This guide is intended to assist landlords, tenants, property managers, Realtors, and potential rental property owners understand how the City Council’s recently adopted interim rent increase moratorium and just-cause eviction ordinances apply in the City of Santa Cruz. It explains the basic provisions of the Santa Cruz’s interim rent control law and certain state laws relating to rental housing.
The information in this guide is not a substitute for legal advice. Specific questions concerning the ordinance’s application to your individual circumstances should be directed to your own attorney. The Santa Cruz County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service (831-425-4755) can refer you to an experienced attorney for a 30-minute consultation for an administrative fee of $50.
What is the Rent Freeze/Just-Cause Eviction Ordinance?
Where can I obtain copies of the Ordinances?
When do the Ordinances take effect?
How long will the Ordinances remain in effect?
Rent Freeze Ordinance
What types of rentals are covered by the Rent Freeze Ordinance?
- Single-family residences, condominiums, and townhouses that are separately owned;
- Rental units with an initial certificate of occupancy dated on or after February 1, 1995;
- Hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts and other short-term rentals;
- Hospitals, convents, residential care facilities, dormitories and other group homes;
- Government-owned units, Section 8 subsidized units, and other units exempted by State or Federal Law.
Why aren’t all rentals covered by the Rent Freeze Ordinance?
Does the Rent Freeze Ordinance apply to duplexes and ADUs?
What is the effect of the Rent Freeze for a covered unit?
What if the landlord already gave notice of a rent increase before the Rent Freeze Ordinance was adopted?
My rent was already increased by more than 2% shortly before the Rent Freeze Ordinance was adopted. Can it be increased again within one year of the prior increase?
How does the Ordinance apply to new tenants?
Are there any exceptions for covered units that are significantly “below market” due to rents not having increased for several years?
Just Cause Eviction
What does “Just Cause Eviction” mean?
What types of rentals are covered by the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance?
- A rental unit that constitutes the landlord’s sole rental property;
- The following categories of rental units, if the landlord resides on-site:
- A single-family residence;
- A single-family residence with an accessory dwelling unit.
Could you please clarify what constitutes a "landlord’s sole rental property” for purposes of the above-mentioned exemption? Is this based on distinct habitable units that are rented to different individuals, or is this based on the parcel of land owned by the property owner?
What are the permissible grounds for eviction under the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance?
- Failure to pay rent;
- Material breach of the terms of a lease or rental agreement;
- Exception. Landlords may not terminate a tenancy as a result of the addition of a family member, such as the child, foster child, parent, sibling or spouse or partner;
- Committing or permitting the creation of a nuisance or cause substantial damage to a rental unit or common area, or creating a substantial interference with the comfort, safety or enjoyment of any of the other residents of the property;
- Using or permitting the use of a rental unit for any illegal purpose;
- Refusing to give a landlord reasonable access to a rental unit after notice;
- The need to conduct substantial and necessary repairs to the rental unit in order to bring a unit into compliance with applicable codes and laws affecting public health and safety, provided that:
- The landlord has obtained all necessary permits from the City for such work;
- The repairs necessitate the tenant’s vacancy from the rental unit for at least thirty days;
- The landlord notifies the tenant of the right to return and reoccupy the rental unit (or a comparable unit on the same property) upon completion of the repairs at the same rent paid before the unit was vacated.
- The landlord seeks to recover possession of a rental unit for use and occupancy by the landlord or his or her family member, such as a child, foster child, stepchild, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or spouse or partner, subject to all of the restrictions mentioned below.
- The landlord seeks in good faith to permanently withdraw all rental units of an entire property from the rental housing market.
What are the restrictions on a landlord’s ability to evict a tenant for the purposes of occupying the unit as the landlord’s, or a family member’s, primary residence?
- The landlord must be a natural person with at least 50% ownership interest in the property.
- No eviction may take place if the landlord already occupies a unit on the property, or a vacancy exists.
- The notice to terminate must contain the name, address and relationship to the landlord of the person intended to occupy the unit.
- The landlord must intend in good faith to occupy the unit within 60 days after the tenant vacates, and to use it as a primary residence for at least 36 months.
- If the landlord fails to occupy the unit within 60 days after it is vacated, it must be offered back to the tenant who vacated at the same rent in effect when the tenant vacated.
- A landlord cannot evict a tenant for purposes of re-occupying a units as a primary residence if the tenant:
- Has lived there for at least 5 years
- OR is at least 62 years old or is certified as being terminally ill by a treating physician unless the landlord or relative who will occupy the unit also meet the age or disability criteria for this exemption and no other units are available.
How much notice is a tenant entitled to receive if evicted for purposes of making a rental unit available for the landlord’s or a relative’s permanent residence?
Can I be evicted because my landlord wants to remove my residence from the rental market entirely?
I lease a house with two other housemates. Our lease specifies that we are “jointly and severally liable” for the terms of the lease and that no new co-occupant/housemate other than a child born to an original Tenant can take up occupancy without the advance written permission of the Landlord. Do I need the Landlord’s consent to bring on another tenant if one of my housemates moves out?
Can I be evicted for reporting a violation of the Rent Freeze or Just Cause Eviction Ordinances?
How will the Ordinances be enforced?
Eviction Ordinances, including accepting payment of rent in excess of the amount authorized by the Rent Freeze Ordinance may bring a civil suit in the Santa Cruz County Superior Court. In a civil suit, a prevailing tenant may recover all damages, plus reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. Additionally, if a court finds that a landlord has acted willfully or with oppression, fraud or malice, the tenant may be entitled to treble (triple) damages. In addition, the City may independently take enforcement action against any violation of the Rent Control or Just Cause Eviction Ordinances.
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