Rental Housing Dispute Resolution (Mandatory Mediation)

Community Development Agency
Dispute Resolution

The Rental Housing Dispute Resolution ("Mandatory Mediation") program applies to residential tenancies in the unincorporated areas of Marin County

The program offers an opportunity for landlords and tenants to discuss issues related to rent increases that create a net increase in monthly rent of more than 5% in a one-year period.  

To request mandatory mediation services, complete the Dispute Resolution Service Request form and submit it to the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (415) 473-6495 or consumer@marincounty.org.

Questions about this program? Please review the responses to Frequently Asked Questions provided below. Additional questions may be directed to Debbi La Rue dlarue@marincounty.org or (415) 473-7309.

Notice of Funding Availability

 

About Dispute Resolution

In mediation, a neutral third-party (a “mediator”) facilitates discussion between tenants and landlords with the goal of amicably settling a dispute. Mediation does not guarantee a reduction in any rent increase and tenants are required to pay all rent legally due to the landlord during the mediation process. Both landlords and tenants are required to participate fully in the mediation process. If a landlord does not participate in mediation in good faith, the rent increase or housing service reduction in question may be deemed invalid.

Landlords are required to provide tenants of their residential properties located in unincorporated Marin County with a Notice of Tenant Rights when renewing a rental agreement, when entering into a new rental agreement, and when providing notice of a rent increase. These notices and forms are provided below in the "forms and documents" section.

The Rental Housing Dispute Resolution program is a product of the Board of Supervisors Affordable Housing Workplan. To learn more about policies that are intended to preserve and expand on our affordable housing stock please see the County’s Affordable Housing webpage

FAQs from Landlords

  • What is “Rental Housing Dispute Resolution?”

    Rental Housing Dispute Resolution programs - often referred to as dispute resolution or mandatory mediation - have been used in the Bay Area to respond to escalating rent increases in jurisdictions that seek to promote community accountability and support housing stability. Such programs are designed to achieve these goals through the facilitation of constructive conversations in a neutral and accountable environment.

    In support of these goals, the Marin County Board of Supervisors elected on December 12, 2017 to adopt a Rental Housing Dispute Resolution ordinance. A copy of the ordinance, implementing Guidelines, and form documents will be available on the County of Marin website by February 1, 2018

  • To what properties does this ordinance apply?

    The ordinance applies to all residential dwelling units located within the unincorporated area of Marin County. For the purposes of this ordinance, a residential dwelling unit may be defined generally as that containing a separate bathroom, kitchen, and living area. Residential dwelling units owned or operated by a government agency, or units that are restricted for affordable housing, are largely exempt from the ordinance.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.020.

  • What is the effective date?

    The ordinance became effective January 11, 2018. A qualifying rent increase or reduction of housing services issued on or after that date is subject to the ordinance.

    For details, see Guidelines section 3.

  • What situations are eligible for mandatory dispute resolution?

    A tenant who receives a rent increase or reduction in housing services equivalent to a 5% rent increase within a 12-month period is eligible for mandatory dispute resolution. A tenant may claim a combination of rent increases and reductions in housing services to qualify their situation for mandatory dispute resolution.

    A landlord may request mandatory dispute resolution services if they choose to raise rent by more than 5% in a 12-month period or if they discontinue the provision of housing services valued at more than 5% in a 12-month period.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.040 and Guidelines sections 5 and 6.

  • What are housing services?

    Housing services are those provided and associated with the use or occupancy of a dwelling unit, including but not limited to repairs, replacement, maintenance, painting, light, heat, water, elevator service, laundry facilities and privileges, janitorial service, removal of refuse and recycling, furnishings, telephone, utilities, parking, storage, and any other benefits, privileges, or facilities.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.030 and Guidelines section 6.

  • How do I request mandatory dispute resolution services?

