How has tenant screening in California changed in 2023? For starters, the maximum allowable rental application fee that a housing provider can charge is now up to $59.67, thanks to inflation related to the CPI.
The mystery shoppers are back out on the job, looking for landlords who might discriminate against applicants with Section 8 funding. Always say yes when asked if you accept Section 8 and be sure your managers are trained to treat everyone equally and are familiar with fair housing regulations.
Does anyone want a tenant who committed a COVID hardship fraud? I imagine not, however, we are required to abide by state law, which prohibits rejecting an applicant because of COVID rent debt.
How to Qualify an Applicant
Do you have a proven system in place that puts you in a position to find the best tenant? If not, please read AOA’s special report, “How to Qualify an Applicant”. It is FREE and available online to all AOA members. If it’s been a couple of years since you last filled a vacancy, this report will lay out the do’s and don’ts for finding a great tenant. All members can access a PDF version by logging into your AOA account, clicking on the “Resources” tab and then clicking on the “Free Gifts” tab.
New Member Orientation Video
If you have a hard time finding that special report or are unfamiliar with all of the benefits that come with your AOA membership, we recommend watching the latest AOA Member Orientation video (How to Maximize Your AOA Membership). That video can be found on the AOAUSA YouTube channel or in your AOA account in the “Videos” section.
Exclusive Videos for All Members
No matter the location of your property, California’s state building code applies. Did you watch “California’s Habitability Requirements: What You Need to Know” by landlord/tenant attorney, Michael Brennan? You can also stay informed with the three-part series entitled, “California Landlords’ Most Frequent Building Code Violations”. These videos pair well with the “Move-in / Move-Out Inspection Checklist (AOA Form 131).
All AOA members also have access to the full version of a video dedicated to AOA’s Form 100Q, (Qualification Criteria for Renting) – Tenant Screening: How to Avoid a Nightmare Tenant.
Other Exclusive Content
With the exception of a handful of videos, all members have access to exclusive member-only content, including, “California Rent Control Explained: Your Essential Guide” by Michael Brennan, Esq. This video will provide you with the most current state requirements under the California Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482) and can also be found by clicking on the “Videos” tab when you log into your AOA account (nested under the “Resources” tab).
The 2023 version of “Finding That Great Tenant” video by Dennis Block, Esq. was recently added for all members who purchased a three-year membership. To find the video, log into your account, click on the “Resources” tab, and you will see a dropdown menu. Click on the “Free Gifts” tab to find the link to this recording of the most recent, in-person AOA seminar.
#1 Rookie Mistake in Filling a Vacancy
In the video “Finding the Perfect Tenant”, the speaker shared that he believes the biggest rookie mistake is giving the tenant(s) the keys before getting the first month’s rent, the full security deposit and a fully executed lease. A signed lease assumes that the tenant has paid everything in full. Never give the keys out without getting these three things first!
Don’t Be Fooled!
Another mistake is to accept a check or partial payment of the first month’s rent and full security deposit, instead of requiring that first payment be in cash, money order, or cashier’s check. I mention this because many property managers have gone to online rental payments, exposing themselves to the risk of that initial payment being reversed.
If you would like to set up online rental payment for your tenants, AOA’s property management software is a low-cost option that integrates AOA Tenant Screening and AOA Forms.
The Lazy Mistake
Using outdated forms is one of the common mistakes that housing providers make. Recently, a member asked me if our lease agreement from 2020 would be okay to use. Nope! Don’t do it. Be sure you are using our most current forms and toss the old ones.
Have you discovered our “Move-in Forms Packet”? The convenient checklist and the forms included in that packet alone are worth the price of membership.
Setting Expectations for a New Tenancy
You really can’t assume anything without good communication. It is important to verbalize key parts of the lease and addendums with any new tenant. Although tenants love to focus on their rights, they also need to be aware of their responsibilities. Talk about the no-smoking policy, house rules, rent collection procedures, method of communication, how you handle defaults, repairs and alterations and the other points of which most tenants may not be aware.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Share emergency contact information and test it to see that their numbers work. Communicate what types of events constitute an emergency. It is always good to walk them through how to shut off the water and gas and where to find the fire extinguishers. Talk about earthquake preparedness.
We hope that the resources AOA provides will give you the tools you need to find a tenant who will pay rent, take care of the property and contribute to the peace and tranquility of the building. It’s no small undertaking and it takes skill and diligence. On top of it all, I also pray that God would send you the right tenants and keep the wrong ones away.
Jeff Faller, President
Apartment Owners Association of California, Inc.