The rental application procedure in California starts with a document that people who want to lease a rental property must fill in and submit. It’s often used by a property management company or a landlord. The application requires possible tenants to disclose information such as name, income, employment, SSN, references, etc. It helps the applicants provide the information in a structured way so that landlords can quickly review it.
In California, potential occupants give authorization to the landlord to do a background check on them by completing and submitting the rental application. Landlords often have to pay to run a background check, so non-refundable application fee payment requests are prevalent. Upon screening all the submitted applications, the landlord chooses the most suitable one.
Rental Application California Laws
Here are the most important laws that regulate rental applications in California:
Rental application fee
California has set the maximum rental application fee a landlord can charge an applicant.The state adjusts the fee every year because of inflation. However, as of December 2021, the application fee is capped at $55.58 per applicant (CA Civ Code § 1950.6(b) (2019)).
Two factors determining the application fee are the time it requires a landlord to process the application and the background check cost.
A landlord is not allowed to charge the application fee if there is no rental property available at the time of application. A landlord is only allowed to use the fee to pay for the purposes the applicant authorizes. If a landlord uses it for other purposes, they must return the fee with a written receipt.
The state also enforces a maximum-security deposit. The security deposit can’t exceed two months’ rent for unfurnished properties and three months’ rent for furnished properties (Cal. Civ. Code § 1950.5(c)).
What to Include in Rental Application California Form
Here is the most common information that potential tenants must disclose through a rental application in California:
All applicants are required to disclose:
- First, middle, last name
- Date of birth
- Social security number
- Driver’s license number
- Other names used in the last ten years
- Home phone
- Cell phone
- Email address.
Other occupant’s information
The applicant is required to list everyone who will live with them, including the following information about them:
- First, middle, last name
- Date of birth
- Relationship to the applicant
Regarding the employment details, applicants must provide the following information for their current and prior employment:
- Employer’s name
- Employer phone
- Job title
- Name of the supervisor
- Dates of employment (From/to)
- The income per month.
Potential tenants need to disclose the information about their current residence and two previous residences, including:
- Street address
- State & zip code
- Dates of stay
- Owner/manager and phone number
- Reason for leaving
- Last rent paid.
Applicants are required to list the following information about their vehicles, including both automobiles and motorcycles, in California’s rental application:
- License No.
Personal references include the following information:
- Address/city, phone, the relationship of the person who should be informed in case of any emergency
- Close friend’s address/city, phone, relationship
- Nearest relative’s (living elsewhere) address/city, phone, relationship
Applicants are required to list all their financial obligations so that the landlord can run a credit check on them:
- Name of bank or savings & loan
- Branch or address
- Checking account no. and balance
- Savings account no. and balance
- Credit account’s number, address/city, phone, balance, due monthly.
General information is a short fillable listing, including the questions having only the options of YES/NO.
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have any pets/animals?
- Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
- Do you have any water-filled furniture, or do you intend to use water-filled furniture in the apartment?
- Have you ever been convicted for selling, possessing, distributing, or manufacturing illegal drugs or convicted of any other crime?
- Have you ever been evicted or named a defendant in eviction for non-payment of rent for any other reason?
The applicant must also provide a brief explanation for all their “yes” answers and why they are leaving their current residence.
To complete the “General information” section of the rental application in California, applicants need to list the number and rent of the apartment they want to lease.
Consent of the authenticity of the given information and for background check
An applicant also has to provide consent for the authenticity of the shared information and consent for a background check. By signing and submitting the rental application form in California, an applicant agrees and authorizes the following:
- All provided information is accurate and correct
- A landlord or building manager can verify all information
- A landlord can obtain Unlawful detainer, credit reports, telechecks, and other criminal background reports
- To provide additional information on the request
- If a landlord discovers misrepresentation or material misstatement after the application is approved, it will be ground for immediate eviction and rescission of the contract
- A landlord is allowed to run a background check.
Signature of applicant and date
California Rental Application Form
Creating a rental application form from scratch is a challenging task, especially if you don’t have previous experience in this matter. So, this website will provide you with free downloadable rental application forms for the state of California. There are a couple of noteworthy benefits of having ready-to-use rental application forms in California.
You will also save extra cash because you don’t need to seek professional consultation and help. These rental application forms are curated and created by lawyers with deep understanding and extensive experience in California rental law.
What Should not be Included in California’s Rental Application Form?
