13.79.060 Tenant protections.

A. The purposes of this Section include:

1.    Encouraging lawful conduct between occupants of rental units used for residential purposes in the City of Berkeley and the owners of such rental units (including the agents of owners and others acting in concert with such persons);

2.    Maintaining peaceful relations in the community and minimizing breaches of the peace by discouraging self-help evictions, protecting vulnerable portions of the Berkeley community, preserving Berkeley’s affordable residential housing stock, minimizing further burden on the City’s health care system caused by victims of involuntary displacement, minimizing additional burdens on the City’s school system, students, and their families created by students being forced to withdraw from or change schools due to family displacement.

3.    To further the City’s interest in prohibiting illegal evictions through the use of fraudulent and/or misleading representations, intimidating conduct, and coercive conduct.

4.    This Section augments existing City ordinances, and other laws, to achieve stability in our inter-personal relationships, our communities, our markets, and to promote the common welfare in upholding fundamental human rights.

B.    The following definitions apply for the purposes of this Section:

1.    "Tenant" shall mean any renter, tenant, subtenant, lessee, or sublessee of a Rental Unit, as that term is defined herein, or any group of tenants, subtenants, lessees, or sublessees of any Rental Unit entitled to the use or occupancy of such Rental Unit.

2.    "Landlord" shall mean an owner of record, agent of such owner, contractor for the Landlord, or subcontractor performing work for the benefit of the Landlord, lessor, sublessor or any other person or entity entitled to receive rent, or who actually receives rent, for the use or occupancy of any Rental Unit, or any representative or successor of any of the foregoing.

3.    "Rental Unit" shall mean any real property, or portion thereof, including the land appurtenant thereto, rented, or available for rent, which is used for residential use or occupancy, as well as Live/Work Units as defined in Chapter 23F.04, together with all housing services connected with use or occupancy of such property such as common areas and recreational facilities held out for use by the Tenant.

C.    No Landlord of any Rental Unit located in the City of Berkeley, shall do any of the following in bad faith:

1.    Influence, or attempt to influence a Tenant to vacate a Rental Unit through fraud or intimidation, or through unauthorized physical acts.

2.    Threaten by use of fraud, intimidation, or coercion to terminate a tenancy, to recover possession of a Rental Unit, or to evict a Tenant from a Rental Unit. Such threats shall include threatening to report any Tenant, occupant, or guest of any Tenant or occupant, to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

3.    Reduce, interrupt, or withhold any services or amenities provided to the Tenant pursuant to the rental agreement, custom, or law. Such services include, but are not limited to, provision of the quiet use and enjoyment of the Rental Unit.

4.    Interfere with any Tenant’s rights of privacy. Unlawful interference with a Tenant’s right to privacy shall include, but is not limited to, requesting information regarding citizenship or residency status or social security number of any Tenant or member of the Tenant’s family or household, occupant, or guest of any Tenant, except for the purpose of obtaining information for the qualifications for a tenancy prior to the inception of a tenancy. Unlawful interference with the right to privacy also includes releasing any confidential information regarding any person described in this subdivision, except as required by law.

5.    Abuse the limited right of access into a Rental Unit as established and limited by Civil Code 1954.

6.    Abuse, exploit, discriminate, or take advantage of, any actual or perceived disability, trait or characteristic of any Tenant, including, but not limited to, the Tenant’s participation in any section 8, housing choice voucher, or other subsidized housing program.

7.    Fail to perform any repairs in a timely and professional manner that minimizes inconvenience to the Tenant; or fail to exercise due diligence in completing repairs and maintenance once undertaken; or fail to follow appropriate industry standards to or protocols designed to minimize exposure to noise, dust, lead paint, asbestos, other building materials with potentially harmful health impacts.

8.    Threaten to not perform repairs and maintenance required by contract, custom, or law, or threaten to do so.

9.    Fail to accept or acknowledge receipt of a Tenant’s rent, or to promptly deposit a Tenant’s rent payment, or to promptly provide a receipt to a tenant upon request, except as such refusal may be permitted by state law after a notice to quit has been served and the time period for performance pursuant to the notice has expired.

