Report if you are being overcharged by a master tenant

If you are a subtenant in a rent-controlled apartment and are paying more than a "proportional share" of the total rent, file a petition to contest your rent amount.

What to do

1. Understand the rent limits

If the subtenant and master tenant reside together, the subtenant's share of the total rent may be calculated based on equal division between the number of occupants or bedrooms, or the square footage shared with and/or occupied exclusively by the subtenant, or any other reasonable method that allocates the rent such that the subtenant pays no more to the master tenant than the master tenant pays to the landlord for the subtenant's housing and housing services.

When a master tenant subleases the entire rental unit and does not share the rental unit with the subtenant(s), the master tenant may not charge a subtenant more rent than what the master tenant is currently paying to the landlord (however, the value of any housing services provided by the master tenant may also be considered).

In determining a subtenant's proper rent, additional housing services (such as furnishings or utilities) provided by the master tenant and/or evidence of the relative amenities or value of rooms, may be considered.

2. Fill out the Subtenant Petition

If you believe you are being overcharged by the master tenant and would like the Rent Board to conduct a hearing, fill out and submit the Subtenant Petition form. 

3. Submit your form by email, mail, or in-person

Rent Board

25 Van Ness Avenue
Suite #320
San Francisco, CA 94102

4. What happens next

  • Once a subtenant petition is determined to be complete, the Rent Board sends a copy of the petition to the master tenant and any other parties named in the petition.

  • Usually within a few months after the petition is filed, it will be scheduled for an arbitration hearing before a Rent Board Administrative Law Judge. The Rent Board sends a Notice of Hearing to all parties and representatives at least 10 days before the hearing date.

  • Requests for postponements must be submitted in writing and will be granted only when there is good cause, such as travel plans made prior to receipt of the Notice of Hearing. Evidence of conflicting plans must be submitted with the request for postponement.

  • The hearing process is designed so that no one needs an attorney, although parties are entitled to have an attorney or other authorized representative assist them at the hearing. The parties or their representatives are permitted to present testimony and evidence, and to cross-examine the other parties and their witnesses. The Administrative Law Judge may also ask questions of the parties and witnesses to ensure that all pertinent facts are brought out. The record may be held open for the submission of additional evidence after the hearing.
  • The Administrative Law Judge is not permitted to speak to anyone privately about the case or to consider evidence outside of the official record. Nor can the judge consider evidence that is not served on the other parties. Therefore, all submissions to the Administrative Law Judge before and after the hearing should also be provided to the other parties. If your evidence is submitted to the Rent Board by email, it is sufficient to copy the opposing side on your email. 

  • After the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will issue a written decision that will be mailed to the parties and their representatives. If the subtenant prevails, the Administrative Law Judge will adjust the subtenant's rent and order the master tenant to refund rent overpayments.

Tags: Topic 359; Topic 360

Get help

Rent Board

25 Van Ness Avenue
Suite #320
San Francisco, CA 94102


Rent Board counselor

Last updated June 12, 2023