Have you received a notice from the city asking you to confirm your rent as reported by the landlord? Appeal notices went out last Thursday to many but not all households. If you did receive a notice, please pay attention! The certified, correct rent for each unit is the foundation of any rent stabilization program. If you did not yet receive a notice, don’t be alarmed for there may be a good reason (scroll down for more about that).
First some background. City Council adopted a rent stabilization ordinance this year that created a rental unit registry that would identify property owners, managers, and (most pertinently) track the actual rent charged for each unit. This ‘certified,’ correct rent ensures that rents charged in the future for that same unit have a lawful basis.
The rental registry protects tenants against unlawful rent increases. It also protects landlords because the city has the relevant data in case of a dispute about the rent or the rental agreement. Still, some landlords protested the registry and even taken the matter to court.
Determining the Rent: Unit Registration and Rent Appeals
Each landlord has been contacted by the city and asked to register their units and to report the rent for each unit. The city then contacts every tenant to ask if the rent amount reported by the landlord is the rent that is paid. While it may seem bureaucratic, the form, titled ‘Appeal of the Rent Amount as Reported to the City by the Landlord,’ is an important step toward full implementation of the rent stabilization program. From the city’s press release:
The purpose of the notice is to verify the base rent amount reported to the City by the landlord, which will be used to calculate the amount of rent increases allowed each year. If the rent amount in the notice is correct, no further action is required. However, if the rent amount is incorrect, tenants may file an appeal within 15 days of the date on the notice.
If you received the form, it is important that you take a few minutes to verify your rent as reported by your landlord. If there exists a discrepancy between the reported rent and the rent you pay, please fill out the form and document your rent payments. The instructions are on the appeal form.
For most tenants, the rent reported by the landlord will be the correct rent. You probably have your cancelled check or payment receipts to verify the rent history. (Any unlawful increases should be reported to the city.) If the figure is correct, then you need take no action.
How to Report an Inaccurate Rent
The city calls the process of disputing a reported rent an ‘appeal,’ but that bureaucratic term should not dissuade any tenant from reporting a discrepancy via the city’s appeal form. It is not complicated: simply attach the supporting documentation (hold on to originals) and submit by mail, in person at the counter in City Hall, or even by filing the appeal online.
Once you file your form the city will first attempt to resolve the inconsistency between the reported rent and the paid rent by talking with the landlord. It may be a simple error. The city will contact you for more information if need be, but I expect that most appeals will be resolved administratively.
Only if the inconsistency between reported rent and your paid rent cannot be resolved administratively, then the city will schedule a hearing where a hearing officer makes a determination.
Please remember that you have 15 days from the date on the letter to file your appeal. If you do appeal, please keep Renters Alliance informed about how the city handles your appeal and what was the outcome.
I Did Not Receive a Notice: What Now?
Some households did not receive the notice titled, ‘Appeal of the Rent Amount.’ Some many not even know to expect a notice; other tenants may expect it but not receive one. There are several reasons why a household may not have received a rent appeal notice:
- The landlord did not register the property or report your rent;
- The landlord registered your unit and reported your rent but did so after the registration window closed;
- The landlord registered your unit and reported your rent but an issue with the registration held up the mailing.
In the latter two cases the notice will simply go out in a subsequent mailing, perhaps next week. Please direct any question to the city’s Rent Stabilization Program office at (310) 285-1031.