City of Santa MonicaRent Control Department1685 Main St., Rm 202Santa Monica, CA 90401(310)458-8751Email the Rent Control Board
Hours and additional information
state vacancy decontrol law that took effect January 1, 1996 mandated changes
to local rent control laws. It did not end rent control or eviction
protections, and it does not permit rent increases on existing tenants.
legal rent for a controlled unit is the Maximum Allowable Rent (MAR) plus a
registration fee and the tenant’s share of certain property tax-related
tenants who moved in before October 1995, the MAR is based on the rent
in effect (and all amenities included with the rent) on April 10, 1978. The current MAR for these tenants equals the
base rent from 1978 plus all increases approved by the Board since that date. As a phase-in to market rate rentals, the MAR
for tenants who moved in between October
1995 and the end of December 1998 could have been adjusted upward as much
as 15% above the existing MAR.
As of January 1, 1999, property owners have been able to rent units to new tenants for
market rates in most cases. In addition
to negotiating the initial rent for an apartment, amenities are also negotiated
between an owner and a tenant without regard to the amenities that previously
came with the apartment. The amenities
provided when the apartment is rented will be considered the unit's minimum
amenities for the duration of the tenancy.
Rent levels and parking information for all new tenancies after January
1, 1999 must be registered with the Rent Control Board on a Vacancy Unit
or stop by the Rent Control office to learn the current MAR in the Board’s
records for a unit. You may also look up
MAR levels on the Rent Control website:
law allows an owner to collect up to two
months’ rent for an unfurnished
unit or three months’ rent
for a furnished unit. This deposit may be collected in addition to the
first month's rent. Santa Monica Rent Control regulations generally do not
permit an owner to increase the amount of the security deposit during a
tenancy. As of June 13, 2002, the Board
suspended its regulations requiring owners to pay interest on security
deposits. No interest payments on
security deposits are required at this time. For additional information on security
deposits and refunds please see the Security Deposits information
A tenant who believes that the rental unit needs repairs should notify the owner. It's best to do so in writing and to keep a copy of the signed and dated letter after giving the original to the owner or manager. If the owner does not make the requested repairs, tenants have several remedies depending on the seriousness of the problems.
California law requires owners to maintain their units in habitable condition. The property must also comply with building and housing codes that protect a tenant's health and safety.
Under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law, a tenant may file a rent decrease petition if the owner does not make repairs or restore housing services after receiving written notice from the tenant. A decrease petition may be filed 30 to 180 days after the written notice to the owner. The purpose of the decrease process is to encourage owners to make necessary repairs. Many of the issues raised in decrease petitions are resolved through mediation. Any unresolved issues are forwarded to the Rent Control Hearings Department for a hearing and written decision.
In addition to filing a decrease petition, tenants who believe their unit or building is unsafe or unhealthy may call one of the following local government agencies and ask them to investigate the problem:
For detailed information, please review information sheet, Maintenance of Rental Property.
It depends. For tenants whose tenancies began before January 1, 1999, housing services and amenities, such as parking, which were provided with the unit at no extra charge on April 10, 1978, are considered "base amenities." These amenities should still be provided at no extra cost. To learn which amenities are registered with a particular unit, contact the Rent Board office. If an amenity provided to the unit is discontinued or reduced, the tenant should ask the owner in writing to restore the amenity. Keep a copy of the letter. If the issues are not resolved, the tenant may apply for a rent decrease.
For units rented to new tenants after January 1, 1999, base rents and amenities are those provided on the initial rental date of the unit.
The Rent Control Law does not address the maximum number of people who may occupy a unit. Tenants are generally bound by whatever was agreed to in their rental agreement. Most standard rental agreements have language limiting occupancy to specified persons, prohibiting sub-tenancies, or requiring the owner's prior written consent.
However, if an owner refuses to allow a tenant to replace a roommate, the remaining tenant(s) may petition for a rent decrease for reduction of a housing service. A rent decrease is only available if the owner does not allow the same number of tenants as were allowed on the base rent date. If a rental agreement does not prohibit having roommates or subleasing, roommates are allowed.
