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Only in Berkeley • October 1, 2000

Berkeley Has Found A New Way To Harass Small Property Owners.

Berkeley Has Found A New Way To Harass Small Property Owners.

You may have recently received a notice from the City of Berkeley Finance Department - Office of Business License Review.  Stating that you must now get a Berkeley Business License and that you owe exorbitant penalties and interest going back three years (the most they can by state law).  Bill Zerkle,  Sr. Field Investigator for the office said that "Council approved this project." they have a "Special task force" to determine who to go after.

After all these years under rent Control this need for a Business License has just surfaced.  The Berkeley Rent Board has for years been working overtime to determine all the requirements we as small property owners are subject to but they seemed to have missed this till now.  The latest "Berkeley Rental News" for September 2000 states (for the first time)  "BUSINESS LICENSE REQUIRED FOR BUILDINGS WITH THREE OF MORE UNITS.  Owners of buildings with three or more units are required to obtain a City of Berkeley business license."  The need for a license is now being applied to property with a total of three units even though they are not in the same building  (not what the Rent Board or Section 9.04.195.A of the Berkeley Municipal Code states - see below).  The assignment of penalties and interest WITHOUT ANY PRIOR NOTICE is in direct conflict with another section of the Berkeley Municipal Code  (Section 9.04.110.B- see below).  In fact this section specifically prohibits what the Finance Department is attempting.  Of course the City of Berkeley is used to ignoring its own regulations.

Relevant Sections of the  Berkeley Municipal Code


Section 9.04.110  Penalty for nonpayment or underpayment of annual license--Accrual of cause of action.

A.  Every annual license renewal for which full payment is not received on or before February 28 of each year, or, for newly established businesses within thirty days after commencing business, is declared delinquent. The Finance Department shall thereupon assess and collect a penalty of ten percent of the license so delinquent. If such license renewal is not paid in full on or before April 1st of each year, or, for a newly established business, within sixty days following the commencement of the business, a sum of fifty percent of the license shall be added thereto and collected as a penalty.

B.  Notwithstanding the delinquency dates established herein, a cause of action for collection of delinquent license taxes, penalties and interest shall not accrue until discovery of such delinquency by the Finance Department, and written notice thereof by the Finance Department or auditor to the licensee. (Ord. 6231-NS § 1, 1994: Ord. 5839-NS § 1(part), 1987: Ord.5830-NS § 3, 1987: Ord. 5017-NS § I (part), 1977)

Section 9.04.195  Rental of real property.

A. Every person engaged in the business of renting or letting a building structure or other property, or a portion of such building, structure or property, within the City for any purpose, except property designated for and used exclusively for residential use which contains fewer than three dwelling units, shall pay an annual license fee as provided in Section 9.04.240 for each thousand dollars of gross receipts.


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Managing Tenant Liability

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