California’s Housing Immigration Bill Presented to Gov. Brown

A California housing immigration bill, AB 291, passed the senate on September 6, 2017 and is currently awaiting Governor Brown’s signature. This bill would prohibit landlords and property managers from inquiring into the immigration or citizenship status of a rental applicant or tenant, and from providing that information to law enforcement. While it is uncertain whether or not the Governor will sign this California housing immigration bill, it is extremely likely that he will. Moving forward, you should reevaluate your policies if this bill is enacted.

After multiple revisions, these notable previsions in AB 291 have remained untouched since March:

  1. Landlord and property managers are prohibited from inquiring about the status of an applicant or tenant.
  2. Landlords and property managers are prohibited from serving notice to quit the property, or from initiating an unlawful detainer action based on the immigration or citizenship status of the tenant.
  3. Landlords and property managers are prohibited from threatening to disclose the immigration or citizenship status of the tenant (or another person associated with the tenant, like a family member) to enforcement agencies as an attempt to try and influence the tenant to vacate.

Beyond being prohibited to use a tenant’s status to threaten them, Property owners are completely prohibited from disclosing the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant to “any immigration authority, law enforcement authority, or local, state, or federal agency” unless under legal obligation under federal law or a subpoena, warrant or order issued by the court. Violators who cause the tenants “to quit involuntarily, increase the rent or decrease any services” within 180 days after the tenant gave written or oral notice, filed a judicial proceeding or appropriate documents, or signed an arbitration award will have to pay up to $2,000 in damages for each violation. Tenants are unable to invoke the above penalties more than once a year.

The California housing immigration bill clearly states that AB 291 does not prohibit landlords and property managers from:

  1. Complying with any legal obligation under federal law, including any obligation under any federal government program that provides for rent limitations or rental assistance to a qualified tenant, or a subpoena, warrant, or other order issued by a court.
  2. Requesting information or documentation necessary to determine or verify the financial qualifications of a prospective tenant, or to determine or verify the identity of a prospective tenant or prospective occupant.

In addition to this bill, there are other pieces of legislation that are awaiting Governor Brown’s signature, like:

The Housing Accountability Act (AB 678), which would penalize local governments that deny housing permits that are in violation of California state law.

The Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB 2), which would add a fee (from $75 to $225) to real estate documents. Money generated would go to owner-occupied workforce housing, housing for agricultural workers, affordable housing developments, etc. Residential real estate sales are exempt.

Governor Brown will have until October 15th to sign or veto the passed housing bills. While it is uncertain whether or not this bill will pass, make sure the tenant screening provider you’re using scans all of your rental applicants through the terrorist watch list (OFAC) and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).

Do you think Governor Brown should sign it into law or veto it? Do you expect you’ll be greatly affected if this California housing immigration bill does get enacted? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe for housing legislation updates!

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Becky Bower is the Content Strategist here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing, from CSU Channel Islands. Her biggest weakness is cake and favorite superhero is Batman.

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