Q: I heard that condominiums are no longer exempt from rent control. Is this true?
A: It’s true in certain circumstances. The Costa-Hawkins Act exempted most condominiums from rent control. An amendment to that state law, which went into effect January 1, 2002, says that units that were subject to rent control and are converted into condos, but not sold separately to a "bona fide purchaser for value," are still regulated by the Rent Ordinance if they are rented. In other words, if the same person owns the unit before and after it is converted, or if the owner merely transfers the property to, say, a relative for a token sum, then the unit is still subject to rent control. This amendment is designed to prevent owners from exempting units in rent-controlled jurisdictions merely by changing the form of ownership. Units that are converted into condos and then sold to a legitimate buyer, however, are exempt from the registration and rent ceiling requirements of the Rent Ordinance, but are still governed by the security deposit and good cause for eviction provisions of the Rent Ordinance.
Q: I live in a house that is divided into five apartments, but only four are registered. My unit, the attic unit, is not registered. Does that mean my landlord is out of compliance for not reporting my unit?
A: Not necessarily. If your unit was created by converting uninhabitable space into habitable space after June 30, 1980, the Rent Board considers it "new construction." (See Berkeley Municipal Code section 13.76.050 I.) Newly constructed units, including attics, basements, and garages that were converted into living space after that date are exempt from the registration and rent ceiling requirements of the Rent Ordinance (but the security deposit and good cause for eviction provisions still apply). If you discover that the attic was used as living space before 1980, then your apartment should be registered with the Rent Board.
You can e-mail the City of Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board at firstname.lastname@example.org for individual questions, or you can call or visit the office at 2125 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704 (northeast corner of Milvia/Center Streets) Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, between 9 a.m. and 4:45 p.m., and on Wednesday between 12:00 noon and 6:30 p.m. Our telephone number is (510) 644-6128. Our website address is www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/rent.