It's the law

We support a new city ordinance that proposes to fine property owners who fail to follow exisitng state law.

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The public should understand existing rental laws, and property owners should act in good faith - this belief is at the core of a new city ordinance that would require compliance with existing state law.

Currently, California allows property owners to charge prospective tenants a screening fee, which increases annually based on the Consumer Price Index. The fee is intended to cover out-of-pocket expenses - such as the cost of obtaining an applicants credit history - but currently cannot exceed $42.41 and must be accompanied by an itemized receipt, listing all expenses, to be given to all applicants.

The Berkeley City Council passed an ordinance, proposed by Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, on April 26 that would charge property owners a $250 fee if they fail to deliver an itemized receipt to their applicants. If the ordinance is approved again next week, then it will become official.

While we believe that the vast majority of landlords abide by the state law, this ordinance keeps property owners honest at virtually no cost to the city and no harm to the landlords.

Because screening fees add up, especially for students, we, as with any other tenant, deserve to know where our money is being spent.

A more transparent process involving an itemized receipt and resources regarding state law ultimately ensures mutual understanding between renter and landlord.

Our only objection to this ordinance is its date of implementation: January 2013.

The Berkeley Property Owners Association claims that if the ordinance were to be implemented immediately, property owners would not have time to be properly educated about the issue - however, property owners should already understand and follow state law.

But we also understand that the immediate implementation of this ordinance would be an unfair burden on landlords, given that a lot of rental applications are being processed this month.

We support pushing the implementation date back to January 2012, which would give property owners adequate time to become educated but is not so far off that it would not benefit current students.

It is essential that renters' rights are understood and that property owners abide by state law - this ordinance accomplishes both.


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