    A tenant or landlord seeking to utilize dispute resolution services should complete the Dispute Resolution Service Request form and submit it to the Consumer Protection Unit:

    Marin County District Attorney’s Office
    Consumer Protection Unit—Mediation
    Hall of Justice, Room 145
    3501 Civic Center Drive
    San Rafael, CA 94903
    (415) 473-6450
    consumer@marincounty.org

    If a request for mandatory dispute resolution services is deemed eligible, the tenant and landlord will be contacted by a mediator assigned by the County to discuss the issue.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.040 and 5.95.050(b) and Guidelines sections 3 and 5.

  • Does this ordinance limit a landlord’s ability to raise rent?

    No. The ordinance requires only that for certain rent increases or changes in housing services a landlord or tenant could, upon request of either party, be required to engage in a sincere, facilitated conversation about that rent increase. Any agreements resulting from the mediation will be voluntarily undertaken.

  • The ordinance requires both parties to participate in “good faith.” What does that mean?

    "Good faith participation" requires each party or their authorized representative to personally participate in the dispute resolution program. A representative of a party authorized to participate in lieu of the landlord or tenant must possess decision-making authority regarding the subject of mediation.

    To participate in good faith, landlords are prohibited from harassing the tenant by engaging in behavior prohibited by ordinance section 5.95.060 and guidelines section 9. Many of the behaviors and activities prohibited by this ordinance are also precluded by State law. Prohibited behaviors include:

    1. Interrupt, fail to provide, or threaten to interrupt or fail to provide any housing service under a lease or rental agreement, including but not limited to utility services and other amenities and services agreed to by contract;
    2. Fail to perform repairs or maintenance required by contract or by State, or County housing, health, or safety laws;
    3. Fail to exercise due diligence to complete repairs and maintenance once undertaken, including the failure to follow industry-appropriate safety standards and protocols;
    4. Abuse or otherwise improperly use landlord’s right to access the property;
    5. Remove personal property of the tenant(s) from the dwelling unit;
    6. Influence or attempt to influence the tenant(s) to vacate the unit by means of fraud, intimidation, or coercion (including but not limited to threats based on immigration status in violation of California Civil Code section 1940.3);
    7. Offer payment or any other consideration, in return for the tenant(s) vacating the dwelling unit, more often than once every six months;
    8. Threaten the tenant(s) by word or gesture with physical harm;
    9. Interfere with the tenants(s) right to quiet use and enjoyment of the dwelling unit;
    10. Refuse to accept or acknowledge receipt of lawful rent from the tenant(s);
    11. Interfere with the tenant(s) right to privacy;
    12. Request information that violates the tenant(s) right to privacy;
    13. Other repeated acts or omissions of such significance as to substantially interfere with or disturb the tenant(s) comfort, repose, peace, or quiet enjoyment, and that cause, are likely to cause, or are intended to cause the tenant(s) to vacate the dwelling unit; or
    14. Retaliate against the tenant(s) for the tenant(s) exercise of rights under the ordinance or State or federal law.

    In addition, landlords engaged in the dispute resolution program may not commence an unlawful detainer proceeding other than for those actions authorized by subsections (3) and (4) of the California Code of Procedures Section 1161 or any successor provisions.

    Tenants are required to continue to pay all rent legally due to the landlord and to comply with the terms of their rental agreement throughout the dispute resolution process.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.050(d) and 5.95.060 and Guidelines section 7.

  • What is a “Notice of Tenant Rights?”

    Landlords are required to provide tenants with a Notice of Tenant Rights by February 10, 2018.

    A form Notice of Tenant Rights will be available on the County of Marin Housing webpage by February 1, 2018.

    Landlords are additionally required to provide a Notice of Tenant Rights to tenants when entering into a new rental agreement, when renewing a rental agreement, and when providing notice of a rent increase and/or housing service reduction. The Notice of Tenant Rights is required to describe the dispute resolution service and how to request service.

