Wednesday, May 13, 2015

CA Tenant Rights Part 1- Credit Checks and Fees

People are renting apartments every day. Yet, many people do not know the rights they have during the rental process. Today, many landlords are charging excessive fees for credit check and background checks. Some are as high as $50 and are often stated as being nonrefundable. According to California Tenant Laws this is not allowable. Most renters, and some landlords do not realize this. Charging people a large sum of money and then not renting the apartment to them, could mean a lot of money being generated just to rent an apartment. Often times many landlords and rental companies pay significantly less to check your credit score than what they charge you up front. At the Legal Eagles, we advocate for people. We know this is wrong, and are here to set this information straight.

The Department of Consumer Affairs has outlined a guide for tenants and landlords called: California Tenants: A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities. This handbook outlines the rights and responsibilities for both tenants and landlords. In this handbook, one of the main things it outlines is credit checks. Landlords are allowed to run a credit check on applicants. Most landlords want to see your credit to see how good you are about paying your bills. Some may run a check to see if you have ever been evicted from another apartment. And some landlords may run a criminal background check as well. Some landlords and property management companies will work with tenant screening services which collect information on tenants then sell the information. The landlord or property management company is required to disclose what types of checks they are running. The landlord or rental management company must also disclose what they paid for the credit check fee and return to you, the applicant, the difference if you over paid for the fee. You, as the applicant, also have a right to a copy of the reports they pulled up on you, whether you are approved for the apartment or not. Many landlords and rental management companies will not disclose this information to the prospective renters. It is your responsibility as a prospective renter to outline all of this in the beginning even before giving the payment for the credit check. It is imperative to get this in writing so that if the
landlord or the rental management company does not honor their word then you have proof that they violated the agreement. It is important to know that as of 2012 the landlord or management company cannot charge more than $49.50. The landlord must give you a receipt to itemize their out-of-pocket expenses for obtaining the information about you. All of this and more is outlined in the above mentioned text from the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

The Legal Eagles is here to help tenants and landlords alike better understand their rights and responsibilities. If you have any issues regarding tenant rights and responsibilities please feel free to contact the Legal Eagles.