#AskMarcAnything | With AB 291 (Chiu), California law extends its civil rights law to individuals regardless of citizenship, primary language, or immigration status. So the question becomes, how does this affect your rental property. What actions are prohibited? What actions can you do or cannot do? Here I break it down for you.
Rentals and Immigration Laws
With AB 291 (Chiu), California law extends its civil rights law to individuals regardless of citizenship, primary language, or immigration status.
Cannot make inquiries regarding or based on the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant.
Cannot require statements or documentation concerning immigration or citizenship status.
Cannot disclose information regarding or relating to the immirgation or citizenship status to any person or entity such as law enforcement, immigration authorities with the intent of intimidating, retaliating, influencing a tenant or in a case of recovering possession.
Cannot influence a tenant to vacate by threatening to disclose information about immigration or citizenship status.
A Landlord can request information or documentation necessary to determine the financial qualifications of a prospective tenant or verify the identity of a prospective tenant or occupant.
A Landlord can comply with a subpeona, warrant or other order issued by a court
A Landlord can comply with any legal obligation under federal law
Penalties for Violating the Law
If a court finds that a landlord has violated this law, the law requires the court to: (1) Award statutory damages of 6 to 12 times the monthly rent charges (2) Issue injunctive relief to prevent landlord from engaging in similar conduct (3) Award attorney fees and cost to prevailing party (4) Notify the district attorney of the counter in which the property is located, that the landlord potentially violated the extortion provisions of the Penal Code Section 519.
Defense to Eviction Actions
This law prohibits a landlord from causing a tenant or occupant to move out of the unit involuntarily or filing an unlawful detainer action (aka eviction) based on the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant, occupant or other person known to the landlord to be associated with a tenant or occupant.
Request for Identification
Every owner’s application and screening process is affected by this law. Applications cannot require a specific type of identification such as a state-issued driver license.
You can ask for applicants to provide a “government-issued” photo identification. This would be solely for the purpose of verifying the identity of the applicant. So if someone provides a passport issued by a government other than the United States, accept it because it is only being used to verify the identity.
Social Security Numbers and Credit Reports
Most credit screening companies now have the ability to perform credit review reports using Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN) or a Visa, coupled with other identifying information. A Social Security Number is not always needed.
Lack of Information on a Credit Report
Even if a credit company can perform a credit check when no social security number is provided, the information evneutally obtained in the credit search may not be sufficient for a property owner to qualify an applicant.
Allow applicants to provide additional documentation. You can build information on their ability to pay with documents from other credit sources that do not necessarily show up on a credit report. For example, phone bills, utility bills, rent, or other regular monthly bills.
If you accept a tenant but require a higher deposit due insufficient credit history, this is known as accepting “with conditions.” You must provide the tenant a Notice of Conditional Acceptance.