    A notice of rent increase or housing service reduction must be accompanied by a Notice of Tenant Rights to be considered valid. A landlord’s failure to furnish a tenant with a Notice of Tenant Rights could invalidate the rent increase or housing service reduction.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.070 and 5.95.080 and Guidelines sections 3 and 9.

  • If I don’t qualify for mandatory dispute resolution, can I still seek mediation?

    The District Attorney's Office will continue to offer its voluntary mediation program through its Consumer Protection Unit. The program provides free dispute resolution services to tenants and landlords of four or fewer units who seek facilitated conversation of disputes including those relating to repairs, security deposits, and evictions or lease terminations.

    These services are available throughout the County, in both incorporated (such as City of San Rafael or Town of Fairfax) and unincorporated areas.

  • Is there a cost to participating landlords or tenants?

    No, the County is pleased to offer this resource at no cost to the participating parties.

FAQs from Tenants

  • What is “Rental Housing Dispute Resolution?”

    Rental Housing Dispute Resolution programs - often referred to as dispute resolution or mandatory mediation - have been used in the Bay Area to respond to escalating rent increases in jurisdictions that seek to promote community accountability and support housing stability. Such programs are designed to achieve these goals through the facilitation of constructive conversations in a neutral and accountable environment.

    In support of these goals, the Marin County Board of Supervisors elected on December 12, 2017 to adopt a Rental Housing Dispute Resolution ordinance. A copy of the ordinance, implementing Guidelines, and form documents will be available on the County of Marin website by February 1, 2018

  • To what properties does this ordinance apply?

    The ordinance applies to all residential dwelling units located within the unincorporated area of Marin County. For the purposes of this ordinance, a residential dwelling unit may be defined generally as that containing a separate bathroom, kitchen, and living area. Residential dwelling units owned or operated by a government agency, or units that are restricted for affordable housing, are largely exempt from the ordinance.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.020.

  • What is the effective date?

    The ordinance became effective January 11, 2018. A qualifying rent increase or reduction of housing services issued on or after that date is subject to the ordinance.

    For details, see Guidelines section 3.

  • What situations are eligible for mandatory dispute resolution?

    A tenant who receives a rent increase or reduction in housing services equivalent to a 5% rent increase within a 12-month period is eligible for mandatory dispute resolution. A tenant may claim a combination of rent increases and reductions in housing services to qualify their situation for mandatory dispute resolution.

    A landlord may request mandatory dispute resolution services if they choose to raise rent by more than 5% in a 12-month period or if they discontinue the provision of housing services valued at more than 5% in a 12-month period.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.040 and Guidelines sections 5 and 6.

  • What are housing services?

    Housing services are those provided and associated with the use or occupancy of a dwelling unit, including but not limited to repairs, replacement, maintenance, painting, light, heat, water, elevator service, laundry facilities and privileges, janitorial service, removal of refuse and recycling, furnishings, telephone, utilities, parking, storage, and any other benefits, privileges, or facilities.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.030 and Guidelines section 6.

  • How do I request mandatory dispute resolution services?

    A tenant or landlord seeking to utilize dispute resolution services should complete the Dispute Resolution Service Request form and submit it to the Consumer Protection Unit:

    Marin County District Attorney’s Office
    Consumer Protection Unit—Mediation
    Hall of Justice, Room 145
    3501 Civic Center Drive
    San Rafael, CA 94903
    (415) 473-6450
    consumer@marincounty.org

    If a request for mandatory dispute resolution services is deemed eligible, the tenant and landlord will be contacted by a mediator assigned by the County to discuss the issue.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.040 and 5.95.050(b) and Guidelines sections 3 and 5.

  • Does this ordinance limit a landlord’s ability to raise rent?

    No. The ordinance requires only that for certain rent increases or changes in housing services a landlord or tenant could, upon request of either party, be required to engage in a sincere, facilitated conversation about that rent increase. Any agreements resulting from the mediation will be voluntarily undertaken.

  • The ordinance requires both parties to participate in “good faith.” What does that mean?

