Rental Housing Dispute Resolution (Mandatory Mediation)

Community Development Agency
Dispute Resolution

 

 

 

 

 

The Rental Housing Dispute Resolution ("Mandatory Mediation") program offers an opportunity for landlords and tenants to discuss issues related to  increases in monthly rent greater than 5% over a 12-month period.  

The program applies only in participating Marin jurisdictions:

  • Town of Fairfax
  • Unincorporated Marin County
  • City of San Rafael (effective July 17, 2019)

You can use this jurisdiction look-up tool to learn what jurisdiction your rental is located in.

To request mandatory mediation services, complete the Mediation Service Request form and submit it to the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit.

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

 

About Dispute Resolution

In mediation, a neutral third-party, called 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 good faith, the rent increase in question may be deemed invalid.

Landlords are required to provide tenants of their residential properties located in participating jurisdictions 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.

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, some Marin jurisdictions have elected to adopt the Rental Housing Dispute Resolution program.

  • To what properties does this program apply?

    The program applies to all residential dwelling units located in these Marin jurisdictions:

    • Town of Fairfax  
    • Unincorporated Marin County
    • City of San Rafael (effective July 17, 2019)

    If you're unsure of your properties jurisdiction, you can use this jurisdiction look-up tool to find out.

    For the purposes of this program, 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.

  • What is the effective date?

    The effective date of the Rental Housing Dispute Resolution ordinances vary by jurisdiction:

    • Town of Fairfax - May 31, 2019
    • Unincorporated Marin County - January 11, 2018
    • City of San Rafael - July 17, 2019

    A qualifying rent increase issued on or after the effective date is subject to Rental Housing Dispute Resolution. 

  • What situations are eligible for mandatory dispute resolution?

    A tenant who receives a rent increase greater than 5% within a 12-month period is eligible 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. 

  • How do I request mandatory dispute resolution services?

    A tenant or landlord seeking to utilize dispute resolution services should complete the Mediation 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) 473-6495

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

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

    No. The ordinance requires only that for certain rent increases 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 and from engaging in behavior prohibited by Federal, State, or local laws.

    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. 

  • What is a “Notice of Tenant Rights?”

    The content of the Notice of Tenant Rights is stipulated by ordinance. In general, it provides:

    • Description of the mandatory dispute resolution services;
    • Notice of a tenant's right to participate in the Rental Housing Dispute Resolution program;
    • Contact information for the landlord; and
    • Instructions explaining how to request mandatory dispute resolution services.

    Landlords are 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.

    A notice of rent increase 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.

    A copy of the Notice of Tenant Rights is available on this webpage, under the section titled "Forms and Documents."

  • 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 the City of Novato or Town of San Anselmo) and unincorporated areas.

  • Is there a cost to participating landlords or tenants?

    No, participating jurisdictions are pleased to offer this resource at no cost to either party.

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, some Marin jurisdictions have elected to adopt the Rental Housing Dispute Resolution program.

  • To what properties does this program apply?

    The program applies to all residential dwelling units located in these Marin jurisdictions:

    • Town of Fairfax
    • Unincorporated Marin County 
    • City of San Rafael (effective July 17, 2019)

    If you're unsure of your properties jurisdiction, you can use this jurisdiction look-up tool to find out.

    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. 

  • What is the effective date?

    The effective date of the Rental Housing Dispute Resolution ordinances vary by jurisdiction:

    • Town of Fairfax - May 31, 2019
    • Unincorporated Marin County - January 11, 2018
    • City of San Rafael - July 17, 2019

    A qualifying rent increase issued on or after the effective date is subject to Rental Housing Dispute Resolution. 

  • What situations are eligible for mandatory dispute resolution?

    A tenant who receives a rent increase greater than 5% within a 12-month period is eligible for mandatory dispute resolution. Tenants must apply for mandatory dispute resolution services within 10 days of receipt of a lawful notice of rent increase, which must be accompanied by a Notice of Tenant Rights.

    A landlord may request mandatory dispute resolution services if they choose to raise rent by more than 5% in a 12-month period. 

  • How do I request mandatory dispute resolution services?

    A tenant or landlord seeking to utilize dispute resolution services should complete the Mediation 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) 473-6495

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

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

    No. The ordinance requires only that for certain rent increases 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 and from engaging in behavior prohibited by Federal, State, or local laws.

    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. 

  • What is a “Notice of Tenant Rights?”

    The content of the Notice of Tenant Rights is stipulated by ordinance. In general, it provides:

    • Description of the mandatory dispute resolution services;
    • Notice a tenant's right to participate in the Rental Housing Dispute Resolution program;
    • Contact information for the landlord; and
    • Instructions explaining how to request mandatory dispute resolution services.

    Landlords are 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.

    A notice of rent increase 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.

    A copy of the Notice of Tenant Rights is available on this webpage, under the section titled "Forms and Documents."

  • 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 Novato or Town of San Anselmo) and unincorporated areas.

  • Is there a cost to participating landlords or tenants?

    No, participating jurisdictions are pleased to offer this resource at no cost to the either party.

Forms and Documents