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Fairfax sets rules for rent increase dispute hearings


Mar 12, 2024

The Fairfax Town Council has established a system to review challenges involving its rent-control ordinance.

The Fairfax Town Council has established a system to review challenges involving its rent-control ordinance.

The new rules, which call for a town hearing officer to evaluate claims, will include a fee of up to $1,000. The hearings are for landlords petitioning to raise rent above the town’s limit or for residents challenging a rent increase.

Mayor Barbara Coler said the resolution is intended to expedite the review process in lieu of private-party action.

“We wanted to provide a forum for housing providers to go should they want to raise the rent above the cap,” Coler said at the council’s meeting on Wednesday.

The Fairfax ordinance sets an annual rent increase cap at 75% of the regional consumer price index. The annual adjustment cannot be less than 0% or greater than 5%.

Initially, the council approved a cap at 60% of the index. The council agreed to amend the ordinance about a month after voting to certify a ballot referendum challenging the ordinance.

The effective date of rent control is retroactive to March 2022.

An attorney hired by the town for the hearings will be paid $225 per hour, Coler said.

Hearings will last three to four hours and the petitioner will be charged by the hour.

The hearing examiner’s decision can be appealed to the Town Council. The council would be assigned to review the proposed rent increase and the hearing officer’s decision before making its determination.

Residents at the meeting spoke out against the cost of the hearings, suggesting that would ultimately lead to a rise in housing costs.

“It’s unfair,” Todd Greenberg said. “You’ve got an agenda that is harming the whole town and increasing the cost of housing for tenants and for homeowners, and it’s making people move away.”

Curt Reis, co-chair of the Marin chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and a campaign called Marin Rent Control, said in an email that implementation of the rent stabilization ordinance is urgently needed and long overdue.

“The Town Council passed this law well over a year ago, yet the town has never set up the systems needed to administer or enforce its provisions,” he said. “Implementing Fairfax’s rent control ordinance will help protect thousands of tenants from illegal rent increases and provide a clear and transparent process for landlords to comply with the law.”

Fairfax has had a surge of public action surrounding rent control.

About 20 renters and advocates demonstrated at an apartment building on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard on Dec. 31 to protest what they said were illegal rent increases. They said the rent increases of about 5% were more than what is allowed under the town’s renter protections.

In August, the town certified a citizens’ ballot initiative that seeks to repeal the town’s rent-control and just-cause-for-eviction ordinances. The initiative will be considered by voters on Nov. 5.

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