A California Rental Application is a form used by California landlords and property management companies to screen and vet prospective tenants to determine whether they are reliable and able to pay rent on time.
A standard California rental application form provides a landlord with the opportunity to screen for any red flags a tenant may raise, ranging from running credit and rental checks to conducting background checks and employment verifications.
You can use our California rental application to qualify tenants for your California Lease Agreements.
California Rental Application Statistic/Specifics
According to the 2016 California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Report, 1,006 housing discrimination complaints were filed in 2016, with disability as the most common complaint.
California laws impose unique requirements on landlords and property management companies screening prospective tenants and tenants’ rights during the application and verbal questioning process.
For example, California Tenant-Landlord law provides for the following:
California Rental Application Information for Landlords
A landlord may not ask questions on an application form or in person with the intent to discriminate against applicants based on their source of income, but they are allowed to ask about the level and source of income.
Number of Tenants
A landlord may establish reasonable standards for the number of people per square foot in the rental property but is not allowed to use overcrowding as a pretext for refusing to rent to families and children.
A landlord may require a tenant to pay a holding deposit to hold the rental property for a specific period until the first month of rent is paid.
California landlords must use the same income and financial standard for married persons and persons who will be living together and combining their incomes.
California Rental Application Information for Tenants
- As of 2022, the maximum screening fee a landlord or property manager can charge for processing a California rental application is $55.58. The maximum screening fee is based on the Consumer Price Index and adjusted annually for inflation. (Cal. Civil Code § 1950.6)
- A landlord may not charge an application fee when they know or should know there is no vacancy or will be no vacancy within a reasonable time.
- Landlords may charge a rental application fee to each prospective tenant applying to live in the rental property.
- Landlords and property managers must provide tenants with an itemized receipt showing the screening fee and other costs incurred to process a rental application form (See Cal. Civil Code § 1950.6(d))
Before paying a holding deposit, a tenant should always ask a landlord whether the deposit will be applied to the first month’s rent or if any part of the deposit is refundable.
Holding deposits are different from security deposits, which are deposits landlords hold to offset any charges due to damage or other reasons after a tenant moves out. California law (Cal. Civ. Code § 1950.5(c)) states landlords may not charge more than two months’ rent as a security deposit for unfurnished properties. However, they may charge up to three months’ rent as a security deposit for furnished rental units.
Timeframe to File Complaint
Applicants must file their housing discrimination complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing within one (1) year of the alleged incident.
Within sixty (60) days after filing a housing discrimination complaint, an investigator will go over the details of the situation and gather further facts.
California law also prohibits housing discrimination based on a person’s medical condition or sexual orientation.
All tenants must understand what questions and stipulations landlords and property management companies can include on their application forms and what they can verbally inquire about or demand.
Federal Law and California Rental Applications
Fair Housing Laws
Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, all landlords are prohibited from discriminating against future and potential tenants based on the following:
- Familial status
- National origin
- Race or color
- Sex (gender identity and sexual orientation)
Landlords can screen future tenants based on objective criteria that doesn’t discriminate against a class of persons. Landlords can use such information to determine whether the tenant is trustworthy and able to pay rent.
Screening requirements under the Fair Housing Act pertain to written questions on a California Rental Application form and verbal inquiries.
With the applicant’s consent, landlords may legally inquire (through credit and background checks as well as other third-party screening reports and questions on a California rental application) about the following (and may require a tenant’s social security number to do so):
- Credit history
- Sex offender status
- Past rental and eviction history
- Criminal history
- Proof of income and salary specifics
- Current and past employer contact information
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects consumers such as housing applicants by installing checks and balances on landlord credit inquiry and reporting. The law requires the landlord to do the following:
Give written, an oral, or electronic notice of any adverse action the landlord takes after reviewing the credit history and credit report.
Note that landlords do not have to return a California rental application fee if they deny a tenant for reasons permitted by state law.
Consumer Report Details
Disclose the contact information and name of the consumer reporting agency that issued the credit report. A landlord must also provide the applicant with specific credit information relied upon, such as the credit score and other numerical statistics.
Copy and Opportunity to Dispute
Give the applicant a copy of the credit report, followed by a chance to dispute the completeness and accuracy of it.
How to Write a Rental Application
Follow the steps below to write a rental application in California.
Step 1 – Fill in Property Address Information
Write the date of the rental application and the address of the rental property.
Step 2 – Collect Basic Rental Applicant Information
This section is for the applicant(s) to provide basic identifying information about themselves.
Step 3 – Collect Applicant’s Residence History
In this section, the applicant(s) provides their residence history including addresses, dates of residency and reasons for moving.
Step 4 – Gather Applicant’s Employment History
This section is for the applicant(s) to provide current and previous employment information and other sources of income.
Step 5 – Gather Applicant’s Financial History
This section is for the applicant(s) to provide bank account and credit card information.
Step 6 – Collect References
The applicant(s) provides personal references’ names and contact information in this section.
Step 7 – Additional Questions and Verification
This section contains additional questions to determine more information about the applicant such as smoking or pets.
Sample California Rental Application Form
Below is an example of what a standard California rental application form looks like. You may download this free form or use our document builder to create a customized California rental application that covers all the details unique to your real estate needs.