Registered Sex Offenders as Tenants

Q: Does a landlord have a duty to determine whether or not an applicant is registered as a convicted sex offender?
A: A landlord does not have a duty to check on the status of an applicant as a convicted sex offender.

Q: Can a landlord deny the application of a registered sex offender or evict a current resident who is discovered to be a registered sex offender?
A: The law is not entirely clear on this topic.  The law prohibits sex offender registry information from being used for the purpose of denying housing.  A landlord who does use the registry for that purpose can be sued for damages and possibly fined.  However, a landlord also has a duty to protect residents from known risks, or risks that the landlord should have been able to recognize.
You may not evict a current tenant you discover is a registered sex offender based on that fact.  If the tenant is current with rent and not a nuisance to tenants, then you have no legal grounds to evict.  You may, if the rental contract is a month to month agreement, give the tenant a 30 or 60 day Notice to Vacate (based on how long they have resided there,30 days if residency is less than one year, 60 days if more than one year but less than two.)

Q: What if the landlord asks an applicant about his status but the applicant lies?
A: If the rental application asks about a conviction and the applicant misrepresents his status the landlord can argue that the misrepresentation constitutes a material breach of the contract.  In that situation the contract could be voided entirely, and then could be used as the basis of evicting a current resident.  What a landlord could do is to add a clause to their rental contact that states that if any information on the rental application is false it will be considered a material breach of the rental agreement and evict the tenant on that basis.

Q: Does a landlord have a duty to disclose to applicants that a convicted sex offender lives in the neighborhood?
A: In California, all residential leases and rental agreements entered into on or after July 1, 1999, must contain a paragraph in 8-point font which informs the resident that he or she has the right to access sex offender information.  A landlord is not required to provide any other information regarding the proximity of sex offenders.  The only obligation the landlord has is to inform the resident that he or she has the right to access the information themselves.

Q: Does a landlord need to disclose to other residents the location of the convicted sex offender?
A: No, since sex offender registry information is available to the public the landlord has no duty to notify other residents to information they could obtain themselves.

Discrimination

Q: What is the Fair Housing Act?
A: The Fair Housing Act provides protection against the following discriminatory housing practices if they are based on race, sex, religion, color, handicap, familial status or national origin:
¢  Denying or refusing to rent housing
¢  Denying or refusing to sell housing
¢  Treating applicants differently for housing
¢  Treating residents differently in connection with terms and conditions
¢  Advertising a discriminatory housing preference or limitations
¢  Providing false information about the availability of housing
¢  Harassing, coercing or intimidating people from enjoying or exercising their rights under the act
¢  Blockbusting for profit or persuading owners to sell or rent housing by telling them that people of a particular race, religion, etc. are moving into the area or neighborhood.
¢  Imposing different terms for loans for purchasing, constructing, improving, repairing, or maintaining a home, or loans secured by housing
¢  Denying use of or participation in real estate services, e.g., brokers’ organizations, multiple listing services, etc.

Q: What is arbitrary discrimination?
A: The Unruh Civil Rights Act in California prohibits discrimination based upon specific categories, but also prohibits you from discrimination against individuals for reasons having nothing to do with his/her being a good tenant.

Q: Can I refuse to rent to a family because they have children?
A: No. The Supreme Court has ruled that refusing to rent to families with children violates federal Fair Housing Laws. However, if you have reason to believe the family would not take care of the property or would not abide by the rules, checking references may give you some additional information about the past and present behavior of this family and provide you with documentation for your denial. You cannot refuse to rent to a person just because they have children, but you may refuse to rent to a person that you believe will not fulfill tenancy requirements.
The exception to this is complexes designed for senior citizens. They are exempt but must meet certain guidelines. Advertising of vacancies require specific language such as “housing for older persons.”

Q: May I limit the number of people that will reside in a single unit?
A: Yes.  Typically the number of persons that may live in a unit is a function of the new of bedrooms the unit contains.  For example, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) allows landlords to limit the number of tenants to two per bedroom plus one.  However, each city may have it own requirements on how many persons may reside in a particular unit.  Check with your city officials to determine what your requirements may be.

Q: We have a strict no pets policy in our apartment complex due to insurance liability. A disabled tenant has now brought in a service dog. Can we evict based on breach of contract because she violated the no pets provision?
A: No. By law, if a disabled tenant requires the use of a service animal than you must grant her exemption to the No Pets policy. The tenant’s use and enjoyment of her home would clearly be adversely affected if she wasn’t allowed to have her service animal. However, this does not mean that the No Pets policy must be suspended for your non-disabled tenants.

Attorney Franco Simone, of the Landlords Legal Center and has been doing evictions for 18 years.  He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego.  Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday- Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  Walk-in’s welcome -no appointment necessary.  Tel: 619-235-6180,  website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com.

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