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Right to Petition
How to Secure Compliance with the Rent Control Protections of
East Palo Alto’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance

East Palo Alto’s Rent Board accepts petitions to challenge rent charged in excess of the Maximum Allowable Rent and allowed Annual General Adjustments, for reductions in maintenance and housing services, and to challenge information reported by landlords to the Rent Board used to calculate Maximum Allowable Rents. Tenants can also file petitions for approval to withhold rent for a landlord’s failure to register their rental unit with the Rent Stabilization Program. Landlords can also file petitions for approval to adjust rents based on the Fair Return Rent Adjustment provisions in the Ordinance. The purpose of these petitions are summarized below. 

1. Petition to Challenge the Certificate of Maximum Allowable Rent: Landlords and tenants can file petitions to contest the accuracy of information reported by a landlord that is used to calculate their Maximum Allowable Rent. Petitions must be received within 30 days of the issuance of a certificate of Maximum Allowable Rent; this deadline can be extended to 60 days for good cause or longer upon a showing of misrepresentation or fraud.

2. Petition for Rent Reduction and Rebate for a Rent Ceiling Violation: This petition may be filed by tenants to seek a rent reduction when rent is being charged over the Maximum Allowable Rent and allowed Annual General Adjustments for a regulated rental unit. Rebates can also be secured when tenants were charged more than the Maximum Allowable Rent from August 2010 to the current time period.

3. Petition for Rent Reduction and Rebate for Housing Service Reductions, including Maintenance and Breach of Implied Warranty of Habitability: These petitions may be filed to seek approval for a rent reduction and a rebate of rent paid when the tenant experiences reductions in housing services, including maintenance problems that have not been corrected in a reasonable time. Landlords must rent units that substantially comply with applicable state and/or local housing, health and safety codes, and make corrections when there is deterioration of the rental unit (such as broken appliances, worn out carpets, mold, etc.). The amount of rent reduction and rebate that may be approved by a Hearing Examiner is calculated by multiplying the rent paid during the time the problem was not corrected by the percent by which the tenant’s use of and benefit from the unit has been impaired by the landlord’s non-compliance or failure to make corrections. Rebates can be secured for uncorrected problems that existed as far back as August 2010. The landlord should be given a reasonable opportunity to correct the problem before the tenant files a petition.

Tenants, for their protection, are encouraged to provide their landlord with a written notice describing each habitability and maintenance problem, and to date each such notice and keep a copy to submit with petitions to the Rent Board. If a landlord does not correct a problem within a reasonable time, tenants may file a complaint about code violations and health and safety problems with the City of East Palo Alto Building Division by calling 650-853- 3193, and the San Mateo County Environmental Health Division by calling 650- 599-1112. After a complaint form has been submitted, these agencies may schedule an inspection to verify code violations that have not been corrected, issue notices to landlords to correct any deficiencies identified, and make follow-up inspections to ensure compliance. These inspection reports can be submitted as additional documentation of the problems cited by the tenant in their petition to the Rent Board.

4. Petition for Approval to Withhold Rent for Failure to Register: Tenants can also file a petition for approval to withhold rent for a landlord’s failure to properly register their rental unit with the Rent Stabilization Program including payment of annual registration fees and submittal of Initial and Annual Registration Statements. If a Hearing Examiner determines that the landlord has willfully and knowingly failed to register the subject unit(s), the Hearing Examiner will issue an order directing the landlord to register the subject unit(s) and authorizing the petitioning tenant(s) to withhold payment of rent beginning with the next regularly scheduled rent payment after the effective date of the order.

5. Petition for a Rent Increase Based on the Fair Return Standard Specified in the Ordinance: Landlords have a right to petition for a fair return according to the Section 12 of the Rent Stabilization Ordinance that sets out standards for making determinations on fair return petitions.  This section of the Ordinance is supplemented by Sections 1300 and 1500 of the Rules and Regulations of the Rent Board. The Fair Rate of Return Petition form includes background information and instructions on how to complete and file this petition.

Tenants may seek free legal assistance in preparing a petition to file with the Rent Board at:

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto: (650) 326-6440 or go to 1861 Bay Road

Contact the Rent Stabilization Program for more information and answers to specific questions:

Call the Rent Stabilization Office at 650-853-3114
• Email us with questions or tell us about a problem: 
• Come into the office between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at 2415 University Avenue, 2nd floor;
   it is best to call first for an appointment