Question: I have been managing an apartment complex for about 20 years. We have been using the same rental application all that time. The form asks whether the applicant is a U.S. citizen and, if not, it asks for verification of immigration status. I was recently told by a friend, however, that there's a California law against asking about an applicant's citizenship status. Is it discriminatory to ask these questions in the application process?
Answer: Your friend is correct. Since 2008, California Civil Code Section 1940.3 has precluded questions about immigration status, and has precluded requiring verification of citizenship in the application process for residential tenants. You are allowed to require all applicants to provide proof of financial stability, as long as your financial criteria are applied regardless of citizenship status.
If you continue using your old application, you will be leaving yourself vulnerable to discrimination complaints. Because housing laws in California change over time, periodically review your application forms and process to make sure they comply with current legal requirements. Your local fair housing or landlord/tenant counseling service can help. If you belong to an apartment owners association, it probably offers updates.
Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for Project Sentinel, a mediation service based in Sunnyvale, Calif. To submit a question, go to http://www.housing.org.