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How to tell if your apartment has rent control in California

Signs and balloons advertise apartments for rent in Pasadena in 2019.
Whether a unit is covered by rent control depends on where it is, when it was built and what type of rental it is.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Rent control exists across California in various forms, with statewide rules and a patchwork of local laws. That means many Californians who rent, but not all, have some protections that cover evictions and how much rent can rise.

Whether you are covered depends on the kind of unit you rent, when the unit was built and the city you live in. Consider these three questions:

  1. What kind of unit is it?
  2. Where is the unit?
  3. When was it built?

What kind of unit is it?

Cities’ rent control laws can cover various types of homes. In Los Angeles, for example, single-family homes are not covered by rent control. But apartments, condos, townhouses, duplexes and mobile homes can be.

By contrast, under California’s statewide rules, almost all apartments or other types of multifamily properties that are 15 years old or more are covered. But condos are not.

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Check your city or county’s rules about which types of units are included.

Where is the unit?

The rules vary by location.

Here are some of the Southern California municipalities that have rent control rules that differ from the state’s:

Most include restrictions on evictions, and many cap rent increases and their frequency. One notable outlier is Thousand Oaks, whose law applies only to people who have been living in the same unit since 1987.

What you can do before, during and after your tenancy to get as much of your security deposit back as possible, plus what to do in case of a dispute with your landlord.

When was the unit built?

Many newer rental housing units are not subject to rent control.

In the city of Los Angeles, for example, units built after Oct. 1, 1978, do not fall under the city’s rules. (There are some exceptions if a building is demolished and rebuilt.)

California’s statewide rules apply to units that are more than 15 years old. In 2020, units built in 2005 or before are covered; in 2021, the rules will apply to units built in 2006 or before, and so on.

How do you find out when your unit was built? That information is public record, meaning you are entitled to access.

In the city of Los Angeles, you can look up details about a property, including whether it falls under rent control, by its address. But Los Angeles County, for example, does not publish real estate records online because of California law. You can look up the records in person or request that they be mailed to you. It may be easier to just search for the address of the building online — many real estate websites publish information about property records, including the year a unit was built.

One other thing to keep in mind: the concept of “effective year built,” sometimes referred to as a “renovation date” or other terms. Take, for example, a downtown L.A. building constructed in the 1920s. Easily covered by rent control, right? Not necessarily. If the building originally contained offices and was repurposed and renovated as housing in the 2000s downtown boom, those units have a more recent effective year built and would not be subject to the city’s rent control.

If you’re like most people in Southern California, you live in a rental.

What are California’s statewide rules?

In 2019, California enacted a law that limits rent increases and restricts evictions.

If you are covered by statewide law, California limits how much and how often your rent can be raised.

  • Rent can be raised only once a year.
  • Rent increases are limited to 5% plus inflation or 10%, whichever is lower.

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