Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Berkeley's Golden Duplex Rule

Every town has obscure laws that can be confusing, and one to be aware of in Berkeley is the "Golden Duplex" rule. If you are buying a duplex with tenants in Berkeley, or if you are a tenant in a duplex that is being sold, it would be wise to find out if your duplex qualifies as a "golden duplex."

Strictly speaking, a Golden Duplex must meet two criteria. First, back in 1979, one of the two units must have been occupied by the owner at that time. Second, one of the units must now be occupied by the current property owner. The property is allowed to have changed owners (and tenants) during this time, but if these two criteria are met, then the property is a Golden Duplex.

Why is this important to know? Because properties that qualify as Golden Duplexes are generally exempt from Berkeley's strict eviction protection laws. Normally, tenants have a lot of protection from the City of Berkeley, but tenants in a Golden Duplex can typically be given a standard 30-day eviction under almost any circumstance.

This seems like quite an arbitrary rule, but there is a logical history. Duplexes are generally considered to have tenants who have a more familial relationship, especially when one of the units is occupied by the owner, so strict eviction protections should not be necessary. The rule does not apply to all duplexes in the city out of concern that all duplexes would become owner-occupied and there would be fewer rental units available. So, the dividing line was drawn at 1979, which was the year that rent control was introduced in Berkeley.

Obviously, this can be a complicated matter, and a lot of research and lawyers might be necessary. But, having a duplex confirmed as a Golden Duplex can be done. If you have questions about Golden Duplexes or other Berkeley rent control issues, just let me know. I am always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or MSmartt@jps.net.


Anonymous said...

Fuck you money hungry pigs.

Wendy Spackman said...

Does a duplex remain "golden" if at some point both units are occupied by tenants?

Anonymous said...

To Wendy: As soon as the owner moves out the golden duplex no longer is golden and you would temporarily lose the homeowner protections. Rent prices are controlled (1-2% per year increase in good years) and $15,000-20,000 payoff to tenant in case owner wants to move back in and displace a sitting tenant. Once the property is owner occupied again, it generally becomes a golden duplex again.

It is really important to recognize that the property did not have to be a duplex in late 1979 nor does it have to be a duplex now in order for it to be eligible to become a golden duplex is an ADU or other second unit is developed. Anywhere from 70 - 90 % of single family homes are golden eligible. That means that if you develop an ADU and rent it or move into it and rent the primary, you will have transitioned from a golden eligible property to a golden duplex property and you will have full homeowner protections.

Wendy Spackman said...

Thank you so much for the clarification. :)