Rent control has come to California

The bill, which caps yearly rent increases at 5% plus inflation, would affect millions tenants; landlords say it will discourage future investment

Gavin Newsom and Assemblyman David Chiu
Gov. Gavin Newsom and Assemblyman David Chiu

Nearly a year after voters rejected a statewide referendum that would have opened the door to expanded rent control, California lawmakers have kicked down that door.

The Assembly approved a landmark bill on Wednesday that will cap yearly rent increases and expand protections for millions of tenants, a major step aimed at addressing the state’s deepening affordable housing crisis. Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the legislation, known as Assembly Bill 1482.

Under the bill, landlords will be limited to annual rent increases of up to 5 percent plus inflation, an amount that some property owners say will make it difficult to turn a profit and discourage future investment. Owners will also be barred from evicting tenants unless they can prove “just cause,” such as failing to pay rent, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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More than 2 million more apartments in the state would be subject to rent control as a result of AB 1482, although it exempts buildings constructed within the last 15 years, along with single-family homes.

The measure passed 46-22 in the Assembly, after already having passed in the Senate. Newsom called AB 1482 “the strongest package in America” aimed at protecting tenants. California is now the third state to pass statewide rent control laws, following Oregon and New York, which passed its own historic rent law in June.

The California bill comes less than a year after voters soundly defeated Proposition 10, which would have allowed cities and counties to expand rent control laws as they wanted. They are now bound by a legislation that limits rent control to buildings built in 1995 or before.

Critics of AB 1482 — and Prop 10 — have argued that expanding rent control and tenant protection measures will thwart development, which California desperately needs. Proponents say it is a necessary step at curbing the region’s rising homeless population, especially in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles County, which now a reported 59,000 people living on the streets. [LAT]Natalie Hoberman