How Much Can Your Landlord Legally Raise Your Rent? This Tool Will Tell You

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A sign that says "Apartment For Rent" with someone walking by.
A 'for rent' sign is posted in South Pasadena in Los Angeles County on Oct. 19, 2022. The Tenant Protections online tool will enable renters in California to easily check the legality of rent increases by landlords. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Starting this week, California renters can use a new online tool to check their eligibility for state and local rent protections based on their ZIP code. The idea is to make it easy to figure out how much your landlord can legally raise your rent each year, since rent caps vary from city to city. No need to read through your local rent control ordinance — now renters can just follow a simple set of prompts at tenantprotections.org and get an answer.

“As our state has blossomed with lots of local rent stabilization ordinances, this really provides a one-stop shop where tenants can go to find out what their rent increases can be,” says Leah Simon-Weisberg, legal director for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE.

Santa Ana, Pomona, Bell Gardens, Pasadena, Richmond, Santa Monica and other cities around the state enacted or strengthened rent control policies this year.

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The calculator is a collaboration between ACCE and TechEquity Collaborative, and has been in the works since 2020. It allows renters to calculate their maximum allowable rent increase under the state’s Tenant Protection Act of 2019 and their local rules. It also provides resources for legal aid and tenant advocacy. “Accurate information obviously is the most crucial first step towards enforcement of tenant protections,” Simon-Weisberg says.

In Antioch, where city leaders recently put in place a rent control measure that caps rent increases at 3%, ACCE community organizer Devin Williams says most tenants he works with aren’t aware of the new protections.

“A lot of folks are not informed and the city has not done a good job at that at all,” he says, noting that the ordinance went into effect in November but applies to rent increases on or after August 23. “It’s December and I've gotten phone calls from folks and have gotten notices saying that they have to renew their lease by the end of the month or the rent is going to go up 19.6%. People just don't know what's right, what's wrong.”

He’s hoping the online calculator makes it easier for residents to take advantage of the city’s new protections.

“We're going to start door-knocking and passing out literature, but we can only reach so many doors,” he says, adding that he’d like to see the city step up to educate people. But that appears unlikely for now.

“We’ve been very transparent about [the fact] that even if we passed these protections, the infrastructure didn’t necessarily exist to implement any of it,” says Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, who put forward the rent control measure.

For now, Thorpe says, the city is contracting outside legal help to address claims made under the ordinance. To boost public awareness, he says the city may enclose information about the rent cap in renters’ water bills and launch a social media campaign. Still, he acknowledges, “a lot of this will be on the renter.”

As more and more cities around California put rent stabilization measures in place, advocates want to empower tenants with the information they need to stand up for their rights.

“We have made a lot of significant progress in passing new laws over the last five years that help address the housing crisis, but we haven't done as good of a job on the implementation side,” says Catherine Bracy, founder and CEO of TechEquity Collaborative. “This tool is an effort to make sure that the policies we pass are easily accessible in people's lives.”

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