. Though tenants may abhor the uncertainty that comes with rent control exempt units, they allow owners to raise rents to market rate and evict if they want to live in their own properties (though there are ways to evict for owner occupancy in rent controlled units, but that's a different post).

Any specific questions should be directed either to Berekely's Rent Board (contact info at the bottom of this post), or a real estate attorney.

The Golden Duplex

To be considered a golden duplex, the property must be able to answer yes to both of the following questions:

1. Was the property owner occupied on December 31, 1989?

2. Is one unit currently the principal residence of an owner of record holding at least 50% interest?


This feels like it should be a no brainer. If you have a relative (or anyone) living in your home and they are not paying any rent, you are exempt from rent control. Why is this even being mentioned? Because there is a thing called "squatter's rights" and squatters don't pay rent. So, rest easy knowing you can be generous and if your generosity runs out you can kick out a non-rent-paying resident without them claiming rights to the space you loaned to them.

Shared Kitchen or Bath

If you rent out a space (bedroom or granny unit), but share your kitchen or bathroom with your tenant, you are exempt from rent control -- as long as you hold at least 50% ownership in the property. There is current consideration being given to a tenant's use of a hotplate to determine if that is enough to be considered a kitchen. Stay tuned, or keep up with the rent board to know how this issue shakes out.

Partially Exempt

The owners of the below properties must pay interest on security deposits (currently at .01/year) and have good cause to evict, but they are not required to register the units and their rents are not controlled.

Single-family Residences (SFR)

SFRs must have been rented on or after January 1, 1996 to be exempt.

SFRs rented on or after January 1, 1996 are exempt if:

1. the landlord evicted the proper tenant for owner-occupancy or by changing the terms for tenancy

2. the landlord receives a financial contribution from a public entity in exchange for reducing rent

3. the unit contains serious, cited code violations that have been outstanding for at least six months

Section 8 or Shelter Plus Care Program

Exempt if the rent exceeds the authorized "Payment Standard" (contact the Rent Board for more information)

New Construction

Newly constructed rental units that have received a certificate of occupancy issued after June 30, 1980.

There are other categories of exempt units (like hotels/motels, fraternities and sororities, non-profit units rented to low-income tenants, and more) which the Rent Board can further clarify for anyone wishing to have more information.

Berkeley Rent Board

510.981.7368 phone

51-.981.6903 (TDD)

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