Ask the Rent Board

By Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Staff
Thursday March 28, 2002


Our landlady lives nearby and constantly stops by unannounced. She seems well meaning, but we really don’t want anyone coming over without calling first. What can we do? 




I’m not sure what you mean by "stops by." If she enters your apartment without permission or without cause, then she is violating the law. California law states that a landlord can enter a rental unit only for the following reasons: 

• In an emergency; 

• When the tenant has moved out or abandoned the unit; 

• To make necessary or agreed-upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or other improvements; 

• To show the rental unit to prospective tenants, buyers, or lenders, or to provide entry to repair persons who are to perform work on the unit; or 

• Under a court order. 

Except in cases of emergency or abandonment, a landlord must give a tenant reasonable advance notice before entering, which is presumed to be 24 hours notice, and can enter only during normal business hours (generally, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays). You have the right to refuse entry if it is not for one of the specified reasons, and if notice is required but not given. 

If your landlady just comes to the property or your doorstep without entering your apartment and you find this intrusive, you should ask her to stop. Ask your landlady politely to call before she comes by, and tell her you may not always have time for her. If the unwanted behavior continues, put your request in writing. If this doesn’t take care of the problem, a lawyer can tell you if her actions rise to the level of harassment or breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment (the right to enjoy your home free from interference by the landlord) implied in every lease. 





Two months ago I purchased a 4-unit apartment building. The tenants in apartment A now claim that they have been overcharged for the past year and a half. I haven’t raised their rent since I bought it, but when I checked with the Rent Board, I was told their rent does exceed the lawful rent ceiling for the unit. If I simply continued collecting what the previous owner charged, without knowing it was illegally high, am I liable to the tenants for the overcharges? Am I responsible for the previous owner’s overcharges? 




You are liable for overcharges collected during your ownership, even if you weren’t aware that the rent exceeded the ceiling. You are jointly liable with the former owner for overcharges he collected. If this matter is not resolved informally, the tenants may file a Rent Board petition for a refund of overcharges against you and the former owner. Since you are jointly liable, if the former owner ignores the petition, or if the tenants file against you only, and they prove their claim, you will be responsible for refunding the entire amount of overcharges. Your recourse against the former owner would then be to sue him for reimbursement of excess rent that he collected. By the way, most Berkeley realtors obtain rent ceiling information from the Rent Board before advising their clients to purchase investment property. 



You can e-mail the City of Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board at rent@ci. berkeley.ca.us with your questions, or you can call or visit the office at 2125 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA. 94704 Our telephone number is (510) 644-6128. Our Web site address is www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/rent/.