The big rent increase across California next month

People in masks and matching T-shirts stand in a crowd holding signs.
Tenants and housing rights activists protest in October 2020, calling for a halt to rent payments and mortgage debt during the pandemic.
(Lucy Nicholson / Reuters)

Happy Thursday and hello from the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, July 21. I’m Liam Dillon, a metro reporter who covers housing affordability. I have some housing news you can use this morning.

Already, tenants across California might have gotten a notice posted to their doors promising a big rent increase come Aug. 1. And there will be something familiar to blame: inflation.

Landlords will be allowed to boost the rent on millions of apartments statewide by as much as 10% starting next month. It’s the maximum allowable annual increase under a state law passed a few years ago that was designed to protect tenants from being pushed out of their homes due to exorbitant rent hikes.


The law caps annual rent increases at 5% plus an inflationary figure that varies by region across California. In the first years that the law was in effect, the total allowable increase hovered between 5.7% and 9%. (It’s been 8.6% in Los Angeles this year and 8.8% in the Bay Area, to give two examples.)

But beginning next month, because inflation is so high, every region in the state meets the requirement for the cap to be set at a 10% rent increase.

For Shanti Singh, a spokesperson for statewide renter advocacy group Tenants Together, the high allowable rent hike adds another layer of concern for renters who have struggled with health and economic problems during the pandemic, including their own inflation pressures. An estimated 1.5 million California households were behind on rent per a U.S. Census Bureau survey released Wednesday.

“A 10% rent increase can make a huge difference in a family’s economic stability,” Singh said.

But Dan Yukelson, head of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, said landlords are facing rising prices for maintenance and appliances and continue to deal with many state and local policies that have discouraged other rent hikes and evictions during the pandemic.

“Owners are really hurting right now,” Yukelson said. “They’re experiencing very large cost increases.”

Here’s the fine print. The 10% allowable rent increase applies only to apartment complexes that were built before 2007 and not otherwise subject to local rent control rules. Indeed, in the 22 local jurisdictions that have rent control — Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose among them — allowable rent increases are much smaller for apartments covered by those laws. (Tenants Together has put together a list of cities with rent control that you can find here.)

In the city of Los Angeles, for instance, apartments built before October 1978 — nearly three-quarters of the city’s rental stock — fall under rent control. Through regulations that began at the beginning of the pandemic, landlords aren’t allowed to increase rent for existing tenants in those units at all.

If you live in an apartment in California built after 2007, you might qualify for anti-price gouging regulations that limit rent hikes also to no more than 10% within a year during declared states of emergencies. You should contact your city to see if these rules apply to you.

Still confused? A few months ago, I put together a guide on finding what protections against rent increases and evictions you qualify for if you live in Los Angeles.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Today’s California memory is from Raymond Wood:

In summer 1941, moving cross-country from Indiana to California on U.S. 66 in a 1941 Chevy while pulling a stake-side trailer with all our belongings was no fun for a 7-year-old. That is until the Pomona Valley, where there was mile after mile of orange trees and roadside stands with signs: “Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice. All You Can Drink. 5 Cents.”

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