Rent Review Ordinance
(Milpitas Municipal Code Title XII, Chapter 2, effective 10/15/19)
Purpose & Exemptions
- The Rent Review Program (RRP) helps Milpitas tenants and landlords to resolve rent increase disputes.
- RRP applies to all residential rental units except the following categories are exempt:
- School dormitories
- Newer housing (built within the past 15 years)
- Single-family houses or condos (if not owned by a corporation and the tenant is provided a written notice that the unit is exempt from RRP)
- Duplexes (if one of the units is owner-occupied)
Landlord Obligations Under RRP
- For a rent increase to be valid, landlords must do the following:
- Serve the required written notices of rent increase and the availability of RRP; and
- Participate in good faith in each step of the rent review process, if rent review is requested by the tenant.
Required Rent Increase Notice
- Rent increase notices must follow the procedure in California Civil Code Section 827(b).
- Landlords are strongly encouraged to provide at least 90 days' notice to allow for the orderly operation of rent review procedures.
- Only one rent increase is allowed in any consecutive 12-month period unless there is a written agreement (separate from the lease) that specifies the amount and effective date for each increase.
Required Notice of Availability of Rent Review
- Landlords must provide written notice of the availability of rent review when entering into a new lease agreement and obtain tenants' written acknowledgment that the notice was received.
- At the time of any rent increase in any amount, landlords must provide written notice of the availability or rent review.
- Notice of availability of rent review may be served by mail, text, email, or personal delivery.
- Rent increases over 5% must include the reason for the increase.
- The City will make available to landlords the required notice form in English and the most commonly used languages.
How to Request Rent Review
- To request rent review, a tenant or landlord must contact the designated service provider (Project Sentinel) at 408-946-6582 or RentReview@housing.org.
- To request a hearing by the Rent Review Board (for rent increases exceeding 5%), Project Sentinel must be contacted within 15 days of the date of the notice of rent increase.
- The requesting party will be encouraged (but not required) to contact the opposite party to attempt resolution of the rent increase dispute.
- Within 3 business days of receiving a request, Project Sentinel will notify the opposite party by phone or email to begin the consultation process. The opposite party must respond to Project Sentinel within 2 business days.
Consultation / Mediation
- Project Sentinel will consult with both parties separately to attempt to reach an amicable resolution of the rent increase dispute for a period not exceeding 10 business days.
- If appropriate, Project Sentinel may refer the matter to a neutral mediator to conduct mediation with both parties together.
- Any agreement reached by the parties through consultation or mediation will be made into a written enforceable agreement.
- Consultation and mediation are available for rent increases of any amount.
Rent Review Board
- Within 5 days of completion of consultation or mediation, either party may request review by the Rent Review Board if the rent increase is over 5%.
- Within 45 days of the request, a hearing will be held before the Board to examine witnesses and review documents.
- The landlord will present evidence to explain the reason for a rent increase greater than 5%.
- The Board will evaluate the reasonableness of the rent increase based on a number of factors.
- Within 5 days of the hearing, the Board's findings and non-binding recommendation will be mailed to the parties.
- If both parties agree with the Board's decision, they will sign an agreement to that effect, otherwise, the rent increase will be effective as provided in the notice of increase.
Enforcement of Rent Review Ordinance
- A civil action to enforce all provisions of the Rent Review Ordinance (RRO) may be filed by the City Attorney or by any aggrieved person or entity.
- Civil liability for the violation of any provision of RRO may be damages of up to 3 times the amount of one month's rent, punitive damages (up to $400 per violation), plus attorneys' fees.
- Civil liability for violating any RRO provision is determined separately according to each provision violated and each instance of violation.
- Any person who violates any RRO provision is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $1,000 or 6 months in jail.
Landlord Retaliation Prohibited
(MMC Title XII, Chapter 3, Section 3)
- Landlords are prohibited from taking any adverse action against a tenant because of the tenant's use of any legal remedy, including RRO.
- Adverse retaliatory actions within 180 days of the tenant's exercise of any right or process under RRO are presumed to be retaliatory conduct.
- Any rent increase in violation of this section is void and the landlord will not be allowed to increase the rent for 6 months.
- Enforcement of this section is identical to enforcement of RRO.