Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California property management followed by answers provided by the law firm of Simone and Blevins.
Q: I recently published an ad for my rental unit in Spring Valley. This is the first time I am processing rental applications. Do I need to have the applicants fill out a rental application?
A: While it is not required that a landlord have applicants fill out a rental application it is very beneficial in determining the worthiness of a rental applicant. As a landlord there are certain factors that you are legally permitted to consider to accept or reject a potential tenant.
Permissible factors to consider when deciding whether to rent to a tenant are the tenant’s credit standing and credit score, their employment history, the amount of their monthly income, their rental history and past bad conduct which could be an indicator of a potential future threat to the health or safety of your current tenants or neighbors. However, it is illegal for the landlord to ask the tenant questions about race, color, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, age, medical conditions or whether they have persons under the age of 18 living in the household.
Q: I recently received a credit report for an applicant for my duplex. The credit report showed a credit score that was 450. I currently reject all applicants with a credit score of 575 or less. Do I need to disclose why I am rejecting this applicant?
A: Yes, if the applicant is rejected because of the information in the credit/consumer report, the landlord must immediately send the applicant 1) the name, address and telephone number of the credit reporting agency 2) a statement that the decision to reject the applicant was based wholly or partially on information in the credit report 3) a statement to the applicant that they have the right to obtain a free copy of the credit report from the agency within 60 days, and the right to dispute the accuracy of the information in the credit report. I advise using a published adverse action form to make sure you provide the tenant with all the required information.
Q: I have an applicant that is very well qualified for my rental property. Their credit score is 815 and they make five times the monthly rent in income. Do you think checking their references is necessary?
A: Yes, you should always contact all persons or firms named as references, former landlords, or employers on the rental application and verify the contents of the application, including running a credit check on the applicant. You want to make sure that everything that they state on their application matches up to what their references tell you. If after calling the tenants references you believe that they may have lied about something on their application, you should not rent to them.
Q: I recently attended a seminar at a local library about renting residential real estate. The speaker suggested that it was important to establish rental criteria and to apply it all applicants in the same manner. Is establishing rental criteria important?
A: Yes, establishing rental criteria can assist in protecting landlords from discrimination claims and also makes processing rental applications easier. Processing rental applications based on rental criteria can assist in showing that applications are processed the same way regardless of the applicant’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, age, medical conditions or whether they have persons under the age of 18 living in the household. Your rental criteria does not have to be in writing.
Q: There are a lot of young families that live in my apartment building. I have a vacant apartment in my building and began taking applications. Can I search my new rental applicants on the Megan’s Law Website to see if they are sex offenders?
A: No, California law prohibits landlords from using the Megan’s Law Website to make housing decisions. You may run a criminal background check as part of your regular tenant screening process, which should provide you with a report of all convictions including those for sex offenses. You may deny a potential tenant with a criminal conviction if that tenant’s conviction indicates a demonstrable risk to other tenants and/or property. If you use this as a tenant screening factor, then you must apply it consistently to all applicants
The law firm of Simone & Blevins has been doing evictions for over 28 years. The office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Tel: 619-235-6180, website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com or email [email protected].