According to The Federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal for landlords to ask for race or color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability in the rental application form and use the information to discriminate against potential tenants.
Additionally, the California fair housing laws make it illegal for landlords to require the information regarding an applicant’s age, ancestry, primary language, immigration status, genetic information, medical condition, marital status, income source, sexual orientation, veteran/military status, and gender identity/gender expression in California’s rental application form.
As a potential tenant, you should know that there are some exceptions to both the Federal Fair Housing Act and California fair housing laws.
Landlords are allowed to require potential tenants to disclose their age if the renting property is in a senior housing development where all properties are occupied by at least one senior of 55 years of age or more (CA Civ Code § 51.3 (2019))
If a tenant is applying for a unit with a roommate that exclusively houses same-sex or single-sex roommates, a landlord is allowed to request the sex of an applicant (CA Govt Code § 12927(2B) (2019)
Mrs. Murphy Exemption
If the owner lives in a single-family home and rents to only one tenant, it is exempted from Fair Housing Laws (Mrs. Murphy Exemption). However, the exemption becomes void if a landlord uses a real estate agent to represent them.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 makes it illegal for landlords and real estate agents to use race as a deciding factor. And, landlords and real estate agents can’t launch discriminatory ads to discourage applicants from certain groups from applying. (CA Govt Code § 12927(2A) (2019)
If a religious organization owns, operates, control, or supervises the property and doesn’t rent it commercially, landlords can require applicants to disclose their religion and use the information to give some applicants priority 42 U.S. Code § 3607
If a private club owns and operates a property, it can give priority to applicants that are club members only under the following circumstances:
- The club operates without public access
- The club doesn’t operate with commercial intent
- The club doesn’t discriminate when accepting members. 42 U.S. Code § 3607
To prevent anyone from running a credit check on residents of the US, the Federal Credit Reporting Act requires that a person provides written consent. The same applies to rental applicants. Before a landlord can run a background and credit check on the information supplied via rental application in California, a potential tenant has to provide consent via:
- Signing the rental application
- Provide a separate consent form
After the tenant completes a rental application and signs it, the landlord can do a background check, including:
A landlord does a credit check, resulting in two types of reports. It’s either a simple pass or fails report or one that includes the applicant’s credit score, income, employment, credit inquiries, and past addresses. California’s law gives the right to the applicant to request a copy of the credit report, and the landlord is required to provide it.
The landlord does the eviction check to discover the history of eviction filings and judgments against the tenants in the last seven years.
It’s a relatively easy thing to do, given that California’s public records include eviction records. You, as a landlord, can do it by yourself by following the given steps:
- Visit the official California Court Directory website
- Choose the superior court for your jurisdiction or the previous home location of the tenant
- Go to the “Civil” court division
- Navigate to the “Portal” option
- Fill out the form using the information a tenant has provided via the rental application
- You can access the eviction record under the “Unlawful Detainer” category.
Criminal history check
Criminal history check is a standard procedure in the background check. It enables landlords to search state court criminal records and relevant databases and discover any criminal records involving the applicant/tenant. However, cities in California are allowed to prohibit landlords from doing criminal history checks. For instance, it is illegal for landlords to do a criminal history check on their prospective tenants in Berkeley and Oakland.
Adverse Action Notices
The state requires the landlord to provide the tenant with an adverse action notice if they obtain a consumer report for the applicant and take any of the following adverse actions against them:
- Rejecting the prospective tenant’s application
- Requiring an applicant to have a co-signer
- Requiring a higher rent
- Requiring a larger security deposit
Providing an adverse action notice is a requirement even if the information obtained through a consumer report wasn’t the reason for an adverse action.
The tenant rejection letter must include an adverse action notice including the following details:
- Information about the consumer reporting agency used for obtaining the report
- A disclosure that the landlord didn’t take the adverse action against the applicant
- A statement that the applicant has the right to copy the report and dispute it within 60 days of receiving the adverse action notice.
As you can see, both federal and state laws regulate the renting process. Furthermore, discrimination and fair housing laws protect the potential tenants and make it illegal for landlords to ask for specific information in the application form.There are a few exceptions to be aware of.
For instance, landlords in California can ask tenants to disclose their age, sex, religion, and if they are a member of a private club.Given how complex it is to create applications from scratch, it is a relief that you can use California’s rental application template when applying for leasing a property.