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  • Owning Rental Property in Santa Monica   download

    The Santa Monica Rent Control Law has been in effect since April 10, 1979.  The Rent Control Board and its staff work to advance the Rent Control Law’s basic goals, including:

    • Controlling residential rents;
    • Limiting the grounds for eviction;
    • Preserving rental housing;
    • Encouraging maintenance; and
    • Ensuring rental-property owners a fair return.

    The Board and its staff administer the law and provide assistance to tenants, property owners and other interested members of the public regarding rent control matters. This fact sheet highlights basic information about the law for current and prospective residential property owners in Santa Monica. It is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for reading the Rent Control Law and regulations.

    Rental Units Covered by the Rent Control Law


    Most residential rental buildings in the city constructed prior to April 10, 1979 (and some units constructed after that date) are covered by Rent Control. In addition to apartment buildings, rent control may also apply to single-family homes and condominiums, depending on the unit's history.

    To check on the Rent Control status, rent levels and/or amenities of a specific property, contact a Rent Control Information Analyst at (310)458-8751.


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    Whenever there is an ownership change, such as a change in how title is held, or whenever a unit is rented to a new tenant, a registration form must be filed with the Rent Control Board. Failure to register will prevent the property owner from using many provisions of the Rent Control Law, including implementing annual rent increases and filing petitions with the Board.
    • When there is a change in ownership or owner's address
    • After a new tenancy is established in a unit

    Registration forms must be filed under the following circumstances:

    Within 30 days of a change in ownership or title, the new owner needs to file a Change of Ownership Registration form with the Board. If the owner's mailing address changes, an amendment to the registration form advising the Board of the new mailing address must be filed within 30 days. It is important that the Board have the owner's correct mailing address for timely receipt of communications, legal notices and annual registration fee bills.

    As of January 1, 1999, owners may rent most units to new tenants for market rates. In negotiating the initial rent for tenancies starting after January 1, 1999, owners may offer whatever amenities they choose, without regard to the amenities that previously came with the unit. The amenities provided when the unit is rented will remain the unit’s amenities for the duration of the tenancy. New tenancies must be registered with the Board within 30 days of re-rental on a form provided by the Board.  



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    Registration Fees

    An annual  registration fee is charged to all owners of rent-controlled property. The fees finance the operations of the Rent Control Agency. Registration fee bills are mailed to all owners by July 1 of each year, and payment is due by August 1. Owners who pay their fees on time may recover the cost by adding a prorated surcharge to their tenants' monthly rents. Fees not paid by the due date may not be collected from the tenants at any time. Owners who have not received their bills by July should contact the Rent Control office.

    • Fee Waivers
      Registration fees may be  waived for units occupied by owners as their principal place of residence, very-low income senior or very-low income disabled tenants, and for units subsidized by a state or federal housing program. Contact the Rent Control office for an application and income guidelines. 

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    Maximum Allowable Rents (MARs)

    The MAR, along with certain allowable surcharges, is the maximum legal rent that a property owner may charge for a controlled rental unit. The rent control staff can provide the current MAR according to the Board’s records for any controlled rental unit. It is possible to look up MARs on the Rent Control Board's website at: 


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    Rent Increases
    • Annual general rent adjustmentc
      Each year, the Rent Control Board approves a  general rent increase (annual general adjustment) for all rent- controlled units in the City. Starting in 2013, the general adjustment will primarily be based on a percentage (75%) of the increase in the Consumer Price Index (All Urban Consumers, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange Country region). In June, the Rent Control Board will announce the amount of the general adjustment, and property owners and tenants will then be notified by mail of the allowable increase.

      The general rent adjustment may be implemented on September 1, after tenants are given proper written notice. Owners may not increase the rent if they are not in substantial compliance with all applicable Building, Health, Fire, and Safety codes and with the Rent Control Law.
    • New tenancies
      As of January 1, 1999, for most new tenancies, property owners may charge market rents. Increases to the new rent will then be controlled by the Rent Control Law. New tenancies must be  registered with the Board within 30 days of re-rental on a form provided by the Board. (Owners of some condominiums and single family homes may not be subject to any of the rent restrictions of the Rent Control Law. Call Rent Control for more information.)
    • Individual rent increase petitions
      Property owners may request rent increases in addition to the annual general rent adjustment by filing an  Increase Petition . Individual rent increases are usually sought for completed or planned capital improvements, lack of fair return, or increases in operating expenses not covered by the annual general rent adjustment. Call the Rent Control Hearings Department (310-458-8751) if you need assistance with completing an individual rent increase petition. 

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    Lawful Evictions


    The Rent Control Law limits the reasons a tenant may be evicted. Some causes for eviction arise from actions (or inactions) of the tenant. These are considered "tenant fault" evictions and include things like: failing to pay the rent, violating an important condition of the rental agreement, or causing a substantial nuisance.

    There are also lawful eviction situations in which the tenant is not at fault. "No fault" evictions include things like the owner wants to occupy the apartment or is electing to get out of the rental housing business. Most "no-fault" evictions require the owner to pay relocation assistance to the displaced tenants.

    Owners who find themselves in situations where evictions are necessary should consult an attorney. There are specific legal requirements that must be followed in order to complete an eviction properly.

    For more information on evictions, contact the Rent Control office and request the handout on evictions and applicable regulations.


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    Rent Decreases and Other Topics


    The Rent Control Law also allows tenants to request rent decreases when property owners do not maintain their rental property or limit housing services or amenities. For more information on maintenance of rental properties and other topics not covered in this information sheet, please contact the Rent Control office and speak with an Information Analyst. In addition to answering questions, they can send you information sheets on the following topics:

    • Frequently Asked Questions
    • Maintenance of Rental Property
    • Security Deposits
    • General Adjustment History and Surcharges
    • Temporary Rent Reductions
    • How to Prepare for a Rent Control Hearing
    • Evictions
    • Guidelines for Determination of a Reasonable Opportunity to Correct a Breach or Nuisance
    • Master-Metered Utilities
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