State bill aims to lower renters’ application fees

In tight market, apartment seekers face costs for multiple credit and background checks

Assemblyman Christopher M. Ward
Assemblyman Christopher M. Ward (ASMDC, Getty)

Apartment hunters who pay fees for multiple rental applications may soon be in for some relief.

A state bill poised to land on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk would allow renters to buy reusable credit reports instead of paying for new ones each time they apply for an apartment, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Assembly Bill 2559 was approved by the state Senate this week. The Senate amended the bill to make it voluntary for landlords to accept the reusable reports, meaning apartment owners will still be able to order reports from their own provider.

Landlords can charge prospective tenants a screening fee of $30 or more per application.

Starting with the option of reusable reports would allow landlords and prospective renters to become more comfortable with them, said Assemblyman Christopher Ward, D-San Diego, who sponsored the bill.

At a later date, he said, there could be a talk of making reusable reports the norm.

The bill now heads back to the Assembly for concurrence on the Senate amendment, the final step before landing on Newsom’s desk.

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If the bill passes and Newsom signs it, California would be the third state after Washington and Maryland to implement legislation allowing reusable screening reports.

The reports would be good for 30 days and would include employment verification, a credit check and a seven-year eviction history. Landlords would be able to access the reports from a third-party provider.

Ward said he has heard from constituents that some units have 30 or more applicants.

“It’s becoming sadly more commonplace that renters are paying a lot more application fees and are having to apply for multiple properties because of the limited supply,” Ward told the Times. “It’s really a burden for middle- and lower-income Californians trying to get by, on top of all of the high cost-of-living issues going on today.”

Apartment vacancies in L.A. County have hit a two-decade low, dipping to 3.5 percent in the second quarter, the lowest since 2001, according to CoStar, which tracks buildings with five or more units.

Dana Bartholomew

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