California Does Not Want Landlords to be Immigration Police
AB 976, which was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger (shown at right) on October 10, 2007 (and took effect January 1, 2008), was sponsored by Assemblyman Charles Calderon. The bill was proposed in response to a number of ordinances passed by cities in California and throughout the U.S. that, in effect, forced landlords to become "immigration police." These laws subjected unwitting landlords to stiff fines and penalties for renting to persons who were unable to definitively prove that they were in this country legally.
However, the bill also contains provisions that directly affect landlords. Specifically, the bill provides:
- No landlord of any agent of the landlord shall do any of the following:
(a) Make any inquiry regarding or based on the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant, prospective tenant, occupant, or prospective occupant of residential rental property.
(b) Require that any tenant, prospective tenant, occupant, or prospective occupant of the rental property make any statement, representation, or certification concerning his or her immigration or citizenship status.
In order to avoid potential liability for violation of this law, we recommend that the screening process not involve any inquiry into an applicant's citizenship or immigration status or any different process (such as supplemental "non-citizen applications") for persons who are from foreign countries. (The only exception would be when there is a project-based HUD subsidy program which requires such information from applicants in order to determine eligibility for subsidy payments.) Note that AB976 specifically allows landlords to continue to gather information necessary to determine or verify the financial qualifications of a prospective resident or to determine or verify the identity of a prospective resident.
(This legal alert is for general information purposes only. Before acting be sure to receive legal advice from our office. If you have any questions about this alert, please contact the nearest KTS office in your location. For past alerts and articles on other related topics, please consult the resource library section of this web site. As the number of fair housing lawsuits against property owners and managers increases, so does the importance of ensuring your compliance with fair housing regulations. Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP offers fair housing publications, forms, document reviews, fair housing defense and training on all aspects of state and federal fair housing laws.)