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How to Screen a Tenant in the State of California
DISCLAIMER: We do our best to keep this information accurate and up-to-date, but we cannot guarantee either. The most recent law changes may not be reflected here. We do not intend this information to be legal advice, nor are we qualified to advise you regarding legal matters. We highly recommend consulting a lawyer qualified to discuss landlord-tenant law to advise you. We do not specifically endorse any of the websites linked from these pages, nor are we in any way affiliated with the agencies or individuals who have published them. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of information posted on these sites. If you find a problem on this page, please contact us so that we can get it fixed.
Step 1: Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
Landlords and property managers are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF] (FCRA) during the tenant screening process. Additionally, California has laws that affect the tenant screening process. You can find the current California Housing Codes on the California State Legislature website. If you are finding the formalities of the state code daunting, you might want to check out these friendlier sites:
For any lease executed, extended, or renewed on and after July 1, 2015, a lessor of a dwelling shall approve a written request of a lessee to install an electric vehicle charging station at a parking space allotted for the lessee that meets the requirements of this section and complies with the lessors procedural approval process for modification to the property. Section 1947.6 is added to the Civil Code.
Step 2: Required Forms & Disclosures
Tip: before you rent for the first time, consider hiring a lawyer to review all of the documents you will use during the application and rental process to ensure that you are protected to the fullest extent of the law.
Rental Application [PDF] (this must be completed in full by the applicant prior to screening)
Toxic mold. The landlord must provide written disclosure of any known mold on the premises that exceeds health code limits and provide a consumer handbook explaining the health concerns of mold exposure. (Cal. Health & Safety Code 26147, 26148)
Lease Agreement (written), containing or attaching the following information:
Owner/Agent Identity - this should include name and address, and if the owner/agent is out-of-state it must include contact information for a resident of the COUNTY in which the rental is located that can act as an agent for the purposes of serving notices and process.
Security Deposit - this must include the amount of the deposit and the conditions under which some or all of the deposit may be withheld. It must also include the name and banking institution holding the deposit.
Non-refundable Fees - explicitly describe any non-refundable fees, and state clearly that they are non-refundable.
Fire Protection & Safety Information: You must disclose the available fire protection and safety information specific to the unit you are renting, including smoking policy, evacuation plans, and who to notify in case of emergency.
Registered Sexual Offender Database: Landlords in California must include the following language in their rental agreements: Notice: Pursuant to Section 290.46 of the Penal Code, information about specified registered sex offenders is made available to the public via an Internet Web site maintained by the Department of Justice at www.meganslaw.ca.gov. Depending on an offenders criminal history, this information will include either the address at which the offender resides or the community of residence and zip code in which he or she resides. (Cal. Civ. Code 2079.10a) California - Megan's Law Home Page
Tenant Paying For Others Utilities: Landlords must disclose whether gas or electric service to tenants unit also serves other areas, and must disclose the manner by which costs will be fairly allocated. California Civil Code Section 1940.9
Pest Control Service: When the rental agreement is signed, the landlord must provide tenant with any pest control company disclosure the landlord has received which describes the pest to be controlled, pesticides used and their active ingredients, a warning that the pesticides are toxic, and the frequency of treatment under any contract for periodic service. California Civil Code Section 1940.8
Intention To Demolish Rental Unit: Landlords or their agents who have applied for a permit to demolish a rental unit must give written notice to prospective tenants before accepting any deposits or screening fees. California Civil Code Section 1940.6
No Smoking Policy: For agreements signed after January 1, 2012 - If the landlord prohibits or limits smoking of tobacco products on the rental property the agreement must include a clause describing the areas where smoking is limited or probibited. Does not apply if the tenant has previously occupied the dwelling unit.California Civil Code Section 1947.5
Criminal, OFAC/Patriot Act & Sex Offender Records - A nationwide search is always performed. These jurisdictions specifically are available in California: Butte Superior Court, Contra Costa Courts, Department Of Corrections And Rehabilitation, Fresno Superior Court, Glenn County Superior Court, Los Angeles Superior Court, Nevada County Superior Court, Orange Superior Court, Riverside Superior Court, Sacramento Superior Court, San Bernardino Superior Court, San Diego Superior Court, San Luis Obispo Superior Court, San Mateo County Superior Court, Santa Barbara Courts, Santa Barbara Minor Criminal And Traffic, CA Sex Offender Registry, Shasta Superior Court, Stanislaus Superior Court, Tehama County Superior Court, Ventura Superior Court.
Eviction Records - records are available from the following counties: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Mercid, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Plumas, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne. Ventura, Yolo, Yuba.
Bankruptcies, Liens & Judgments - records are available from the following counties: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Plumas, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, Yuba.
Social Security Number validation, Death Index, credit checks, previous addresses, alias names, and the Rent Check Advisor include all information available regardless of location.