County of Marin - News Releases - Rental Dispute Mediation

For Immediate Release
January 31, 2018

Mediators Poised to Help with Rental Disputes

Meeting with a third party seen as a resolution for proposed large hikes

San Rafael, CA – Renters in unincorporated Marin County facing large rent hikes now have a way to seek mediation and a face-to-face discussion with a landlord. A process is now in place for Rental Housing Dispute Resolution – more casually known as dispute resolution – and trained mediators from the Marin County District Attorney’s Office Consumer Protection Unit are standing by for appointments.

Two attorneys from the District Attorney's Office discuss mediation in a conference room.Kristina Warcholski, who has more than 30 years of law and mediation experience, is the Consumer and Community Mediation Coordinator for the DA's Office.
For many residents and families in Marin County, paying rent is a daily concern. The new ordinance gives renters more stability by discouraging large rent increases that can make families vulnerable to homeless or force them to leave the county.

On December 12, 2017, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance to help resolve disputes when an annual rent increase of more than 5 percent is being sought by a landlord. About 36 percent of the Marin population pays rent to a landlord. The County ordinance, which went into effect January 11, applies to more than 8,000 renter households in the unincorporated parts of Marin.

In cases of proposed rent increases of more than 5 percent, the Rental Housing Dispute Resolution program requires renters and landlords to participate in good faith throughout a mediation process, although no specific settlement is required. The program is used in other Bay Area jurisdictions such as Concord, Palo Alto and Union City to address escalating rent increases and prevent housing instability and homelessness in one of the nation’s most expensive regions to live.

Dispute resolution is the most recent step taken by the Board of Supervisors to assist with renter stability. The Board approved a fair housing ordinance in 2016 that established source-of-income protections for renters, barring landlords form discriminating against those with a housing subsidy. The County has also implemented a Landlord Partnership Program, worked to acquire and preserve affordable housing units, and made amendments to the County Development Code regarding accessory dwelling units.

Despite all the efforts to create affordable housing opportunities, the Marin rental vacancy rate is very low – less than 3 percent. It’s especially tough when a family receives a 30- or 60-day notice to vacate a home and quickly needs to find another place to live. That circumstance can be exacerbated for families with kids in local school districts that may be forced to choose between paying for housing or disrupting a child’s education.

The Board of Supervisors described the county’s housing situation as a crisis several years ago and made the issue one of its highest priorities. There remains a severe shortage of available rental units at prices considered affordable for medium- and lower-wage earners. In the past two years, 70 percent of Marin County’s new hires are people who do not live in Marin.

Landlords and Renters can contact the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (415) 473-6495 to schedule an appointment.

Landlords in the unincorporated areas of Marin County are required to notify their tenants of the new Ordinance by February 10, 2018. All required forms and answers to frequently asked questions are on the Rental Housing Dispute Resolution website. E-subscribe to receive policy updates from the Community Development staff related to landlord and tenant relations.

Contact:

Leelee Thomas
Planning Manager
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 308
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6697
Email: Leelee Thomas
Affordable Housing webpage