The Home Depot – San Jose adopts new rent-freeze ordinance
With thousands of residents still trying to cope with financial burdens exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, San Jose leaders have adopted a new temporary rent freeze ordinance aimed at stabilizing the rental market and protecting the city’s most vulnerable residents from homelessness.
The San Jose City Council on Tuesday night voted unanimously to adopt a new rent freeze ordinance that prohibits landlords from increasing rents on tenants who declare a loss of income due to COVID-19 and who live in one of the city’s nearly 39,000 apartments and more than 10,000 rent-controlled mobile homes that fall under the city’s rent stabilization program. The temporary ordinance will take effect immediately and last until June 30.
Single-family home rentals and most newer apartments are not subject to rent control under state law and will not be covered by the ordinance.
“You would hope people would do the right thing in a COVID-19 pandemic, but no, I have a lot of residents who have gotten eviction notices and for a couple of months, I had had a lot of residents get rent increase notices,” said councilmember Maya Esparza, who proposed the rent freeze. “And what we know is that those rent increases are happening not at the expensive apartments. They’re happening on the apartments for the low-income folks who desperately rely on them.”
The council’s move comes about 33 days after the city’s previous rent freeze ordinance expired. The city council first passed a rent freeze ordinance in response to financial strains tied to COVID-19 pandemic in late April. That ordinance was extended shortly thereafter but expired at the end of 2020.
Here’s what you need to know about San Jose’s new rent freeze ordinance and how it differs from last year’s.
Who is eligible for the city’s latest rent freeze protections?
To qualify for the city’s new rent freeze protections, a tenant must live in a rent-stabilized apartment and rent-controlled mobile home. A resident also must submit a Declaration of COVID-19 Related Financial Distress to their landlord to be covered under the moratorium.
Under the city’s ordinance, landlords are required to provide a copy of the declaration to tenants before increasing the rent.
Apartment buildings with three or more units that were built on or before September 1979 and mobile homes in parks that were built on or before September 1979 are rent-controlled in San Jose and therefore qualify for the rent freeze protections.
How does this rent freeze ordinance differ from the protections passed in April 2020?
The temporary rent freeze ordinance passed by the city in April 2020 prohibited landlords from increasing rents until Jan. 1, 2021 on all rent-controlled apartments and mobile homes that fell under the city’s rent stabilization program — regardless of the pandemic’s effect on a tenant.
Unlike the city’s 2020 rent freeze ordinance, the latest rendition will only apply to tenants and mobile home residents and owners who have taken a financial hit during the pandemic and submit a Declaration of COVID-19 Related Financial Distress to their landlord.
San Jose Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand said the objective of the new ordinance is to ensure rent increases are not given to tenants already struggling with ballooning rent burdens while allowing landlords to provide a rent increase to residents who have not been impacted by the pandemic and who are in an apartment priced below market rent.
Will the ordinance apply retroactively to January?
No. The new rent freeze ordinance passed by the San Jose City Council this week will apply from February 2 to June 30. If someone living in a rent-controlled apartment or mobile home received a rent increase from January 1 to February 1, the ordinance will not apply to them.
Have I heard about this Declaration of COVID-19 Related Financial Distress somewhere before?
The city’s qualifications for its rent freeze protection falls in line with California’s new eviction protections. Under a new state measure, tenants must fill out a similar COVID-19 Financial Distress form and declare that they have lost income due to the pandemic.
During Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Tim Beaubien of the Santa Clara County Realtors Association commended city leadership for aligning it with the state to “limit confusion and competing legislation.”
“This ordinance takes an important step to protect vulnerable tenants without overburdening our crucial naturally affordable housing providers,” Beaubien said.