As Landlords Intensify Tenant Background Checks, Some Lawmakers Want New Limits On Screening
This article is written by David Wagner.
For information purposes only. If you have any questions about different tenant protection laws, please consult with an attorney.
In response to California’s broad protections for those unable to pay rent during the pandemic, landlords have intensified their screening of new tenants.
It’s now common for L.A. landlords to demand that applicants show months of paystubs verifying high incomes, proof of timely rent payments during the pandemic and excellent credit scores.
After two years of state and local eviction protections, landlords say they’re fearful of taking in non-paying tenants. But their increasingly strict screening has left many renters all but shut out of L.A.’s housing market.
The intense scrutiny has even prompted some L.A. lawmakers to propose new limits on screening practices. City councilman Mike Bonin said these mounting barriers are hurting the city’s ability to reduce homelessness.
“Unless we start chipping away at the various different systemic roadblocks to getting people off the street, we’re never going to get through this crisis,” Bonin said.
A recent listing for a two-bedroom apartment in Glendale started by highlighting the unit’s perks: stainless steel appliances, gated parking and proximity to the Americana at Brand mall.
Then, in all capital letters, the ad listed the requirements for new tenants:
- All applicants had to show monthly income of at least three times the $2,195 rent.
- They had to prove they reliably paid rent at their previous address.
- And they needed an excellent credit score — 750 or higher.
Sandra Chandler, the landlord who posted the listing, said she disqualified any applicant who didn’t meet these criteria. “I couldn’t take them,” she said. “Because I couldn’t take a chance.”
Chandler said before the pandemic, she never asked for proof of past rent payments. And back then, she was willing to consider tenants with lower credit scores.
She hasn’t had a non-paying tenant yet, but she said state and local renter protection laws have forced her to be more selective.
“My requirements have gone up because I’ve been put in that position by the government,” Chandler said. “The government doesn’t care if I can pay my mortgage. They don’t care if I can eat. They don’t care if I can pay for my bills. I have to protect myself.”
This wariness from landlords is leading to long, demoralizing apartment searches for L.A. renters with spotty incomes, less than stellar credit and those who’ve sought government rent relief during the pandemic.
To read more on this article: For Many L.A. Renters, The Search Can Feel Endless