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Landlords Statewide Must Now Consider Section 8 Applicants

Landlords Statewide Must Now Consider Section 8 Applicants

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 329 into law, which will make it illegal starting January 1, 2020 to:

  • Refuse to rent to persons who receive housing assistance
  • Apply tenant selection standards that disadvantage recipients of housing assistance
  • Alter the terms of rental agreements; or limiting facilities, services, or repairs for recipients of housing assistance
  • Make statements that indicate preference or prejudice based on a prospective tenant’s receipt of housing assistance

We reported in July about a similar local ordinance passed in Oakland, which will now be superseded by this statewide law. This means that landlords throughout California must treat Section 8 applicants like any other applicant and cannot refuse to take Section 8 applicants or use phrases like “No Section 8” in their advertisements.

Landlords will still be able to use other tenant screening tools and set standards for financial health that do not directly involve source of income. A good standard that we recommend is the use of credit score minimum requirements. With other financial or income standards, landlords will have to be careful as the new law requires that any sort of income-to-rent ratio type requirements can only be based on the portion of rent that the tenant pays themselves.

We also recommend that landlords consider a standardized method for applicant selection when multiple qualified parties apply, such as giving priority based on when applications are received with a timestamp (e.g. within an email program) to be able to defend your applicant selection process, as we expect legal challenges to mount with this new law.

Owner-occupants of single-family homes who are renting space to no more than one roomer or boarder will be the only group even partially exempt from these new requirements, and we say partially because the owner-occupant can ultimately choose not to accept a Section 8 tenant without facing legal recourse, but they must still abide by the rules regarding advertising and the tenant screening process.

Read the full bill here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB329

This article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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