10.    Offer payments to a Tenant to vacate without providing written notice to the Tenant of his or her rights under this Chapter, using the form prescribed by City staff; however this shall not prohibit offers made in pending unlawful detainer actions.

11.    Engage any Tenant in any form of human trafficking as defined by California Penal Code section 236.1, as a condition of that Tenant’s continued occupancy of a Rental Unit.

D.    The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board may enact regulations to implement this Section.

E.    Notices.

1.    Landlords are required to provide a notice regarding the provisions of Section 13.79.060 to all Tenants using the required form prescribed by the City staff, at the beginning of a tenancy and with any notice of termination of tenancy. Failure to provide said notice shall be a defense in any unlawful detainer action.

2.    Before a Tenant may file a civil suit alleging a violation of Section 13.79.060(C), subsections 7, 8, the affected Tenant must first notify the Landlord or his or her designated agent regarding the problem. If the allegation is a violation, the Tenant must allow fifteen (15) days for the Landlord to correct the problem, unless the Landlord notifies the Tenant that the repairs will take more than fifteen (15) days and provides for a reasonable time period for completion. If the repair takes more than fifteen (15) days, the Tenant may file the civil suit if the Landlord does not take reasonable steps to commence addressing the problem or the Landlord does not follow through to complete the repairs with reasonable diligence.

F.    This Section shall not apply to recovery of possession of the following types of Rental Units.

1.    Rental Units in properly licensed hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, health care facilities, non-profit facilities whose primary purpose is to provide short term treatment for alcohol, drug, or substance abuse, Rental Units provided incidental to alcohol, drug, or substance abuse recovery programs, or transitional housing for homeless persons that is in compliance with Health & Safety Code sections 1502, et seq.

2.    A Rental Unit that is rented by a nonprofit, accredited institution of higher education to a Tenant or Tenants who are student(s), faculty, or staff of the institution or a member school of the Graduate Theological Union, provided, however, that the institution owned the Rental Unit as of January 1, 1988.

G.    This Section is remedial to accomplish the goals herein expressed. It shall be interpreted and applied liberally to accomplish those goals.

H.    Remedies.

1.    Any person aggrieved by a violation of this Section, any person or entity who will fairly and adequately represent the interests of the protected class, the City or the Rent Board at the behest of the City, may file a civil action to enforce this Section.

2.    The relief available to a plaintiff in such an action may include an injunction; all actual damages suffered by any aggrieved party; and an award of civil penalties in the sum of between one thousand dollars and ten thousand dollars for each violation.

3.    An award of actual damages may include an award for mental and/or emotional distress and/or suffering. The amount of actual damages awarded to a prevailing plaintiff shall be trebled by the Court outside of the presence, and without the knowledge of, the jury, if any, if a defendant acted in knowing violation of, or in reckless disregard of, the provisions of this Section.

4.    A defendant shall be liable for an additional civil penalty of up to five thousand dollars for each violation of this Section committed against a person who is disabled within the meaning of California Government Code section 12926, et seq., or aged sixty-five or over.

5.    A prevailing defendant in a civil action under this subdivision shall only be entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees if it is determined by the Court the action was wholly without merit or frivolous.

6.    Nonexclusive Remedies and Penalties. The remedies provided in this subdivision are not exclusive, and nothing in this Section shall preclude any person from seeking any other remedies, penalties or procedures provided by law.

I.    All forms of retaliation against any Tenant because of the Tenant’s exercise of her, his, or their rights under this Section, including a Tenant’s objecting to a Landlord’s conduct alleged to be a violation of this Section, is prohibited. Any such retaliation, and/or any other violation of this ordinance, may be asserted as an affirmative defense by a Tenant in any action to recover possession of a Rental Unit.

J.    Lawful Evictions.

Nothing in this Section shall be construed to prevent the lawful eviction of a Tenant by appropriate legal means. (Ord. 7537-NS § 2 (part), 2017)