County of Marin - News Releases - Rental Dispute Resolution

For Immediate Release
November 30, 2017

Solution Recommended for Rental Disputes

Board to consider mandatory mediation for rent boosts of more than 5 percent

San Rafael, CA – For many residents and families in Marin County paying rent is a daily worry. One way to give renters – that’s 36 percent of the Marin population – more stability during the affordable housing crisis is to discourage large rent increases.

On December 12, the Marin County Board of Supervisors is planning to discuss an ordinance that would help resolve disputes when an annual rent increase of more than 5 percent is being sought by a landlord. The ordinance would apply to more than 8,000 renter households in the unincorporated parts of Marin. The first reading of the ordinance – an introduction to formally place the item on the December 12 agenda – is set for December 5.

In August 2017, the Board asked its housing subcommittee to further research and consider mandatory mediation and just cause for evictions policies before returning to the full Board with a recommendation prior to the end of the year. The subcommittee, chaired by Supervisors Katie Rice and Damon Connolly, are recommending adoption of the mandatory mediation program called Rental Housing Dispute Resolution and deferral of Residential Landlord and Tenant Relations (i.e., just cause for evictions) ordinance for one year.

In cases of proposed rent increases of more than 5 percent, a Rental Housing Dispute Resolution program would require renters and landlords to participate in good faith throughout a mediation process even if the dispute is not settled through the third-party mediator. 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 even homelessness in one of the nation’s most expensive regions to live.

If the Board approves the Rental Housing Dispute Resolution ordinance on December 12, it would be seen as the second major step to improve stability for renting households in unincorporated Marin. The Board approved a fair housing ordinance in 2016 that established source-of-income protections for renters and, in March 2017, removed a provision in the ordinance that exempted owner-occupied structures. The County has also implemented a Landlord Partnership Program, worked to acquire and preserve affordable housing units, and made amendments to the 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 who may be forced to choose between paying for housing or disrupting their child’s education.

In the wake of the North Bay wildfires, with thousands of residents displaced and looking for steady shelter this fall, the local rental market is more challenging for renters. It was several years ago when the Board of Supervisors labeled the county’s housing situation a crisis 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 hires are people who do not live in Marin.

Learn more in the staff report and the draft ordinance about Rental Housing Dispute Resolution. Learn more about housing in Marin on the County’s housing webpage or e-subscribe to receive housing policy updates from the Community Development staff.

The first reading is scheduled to start no earlier than 1:30 p.m. December 5 in the Board chamber, Suite 330 of the Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael. If the first reading is approved, the merit hearing would take place in the Board chamber at 5:30 p.m. December 12. All Board sessions may be watched live on Comcast Channel 27 or on the County’s webcast. Sign up to receive emailed County updates about affordable housing.

All public meetings and events sponsored or conducted by the County of Marin are held at accessible sites. If you are a person with a disability and require information or materials in alternative formats – or if you require accommodation to participate in a county program, service or activity – please contact department staff at (415) 473-7331 or (415) 473-4381 (voice/TTY) or e-mail


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