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Hayward council strengthens rent control

The Hayward City Council has voted unanimously to impose an 18-month emergency moratorium on a process in which landlords can apply to have residential rental units permanently exempted from rent control.

The City Council in its vote on Tuesday night also reintroduced just cause protections to more than 14,900 previously decontrolled rental units.

Hayward officials said a provision of the city’s residential rent stabilization ordinance allows landlords to apply to have a rental unit permanently “decontrolled” once it’s voluntarily vacated by a tenant and after landlords make a certain dollar-value of improvements to the dwelling.

Under state law, landlords in any city with rent control are free to adjust rent to market level after a unit is vacated but it continues to be governed by local rent-increase limitations once a new tenant moves in.

Hayward officials said that under the provision of the city ordinance that is subject to the moratorium, which takes effect immediately, city landlords could apply to make units voluntarily vacated by a tenant permanently free of rent-increase limitations for all future occupants after they make unit improvements ranging in value from $1,500 to $3,100, depending on unit size.

The moratorium will now pause that process while it is being evaluated.

City officials said that of approximately 46,700 housing units in Hayward, about 22,200 are rentals and about 14,900 of those are covered by the city’s residential rate stabilization ordinance, which regulates units held by landlords who own at least five residential rental units in the city.

They said only about 9,500 of those 14,900 units are subject to rent-increase limitations because about 5,400 are single-family homes exempted under state law.

To date, the city has received about 7,900 applications for decontrol of rent-controlled units, leaving an estimated range of 1,000 to 1,600 units still rent-controlled under the residential rate stabilization ordinance.

Hayward officials said that during the 18-month moratorium, staff will evaluate the administrative process of decontrolling units under the ordinance as well as the appropriate dollar threshold for unit improvements to qualify.

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