Landlord/Tenant Law Legal Topics Real Property Law

Do’s and Don’ts of Tenant Screening

Residential landlords have the right to choose the best tenant they can find. That probably means a tenant who seems most able to comply with the lease terms, pay the rent on time, avoid damaging the premises, and refrain from disturbing other tenants. Here’s what a landlord can do to find that tenant—and where there are limits.


  • Demand reasonable background information, including credit and employment history, income, rental history, and references.
  • Ask about a prospective tenant’s amount and source of income. Govt C §12927(p)(2).
  • Charge an applicant for a residential rental unit a nonrefundable screening fee to cover the cost of getting information on the applicant (as long as the landlord gives the applicant, on request, a copy of the consumer credit report obtained and a receipt for the screening fee). CC §1950.6.
  • Reject an applicant based on information in a consumer credit report (as long as the landlord gives the applicant written notice of the denial along with the name, address, and telephone number of the agency that furnished the report and a statement of the applicant’s right to obtain a free copy of the report from the agency within 60 days and to dispute the accuracy of the report). CC §1785.20.


  • Discriminate based on the source of the applicant’s income. Govt C §12955(a).
  • Ask questions about personal characteristics protected under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) such as race, religion, familial status, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability. Govt C §12955(b).
  • Ask about a prospective tenant’s immigration or citizenship status. CC §1940.3.
  • Charge an applicant a screening fee that exceeds the landlord’s actual out-of-pocket costs of gathering the information or more than the statutory maximum of $47.72 (as of 2017, subject to annual adjustment by the legislature based on the consumer price index).

­­Get an overview of residential landlord-tenant issues in CEB’s California Basic Practice Handbook, chap 11, and an in-depth look at all aspects on landlord-tenant transactions and litigation in CEB’s California Landlord-Tenant Practice.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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