Even if a rental agreement restricts who may reside in the unit, there are circumstances under which a tenant may be able to have additional occupants. The Santa Monica Municipal Code prohibits owners from evicting tenants for violating their rental agreements if the violation is due to an increase in occupancy because of the marriage of the tenant or the birth or adoption of a minor child. Another section of the Municipal Code provides similar protections for tenants who reside with a registered domestic partner. However, an "Affidavit of Domestic Partnership" must be on file with the City Clerk's office prior to the tenants’ being served with a 3-day notice by the owner.
Before purchasing controlled rental property, future owners may want to find out the current rent levels and review the Agency's file on the property. All documents related to a property are available to be viewed at the Board’s office.
Once new owners have purchased rental property they need to take the following steps with the Rent Control Agency:
Annual registration fee bills are mailed to landlords at the beginning of July each year and must be paid by August 1 in order to pass the fees through to the tenants as a monthly surcharge. For more detailed information please review information sheet - Owning Rental Property in Santa Monica.
While the Rent Control Law provides many protections for tenants, it also guarantees property owners a fair return on their rental property. The annual General Adjustment compensates owners for general increases in operating expenses. Starting in 2013, the General Adjustment will no longer be based on a formula called“component ratio to gross rent” but on a simple application of 75 percent of the change in the area Consumer Price Index (CPI). Increases can range from 0%to 6%, and Rent Control Board Commissioners retain the discretion to impose a dollar-amount ceiling after holding a public hearing.
In June 2012, the Board approved a 2012 General Adjustment of 1.54% with a maximum increase of $26. The General Adjustment goes into effect on September 1 of each year.
Property owners may increase rents by the 2012 General Adjustment beginning September 1 if:
Rent overcharges may be found in a variety of instances, including:
A tenant who believes he/she is paying more than the legal rent should contact an Information Coordinator to find out the legal rent for the unit.
Rent overcharges may be resolved in several ways. If the owner does not voluntarily refund overpayments once the tenant brings this to his/her attention, the tenant may:
If a tenant files in Small Claims or Superior Court, the tenant may be able to obtain a penalty of three times the amount of the excess rent. Each option has advantages and disadvantages that should be considered before making a decision.
Rent Control registration fee finances the services required to administer the
Rent Control Law. The registration fee
is $156 per unit annually, which is $13 per month.
owners initially pay the fee for each rental unit they own. Owners who pay all outstanding registration fees by August 1 may,
with proper written notice, recover the registration
fee from tenants at the rate of $13 per month beginning September 1st.
The Board will waive this fee for units occupied by very low income seniors (62 years or older) or very low income disabled tenants. The tenant's total yearly household income must be less than $27,216 for a person living alone or $31,104 for a two-person household.
Fee waivers are also available for the following circumstances:
Fee waiver applications must be submitted on forms provided by the Board and documentation is required for each type of waiver. Contact an Information Analyst to obtain an application or get further information.
The Rent Control law allows property owners to pass along certain property tax assessments to their tenants, in addition to the Maximum Allowable Rent (MAR) and registration fee. The allowable surcharges are:
Surcharges may only be collected on a pro-rated monthly basis. To calculate the monthly amount per unit for each allowable assessment:
To collect the bonds, Stormwater and Clean Beaches surcharges, the owner must provide tenants with a copy of the property tax bill showing the assessed amounts. Portions of the tax bill may be “blacked out” for privacy, but the property address, tax amount and dates must be identifiable.
The Santa Monica Rent Control Law allows tenants and owners to file petitions to resolve disputes or adjust rent levels. The filing of a petition usually results in the matter being scheduled for a hearing.
There are several types of petitions heard by the Rent Control Board. Below is a list of these petitions and a brief description of why they are filed.
For more questions and answers on petitions, please read information sheet: How to Prepare for a Hearing.
It depends. Condominium units may or may not be covered by rent control depending on a variety of factors such as:
Because the facts differ for each condominium, it is best to call the Rent Control Board to determine the facts for a particular address.
Owning Rental Property in Santa Monica
Rent Control Terms & Definitions
Look Up a Rent
Apartment Repairs (City Attorney)
How to Prepare for a Hearing