DO I HAVE TO LIST ON MY RENTAL APPLICATION THAT I AM PREGNANT? ONCE THE BABY ARRIVES WILL WE BE KICKED OUT FOR TOO MANY TENANTS?

First, you do not have to include your unborn child on your lease application. Next, once the baby is born the landlord will need to comply with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing guidelines known as the “two plus one rule.” Under these guidelines, the landlord should allow at least two persons per bedroom plus one additional occupant in the rental unit. For example, two persons should be allowed to occupy a studio unit, three persons a one-bedroom, five persons a two-bedroom, etc. The state takes the position that it will not investigate an allegation of familial status discrimination against a landlord as long as s/he allows at least the number of persons to occupy a rental unit as allowed under the two plus one rule. However, landlords may legally have a more restrictive occupancy policy as long as it is based on legitimate business reasons. While the state does not clearly define these reasons, they may include very small units or very limited parking. It is our understanding that increased costs such as water/sewer, wear and tear, etc., will qualify as a legitimate business reason to deny additional occupants and/or raise the rent once you are living there and the baby arrives.

CAN YOU HELP ME UNDERSTAND THE INCOME REQUIREMENTS NECESSARY TO SIGN A LEASE?

Landlords can assess your income in a variety of ways. Loans, grants and money from family are all applicable but you will need to show verification that the money is available. Letters (sometimes notarized), bank statements, etc. all help. You may need to be creative and negotiate, but once you qualify you are in. Some places will accept a higher deposit. Also note, if you are rejected at one place that does not mean that you will be rejected everywhere.

MY ROOMMATE IS UNABLE TO ATTAIN A COSIGNER FOR THE LEASE. IS THERE ANY WAY TO BYPASS THIS PROBLEM AS IT SEEMS THAT MANY OF THE APARTMENTS REQUIRE A COSIGNER ON THE LEASE?

No, there really isn’t a way to bypass this requirement. What landlords typically require is for a tenant to have a monthly income high enough to cover two-to-three times the rental amount. If your roommate meets this requirement then s/he should not need a co-signer. The best advice we can give you is to talk with any potential landlord about any exceptions they’re willing to make. It is within the power of a landlord to work with you in these situations. It’s always worth asking!

WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE A BAD RENTAL HISTORY?

You may be able to get your bad history cleared through the affected property provider. You will need to contact them directly. In any case, it is always best if you are upfront about your rental history when you apply for a new place.

WHAT SORT OF APPLICATION FEES CAN A LANDLORD CHARGE?

Any fee charged by a landlord in connection with moving the tenant in (such as a “tenant initiation expense reimbursement” fee or TIER fee must be counted as part of the security deposit. Landlords may no longer charge nonrefundable fees to cover administrative expenses. (California Civil Code § 1950.5.) Under California Civil Code 1950.6(b) a landlord can charge “actual out-of-pocket” expenses of obtaining a credit report or a similar tenant screening report, plus “the reasonable value of the time spent obtaining the report, checking personal references, background info, etc.” If the landlord ends up spending less than the fee s/he charged, s/he must refund the difference. The law further states that the screening fee is set at $45.00 but can be adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index.