    "Good faith participation" requires each party or their authorized representative to personally participate in the dispute resolution program. A representative of a party authorized to participate in lieu of the landlord or tenant must possess decision-making authority regarding the subject of mediation.

    To participate in good faith, landlords are prohibited from harassing the tenant by engaging in behavior prohibited by ordinance section 5.95.060 and guidelines section 9. Many of the behaviors and activities prohibited by this ordinance are also precluded by State law. Prohibited behaviors include:

    1. Interrupt, fail to provide, or threaten to interrupt or fail to provide any housing service under a lease or rental agreement, including but not limited to utility services and other amenities and services agreed to by contract;
    2. Fail to perform repairs or maintenance required by contract or by State, or County housing, health, or safety laws;
    3. Fail to exercise due diligence to complete repairs and maintenance once undertaken, including the failure to follow industry-appropriate safety standards and protocols;
    4. Abuse or otherwise improperly use landlord’s right to access the property;
    5. Remove personal property of the tenant(s) from the dwelling unit;
    6. Influence or attempt to influence the tenant(s) to vacate the unit by means of fraud, intimidation, or coercion (including but not limited to threats based on immigration status in violation of California Civil Code section 1940.3);
    7. Offer payment or any other consideration, in return for the tenant(s) vacating the dwelling unit, more often than once every six months;
    8. Threaten the tenant(s) by word or gesture with physical harm;
    9. Interfere with the tenants(s) right to quiet use and enjoyment of the dwelling unit;
    10. Refuse to accept or acknowledge receipt of lawful rent from the tenant(s);
    11. Interfere with the tenant(s) right to privacy;
    12. Request information that violates the tenant(s) right to privacy;
    13. Other repeated acts or omissions of such significance as to substantially interfere with or disturb the tenant(s) comfort, repose, peace, or quiet enjoyment, and that cause, are likely to cause, or are intended to cause the tenant(s) to vacate the dwelling unit; or
    14. Retaliate against the tenant(s) for the tenant(s) exercise of rights under the ordinance or State or federal law.

    In addition, landlords engaged in the dispute resolution program may not commence an unlawful detainer proceeding other than for those actions authorized by subsections (3) and (4) of the California Code of Procedures Section 1161 or any successor provisions.

    Tenants are required to continue to pay all rent legally due to the landlord and to comply with the terms of their rental agreement throughout the dispute resolution process.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.050(d) and 5.95.060 and Guidelines section 7.

  • What is a “Notice of Tenant Rights?”

    Landlords are required to provide tenants with a Notice of Tenant Rights by February 10, 2018.

    A form Notice of Tenant Rights will be available on the County of Marin Housing webpage by February 1, 2018.

    Landlords are additionally required to provide a Notice of Tenant Rights to tenants when entering into a new rental agreement, when renewing a rental agreement, and when providing notice of a rent increase and/or housing service reduction. The Notice of Tenant Rights is required to describe the dispute resolution service and how to request service.

    A notice of rent increase or housing service reduction must be accompanied by a Notice of Tenant Rights to be considered valid. A landlord’s failure to furnish a tenant with a Notice of Tenant Rights could invalidate the rent increase or housing service reduction.

    For details, see Ordinance 3680 § 5.95.070 and 5.95.080 and Guidelines sections 3 and 9.

  • If I don’t qualify for mandatory dispute resolution, can I still seek mediation?

    The District Attorney's Office will continue to offer its voluntary mediation program through its Consumer Protection Unit. The program provides free dispute resolution services to tenants and landlords of four or fewer units who seek facilitated conversation of disputes including those relating to repairs, security deposits, and evictions or lease terminations.

    These services are available throughout the County, in both incorporated (such as City of San Rafael or Town of Fairfax) and unincorporated areas.

  • Is there a cost to participating landlords or tenants?

    No, the County is pleased to offer this resource at no cost to the participating parties.

Forms and Documents