Tenant Screening Guide for California Landlords

The most important laws you need to know when renting in California. Understand the basics on researching tenants and how to prepare rental agreements.

Table of Contents

  1. California Landlord Tenant Law

  2. How to Screen Tenants in California

  3. California Landlord Resources

  4. Choosing the Best Screening Service in CA

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Fast Facts: California Landlord-Tenant Law

California

General

LEGAL CLIMATE

Tenant Friendly

Laws

DEADLINE FOR RETURNING SECURITY DEPOSITS

21 days

TERMINATION FOR A MONTH-TO-MONTH LEASE

30-60 days

INTEREST IN PAYMENTS ON DEPOSITS

Yes, in some cities

NOTICE OF RENT INCREASE

30 days

REQUIRED NOTICE BEFORE LANDLORD ENTRY

24 hours

LIMITS ON LATE FEES

Yes

TERMINATION NOTICE FOR NONPAYMENT OF RENT

3 days

CHANGE OF PURPOSE NOTICE

180 days

How to Screen Tenants

California Rental Law Updates

California is a diverse state with legislation that can make it complicated to run a rental property. This article will offer some guidelines on what you need to know, including:

  • Adverse Action requirements
  • Rental Agreements
  • Statewide Rent Control
  • Eviction limitations

Stay current on important California Rental Law Updates and get the information you need.

Landlord Tenant Laws for California Cities

In addition to California laws, landlords in the larger metropolitan areas have additional regulations. We’ve created a guide to help you understand vital details in California’s high rental regions, including:

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • San Diego
  • Rent Control resources for other California cities

Go more in-depth on requirements around Landlord-Tenant Laws for California Cities and get the information you need.

Tenant Relationship

The relationship between the landlord, their property, and the tenants can be complicated. With both city and state regulations, there can be a lot to keep track of. Fortunately, our researchers have created and procured a number of resources to help you out. It is important to keep these things in mind as you’re choosing a screening service and conducting other business with your assets. Whether this is the first space you’re renting out, or you’re a seasoned property manager with a range of housing options, we’ve got you covered.

California Landlord Resources

California Apartment Association

The CAA specializes in providing resources and answers for owners, managers, and suppliers of rental homes and apartment communities. Experts include rental housing law and legal analysts, as well as local lobbyists and member-service representatives. They strive to help your rental business succeed both ethically and legally. Headquartered in Sacramento but with affiliate offices throughout the state, resources are available to all members.

California Rental Housing Association

The CalRHA is an organization that prides itself on advocating for the rental housing industry. With a membership you have access to helpful educational opportunities, updated legal forms and contracts, legislative support, and the facilitation of business relationships. Members and affiliates can help you get the information you need regardless of where you live in the state.

California Law Help

Certain situations might require you to research laws around the tenant and landlord relationship. These are sometimes dense and risky topics, such as evictions, security deposits, and foreclosures, these can be difficult to understand and navigate. It’s not uncommon for a property manager to seek outside assistance to ensure that you’re correctly handling these difficult situations. California Law Help is a great resource to study up on the fine details, get proper forms, and answers to frequently asked questions.

California Rent Control Law

California sets itself apart from the rest of the country a bit by implementing rent control laws across the state. Rent control laws limit what landlords can charge, including how often rent increases can occur and by how much. The restrictions will vary from city to city. Nolo offers a comprehensive guide to affected municipalities.

National Association of Residential Property Managers

The NARPM is another organization you may want to check out. They cater more broadly to any residential property managers, which includes leasing out a single investment property. Here you can find educational courses and documentation associated with maintenance, repair, and being a better property manager.

IRS Publication on Residential Rental Properties

Tax laws around rental properties can be complicated. The Internal Revenue Service has created a publication that outlines several important elements of managing your property. These include rules on reporting income, possible deductions, and special situations that apply to different types of buildings and communities.

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Choosing the Besta Tenant Screening Service

There are plenty of tenant screening services available in the market, so how do you pick the best one?
Here are several factors to keep in mind.

Tenant Screening and California Law

Just because you’re buying an FCRA-compliant report doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s been tailored to the laws of your city and state. In many cases, you will be responsible for understanding those rules and ensuring that those are not affecting the decision to accept a potential tenant. Look for services that tailor your report to the area you’re renting in so that you can avoid costly disputes.

For example, the anti-discrimination legislation in California limits information that can be used when screening anyone’s background check for character, reputation, or mode of living. Both intent and information that will be provided must be outlined to the applicant prior to pulling the background check. The report must then be provided to the applicant.

It is also important to know how often the screening service updates their records:

  • Credit reporting is a highly regulated industry, which means you’ll usually have up to date information no matter which tenant screening company you use.
  • Criminal records aren’t always as reliable, so you’ll want to ensure you’re using a service that stays up-to-date. Before deciding on a tenant screening service, make sure that they are regularly updating their records with new information from courthouses and sex offender registries.
  • The applicant’s eviction history can also be included with certain reports, sometimes as part of an enhanced package. Along with best practices for Checking References, this is a great way to see if there were problems with a previous rental.

How Screening Services Score Tenants in California

To help you quickly understand if a tenant is going to be right for your property, many services provide a summarized score. The most common rating provided is a credit score, which reviews the individual’s ability to pay on time. While this is definitely an important measurement, there are other factors you will want to examine.

By default, credit scores don’t necessarily track a person’s income, the rate at which they are paid, and how those correspond to your rent requirements. These are important factors to consider since they paint a larger picture of what you can expect from the tenant’s stay. TenantCheck includes these additional complexities in the calculation, providing you with a Resident Score.

This is important because certain cities have rules against using certain information - most of California doesn’t allow you to use a criminal history for denying a tenant, for example. In cases where you have fewer details to analyze, this score will be an essential factor in making your decision.

How to Read a California Tenant’s Credit Report

Reviewing a person’s credit history is often as easy as confirming they make timely payments to their bank, credit card, and any personal loans. However, sometimes their lenders will make special remarks about the individual’s account or payment history. These terms are often fairly straight-forward; “Account closed for refinance” is self-explanatory, but other terms can be confusing. For example, there are multiple ways to file for bankruptcy that you may want to know about. Or what about the difference between a forbearance and foreclosure?

While you can likely find answers to some of these questions online, you probably want to hear explanations directly from the team that’s delivering the report to you. This article was written for Whitepages TenantCheck, but it might act as a useful primer no matter which service you’re using.

What to Expect from a Tenant Background Screening Report in CA

Curious about what a report looks like? For new landlords, you’ll probably want to familiarize yourself with what to expect. This will help you avoid surprises after you or the tenant pays for it. Reports will always include a credit history. Criminal records are provided when permitted by the city or state, but we recommend familiarizing yourself with local laws before using these records as a deciding factor.

See a sample Whitepages TenantCheck report.

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