Tenant Q&A

I recently attempted to rent an apartment where the manager asked about my current immigration status. Can a manager inquire about this?

As of January 1, 2008, all California landlords are prohibited from inquiring into a prospective or current tenant’s immigration or citizenship status (California Civil Code 1940.3).  Additionally, this state law also forbids any municipality from passing laws that require landlords to make such inquiries. 

I attempted to rent an apartment and the property owner informed me that he would need to run a background check. Is this allowed?

Yes it is, however a landlord must run a background check from a reliable source and it must be for the sole purpose of determining whether an applicant has past criminal offenses that could place other residents or neighbors at risk of potential harm.
Landlords should avoid potential violations of the fair housing laws by being consistent and fair in prospective tenant screenings.  If it is a landlord’s policy to conduct background checks, they should be applied to all prospective tenants, and not arbitrarily or just to persons who fit particular profiles. 

If there is an incident of domestic violence at a property, can the landlord evict the victim of domestic violence for causing a nuisance?

Evicting a tenant who has been the victim of domestic violence may constitute housing discrimination under federal and state fair housing laws. The Fair Housing Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of sex,  specifically someone’s gender. Some courts have recognized that discrimination against victims of domestic violence is illegal sex discrimination when it is based on gender stereotypes, and when housing policies and practices discriminate against victims of domestic violence causing a disparate impact toward a specific gender. In  addition, other federal laws, such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), prohibit discrimination against domestic violence victims in public housing and federally assisted housing.


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