Pennell v. City of San Jose

RESPONDENT:City of San Jose
LOCATION:Federal Bureau of Prisons

DOCKET NO.: 86-753
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of California

CITATION: 485 US 1 (1988)
ARGUED: Nov 10, 1987
DECIDED: Feb 24, 1988

Harry D. Miller – Argued the cause for the appellants
Joan R. Gallo – Argued the cause for the appellees

Facts of the case

The City of San Jose enacted a rent-control ordinance in 1979 in an attempt to alleviate the problem of skyrocketing rent prices due to the growing shortage of and the increasing demand for housing. Part of the ordinance allowed a Mediating Hearing Officer to consider as one factor “hardship to a tenant” when evaluating rent increases imposed by landlords.


Did the ordinance violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause?

Media for Pennell v. City of San Jose

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 10, 1987 in Pennell v. City of San Jose

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – February 24, 1988 in Pennell v. City of San Jose

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinions of the Court to announce in four cases and the first No. 86-753, Pennell against the City of San Jose.

It involves a challenge to a rent control ordinance enacted by the City of San Jose, California that allows a hearing officer to consider among other factors the hardship to a tenant when determining whether to approve a rent increase proposed by a landlord.

The suit came up to a California State Court, which upheld the ordinance.

As a preliminary matter we conclude that appellants have standing to pursue this appeal.

The appellants are the landlords in San Jose.

On the merits, we first conclude that it is premature to address the landlord’s claim at the application of the ordinance tenant hardship provisions constitute a taking of private property without just compensation.

There is no evidence that the tenant hardship provisions have ever been relied on to reduce an otherwise reasonable rent increase, and the ordinance itself, does not require that an increase be so reduced, and so this does not present the case in the concrete factual setting that we ordinarily require to decide it.

For the reason stated in our opinion, we do conclude, however, that the mere fact that a hearing officer may consider the hardship of the tenant in fixing a reasonable rent does not render the ordinance facially invalid under either the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause.

So the judgment of the California Supreme Court is affirmed.

Justice Scalia has filed an opinion concurring on part and dissenting in part in which Justice O’Connor has joined.

Justice Kennedy took no part.