In the current political climate, it comes as no surprise to local California attorneys and authorities that landlords are using the threat of deportation against their tenants who are or appear to be immigrants. The exact reasons for the threats vary. Some landlords want to force immigrants to pay higher rents while others want them to move out so the landlord can charge new tenants more. Still other landlords are using threats of calling immigration officials to move racial minorities out of certain neighborhoods for the purpose of gentrification. Whatever the reasons, these threatening tactics violate tenants’ rights.
If you are experiencing threats or harassment from your landlord based on your immigrant or documentation status, contact a San Francisco tenant rights attorney at Brod Law Firm to learn about protecting your rights.
Your Immigration or Citizenship Status is Private
One of the most important rights tenants have is to keep their immigration status private. Under California Civil Code Section 1940.3, a landlord or its agent cannot ask about your immigration or citizenship status. They cannot require you to fill out any documentation regarding your status, even one simple question on a rental application. They cannot casually ask during a conversation while showing an apartment. They also cannot insinuate that you are more likely to get an apartment if you let them know you are documented or a citizen.
You are Entitled to Notice About a New Lease
Whether or not you are required to sign a new lease depends on your specific circumstances, changes to the lease, and when you are told to have the new lease signed by. If you are in the middle of a fixed-term lease, such as a year-long lease, then the landlord cannot change the rules on you. He or she cannot show up at your door and demand you sign a new lease. However, if your fixed-term lease is coming to an end, the landlord can create a new lease demanding you sign it or move out. If you are on a month-to-month agreement, which is common around California, then your situation is a bit more complicated. Generally, the landlord should give you at least 30 days’ notice of a new lease. If you refuse to sign it, the landlord may have the right to evict you.
If you feel you are being pressured or forced to sign a new lease with higher rent or different terms, speak with an attorney about your rights and whether you can safely refuse.
Your Unit May be Rent Controlled
California does not have statewide rent control, which means whether or not your unit is rent controlled depends on whether there is a local ordinance and whether your unit is covered by it. If your landlord is trying to raise your rent, you should check to see if it is at the proper time, within the lawful limit, and that you were given proper notice under your local law.
In San Francisco, rent control applies to all units certified for occupancy after June 13, 1979. The largest exception to rent control is for new construction, though there are other exceptions as well, such as single family homes moved into after January 1, 1996.
Units that are covered by rent control can only be subject to a certain percentage increase each year. Between March 1, 2017 and February 28, 2018, landlords can only raise the rent by 2.2%. Landlords can also save up their yearly increases for a number of years and add them to rent all at once for a tenant. However, they can only do so for a tenant who has been in that unit for all of those years. Landlords cannot use five years of increases on a tenant who signed a lease one year ago.
If you believe your landlord is trying to unlawfully increase rent, call us at Brod Law Firm right away at (800) 427-7020.
(image courtesy of Nitish Meena)