After having scrutinized hidden costs in areas such as concert ticketing and airlines, President Biden is now focusing on the rental housing market.
The spotlight is on issues such as tenants needing to pay numerous rental application fees while seeking housing, unexpected online rent payment “convenience fees,” and service charges often presumed to be included in the rent. While the California Apartment Association supports transparency in pricing, it cautions against overly broad policies with excessive advertising disclosure requirements, which was seen in California legislation this year.
On July 19, the Biden-Harris administration published a fact sheet detailing its concerns and proposing several measures to enhance transparency and reduce the financial burden on renters. These include commitments from major rental platforms — such as Zillow, Apartments.com, and AffordableHousing.com — to provide upfront cost information on rental listings. In addition, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has initiated research into strategies for a nationwide approach to address these fees.
In California, legislative efforts to address transparency surfaced this year with the introduction of SB 611 by Sen. Caroline Menjivar, D-Van Nuys. This bill proposed to enforce full disclosure of all fees and charges in rental property advertisements. It has since been reclassified as a two-year bill, delaying its progress until 2024.
CAA expressed concerns over this legislation, particularly its requirement to disclose variable fees based on a tenant’s usage or preferences. The association maintains that advertising should only need to include fixed costs such as rent prices, security deposits, screening fees, and other obligatory charges.
Moreover, a bill signed into law last year already addresses the administration’s concerns over prospective tenants having to repeatedly pay for application fees. AB 2559 by Assemblyman Christopher Ward, D-San Diego, aimed to alleviate the need for prospective tenants to pay for separate credit checks with each rental application. This bill, signed into law by Gov. Newsom, allows tenants to purchase a single credit report valid for multiple property applications over a 30-day period. The CAA played a critical role in ensuring that AB 2559 explicitly states that landlord participation is voluntary.
CAA continues to represent its members’ interests in dialogues on such bills and broader legislative issues. The association is committed to advocating for rules that account for the economic realities of rental housing providers, particularly in light of escalating costs from higher taxes, soaring insurance rates, and restrictions stemming from local rent control ordinances.
In the coming months, as the Biden-Harris Administration works with Congress, state leaders, and the private sector to scrutinize transparency in rental housing advertising, CAA will remain vigilant, ensuring any proposed changes adequately balance the needs of both renters and rental housing providers.