52 percent of residential properties in San Diego, CA, are renter-occupied. This shows that half as many people in the area prefer renting to homeownership. As a rental property investor, this is the kind of news you like to read.
While there might not be a shortage of renters, not all of them deserve to live in your property. Many problem tenants will default on rent, damage your property, and force you to start an eviction process.
This is why it's prudent to invest in tenant screening. Through this process, you're in a better position to select high-quality tenants for your rentals.
Here's what you need to know about screening tenants in San Diego.
1. Limit on Application Fees
You're certainly aware that there are federal, state, and even local anti-discrimination laws that all rental property owners and managers must observe.
Tenant screening isn't illegal as long as its sole purpose is to evaluate a person's behavioral and financial suitability to be a tenant. To conduct criminal and financial background checks, it's commonplace for landlords to ask prospective renters to pay an application or processing fee.
San Diego regulations place a limit on the fee amount. As of August 2023, the maximum fee is $59.67. This figure is adjusted annually, so be on the lookout to ensure you don't commit a violation.
You can only charge prospective renters this fee when you have vacant units. If you don't conduct the check, you must refund the entire fee to the applicants.
2. Renters in San Diego Must Consent to the Checks
Landlords have a right to conduct background checks on renters, but that doesn't mean you don't need the renter's approval.
It's against the law to go ahead with the checks if the applicant wishes not to be checked. To ensure everyone is on the same page, have applicants give their consent on paper. Do not accept verbal consent.
In fact, as a best practice, inform the applicants that you'll send them the reports via email. This helps to increase tenant screening transparency.
3. Applicants Can Request a Copy of the Background Check Reports
Let's say you want to get a bit crafty. You collect fees from an applicant but decide to only perform one check and keep the balance to yourself. The applicant will never know, right?
You're wrong, and you could be in trouble as well. Rental applicants have the right to ask for a copy of the reports of the background checks you conducted. They can do this for various reasons, including to verify the accuracy of the report and to confirm that you indeed performed the check.
Let a Professional Property Manager Handle Tenant Screening
Tenant screening is an important aspect of a landlord's job. It's an effective way to keep problem tenants off your rentals.
However, screening requires expertise. The average landlord lacks the tools to properly screen tenants without overlooking some things or violating the regulations.
Smart landlords leave tenant screening to property managers. If you're a landlord in San Diego, Harland Property Management has your back. Get in touch with us, and let's discuss your needs.