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Apartment Rent Ordinance

Overview of the Apartment Rent Ordinance

In 1979, the San José City Council appointed a task force to address issues in rental housing. In July 1979, the City Council adopted a rent stabilization ordinance for mobilehome parks and apartments, and created the City's Rental Dispute Program (now known as the Rent Stabilization Program) to administer the Ordinance. In 1985 the City Council voted to separate the Rent Stabilization Ordinance into two ordinances - one for mobilehome parks and another for apartments. 

On May 10, 2016, the City Council amended the Apartment Rent Ordinance to lower the allowable annual rent increase from 8% to 5%.

The Apartment Rent Ordinance, found in San José Municipal Code Chapter 17.23, and its companion regulations limit rent increases on approximately 38,000 apartments in San Jose.

Below is a short video regarding the Apartment Rent Ordinance:



Webpage Sections:


Ratio Utility Billing System (RUBS) Petition

On April 24, 2018, San Jose City Council voted to require utility charges to be included in the rent charged for rent stabilized apartments.  The Ordinance allows landlords to file a one-time rent increase petition between July 5, 2018 to October 31, 2018 if they are currently charging utilities through a ratio utility billing system (RUBS) or similar unmetered allocation arrangements.  Starting October 31, 2018, landlords will not be allowed to bill utilities to tenants through those means if a petition has not been submitted or after a final decision is submitted on a filed petition. 

A one-time rent increase may be permitted provided that certain requirements are met as set forth in the Ordinance and Regulations.  If approved, the one-time rent increase may equal the average monthly utility charges in the 2017 Santa Clara County Housing Authority Utility Allowance rates.

To file a RUBS petition, landlords must submit the following supporting documents:

  • One-time Offset Increase Petition for RUBS
  • Lease Agreement and Addenda with provision regarding pass-through utilities
  • Pre-filing Notice to Tenant
  • RUBS Petition Electronic Spreadsheet

No petitions will be accepted after October 31, 2018The application and documents can be found on our website.

Apartment Rent Ordinance Regulation Amendments (June 28, 2018)

The amendments to the ARO Regulations include:
  • Clarification of Timelines in the Petition Process: Through the Regulations, amendments were made to number of days a tenant or landlord may respond to a submitted petition. For example, for Incomplete Petitions in Section 5.03.1.b, the petitioner now has 30 days instead of 10 days to complete the petition or otherwise be considered withdrawn. For a response to a submitted petition, the responding party (tenant or landlord) will now have 14 days instead of 30 days from the mailing of the notice that a complete petition was received. This change was a recommended change from stakeholders including the Hearing Officers, landlords, and tenants who provided feedback that 30 days was too long of a timeframe to respond to a petition.
  • Clarifications to the Hearing Process under Chapter 6 and 7: Under these chapters, clarifications were made to the following: 1) the notice and timing of a hearing (7.11.1); 2) what Administration Decision should include (6.03); 3) the open session requirement for voluntary mediation hearings (7.04.1 and 7.04.4); 4) when a claim for violating a Voluntary Agreement may be filed (7.04.6); 5) the timeframe for Mediator/Hearing Officer’s decisions following an unresolved mediation hearing (7.04.7); 6) the three types of Ch. 7 hearings (7.05-7.05.3); and 7) what statutes constitute Housing Code Violations (7.09).   
  • City Will Hold the Official Hearing Record: Under Section 5.06, the City will be responsible for retaining the official Hearing records after the proceedings under any Chapter in the Regulations.
  • Addition of Chapter 13: On the May 22, 2018 City Council meeting, staff was directed to submit to the City Manager for approval a proposed amendment adding Chapter 13 to the ARO Regulations, which describes the offset petition process. The recommended changes will further amend the ARO so that utility pass through agreements executed with existing tenants before January 1, 2018 are not expressly void until the landlord’s offset petition is decided. The period for filing petitions will be from July 5, 2018 to October 31, 2018. Landlords who can demonstrate a standing business process of requiring pass throughs for all tenants since June 2017 may also participate in the offset petition process for those agreements executed between January 1, 2018 and May 1, 2018. 

Apartment Rent Ordinance Coverage 

Properties that are covered by San José's Apartment Rent Ordinance include apartments with three or more units that were built and occupied prior to September 7, 1979.

Rental housing developments exempted from the ordinance include single family homes,in-law units/granny flats/accessory dwelling units, duplexes, condominiums, townhomes, hotels, boarding houses rented to transient guests for periods of less than 30 days, nonprofit homes for the aged, school dormitories, rental units owned and operated by any government agency, any new rental units first rented after September 7, 1979, and properties in unincorporated areas of San José.

If you have an inquiry about a property outside of San José, please check with that specific city for more information about any regulations that may apply.

To determine if a property is rent stabilized, you can view a map of rent stabilized properties. Use the map to search for properties and view other information about a property. Click on the orange icon associated with the property address to see if it is rent stabilized, how many units it has, if it is covered by the Tenant Protection Ordinance or Ellis Act Ordinance, and what Tier it has been assigned by the Code Enforcement Department.

Please contact staff at (408) 975-4480 if you have questions or to confirm the status of a particular property.

Rent-Stabilized Map 

Allowable Rent Increase Under the Ordinance 

Under the Apartment Rent Ordinance, rent increases may only be given once in a 12-month period. The maximum annual allowable increase is 5%.  

Exceptions to the Allowable Rent Increases

Rent increases that are exempt from these requirements include an increase after the rental unit has been voluntarily vacated by the tenant, and an increase after eviction of a tenant. 

A landlord can petition to pass through costs to tenants for the following reasons:

  • Specific Capital Improvements: The total monthly amount imposed may not exceed 3 percent of the monthly rent charged and is not considered rent. The improvement must have been completed within 12 months prior to the filing of the petition.
  • Fair Return Increase: A special permanent rent adjustment may be approved by the City when the landlord offers proof that their operating expenses exceed income as is adjusted for by inflation.
Tenants may also file a joint petition with their landlord for a 5% increase in rent per additional occupant.

Tenants with a rent increase subject to review and/or service reduction claims or housing code violations may file a petition. 

Service Reductions

A service reduction has occurred when the level of service provided by the landlord has been reduced without a corresponding decrease in rent. The Ordinance allows tenants to request an administrative hearing for a service reduction claim. The tenant has the burden of proof to their claim by submitting evidence such as maintenance record requests, photographs, and/or testimony. If the claim is proven, the Hearing Officer will determine the percentage that the usability of the rental unit was reduced and the duration of the reduction. If the rent increase is unreasonable, the Hearing Officer may reduce a rent increase, order a credit against the paid and/or permanent or temporary reduction in future rent. 

Housing Code Violations

A housing code violation has occurred when there are health and safety defects which violate the San José Housing Code and/or California Civil Code Sections 1941.1 and 1941.2. The tenant has the burden to prove their claim by submitting evidence such as a Code Enforcement Inspection which is considered presumptive evidence.  Unless there is sufficient evidence to the contrary, violations listed in the report are considered to have been proven to exist. Issues of this type may also be classified as 'service reductions' under the City's ordinance. The Hearing Officer may reduce, disallow or reasonably condition any rent increase based on the severity of any Housing Code violations. 

Freedom to Exercise Rights

Apartment owners may not do the following in retaliation for tenants demanding their rights under the Ordinance: 
•Threaten to sue, evict or terminate the tenancy of the tenant(s). 
•Harass you until you leave. 
•Reduce your services. 
•Increase your rent. 
•Impose a security deposit or any other new charge. 

If any of these actions occur, provide a written complaint to the Rent Stabilization Program.