San Francisco Rental Unit Registration


On December 18, 2020, San Francisco adopted Ordinance 265-20, which implements the City’s first rental unit registration ordinance. With Proposition 21 on the ballot in November of 2020, the Board of Supervisors was poised to implement vacancy control if the proposition had passed (and had effectively repealed the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act).

Costa-Hawkins survived, as did a modified version of the rental unit registration ordinance. Commencing July 1, 2022 (for buildings with 10 or more units) and March 1, 2023 (for all other residential units), owners must provide the following information to the Rent Board:

  • (A) the name and business contact information (address, phone number, email address) of the owner(s), or of the property manager, if any, designated by the owner(s) to address habitability issues;
  • (B) the business registration number for the unit, if any;
  • (C) the approximate square footage to the best of the owner’s or manager’s knowledge, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the unit;
  • (D) whether the unit is vacant or occupied, and the date the vacancy or occupancy commenced;
  • (E) the start and end dates of any other vacancies or occupancies that have occurred during the previous 12 months;
  • (F) for tenant-occupied units, the base rent reported in $250 increments, and whether the base rent includes specified utilities (water/sewer, refuse/recycling, natural gas, electricity, etc.); and
  • (G) any other information that the Rent Board deems appropriate following a noticed public meeting in order to effectuate the purposes of this Chapter 37.

It is important to note that this information is required for all residential units, not merely rental units (although units that are owner-occupied are only required to indicate as much, without providing the additional information).

It may seem bizarre that the City asks the rent in “$250 increments”, instead of simply asking for “the rent”. This is presumably because the City is trying to avoid creating a “rental registry” within the meaning of the California Petris Act. And this is presumably because the Petris Act notes how onerous local rent control ordinances are and prevents cities from punishing landlords attempting in good faith to comply with these regulations.

Instead, San Francisco sanctions landlords by creating a “license” to impose the annual allowable increase (which, by the way, is required by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution) and then suspending this license if a landlord is out of compliance.