Beginning in 2020, Berkeley tenants do not have to disclose criminal records on initial rental applications. The Berkeley Fair Chance Housing law, also known as Ban the Box housing or the Ronald V. Dellums Fair Chance Access to Housing & Public Health & Safety Ordinance, bans the box for Berkeley tenants seeking housing. Berkeley’s new Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, codified at Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 13.106, prohibits landlords from inquiring into applicants’ criminal records on rental applications. In passing this groundbreaking law, Berkeley seeks to remove the stigma associated with criminal records and give tenants a fair chance at renting a home.



Can Berkeley Landlords Inquire into Criminal Records on Applications?

No. Berkeley’s Fair Chance Housing Act prohibits landlords from asking any questions or requesting information related to a tenant’s criminal record on a rental application.

Have you ever been convicted of or pled no contest or guilty to a felony?Prohibited Rental Application Question

Additionally, the Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Act protects Berkeley tenants by limiting the method and manner a landlord can consider criminal records. Read more here.


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What Happens Where a Landlord Requests a Berkeley Tenant’s Criminal Record on a Rental Application?

A Berkeley landlord who asks for criminal record information on an initial rental application violates Berkeley law and is liable for damages. An aggrieved applicant can recover actual damages, such as costs associated with submitting the application and emotional distress damages, or statutory damages of three times one months’ rent. Where a Berkeley landlord acts in knowing violation of or reckless disregard of the law, actual damages are trebled. A Berkeley tenant or applicant obtains punitive damages where the landlord’s violation was committed with oppression, fraud, or malice. Additionally, the landlord must pay the aggrieved Berkeley tenant or applicant‘s court costs and attorney fees.



Which Units Are Not Covered by the Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Act?

Certain units are not covered by the Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, including:

  • Single-family homes where at least one owner occupies the home as their principal residence;
  • Single-family homes with an accessory dwelling unit or cottage unit where either unit is occupied by at least one owner as their principal residence;
  • Duplexes or triplexes where at least one owner occupies one of the units as their principal residence;
  • Property owners renting their primary home while on sabbatical;
  • Units in HUD-assisted housing are partially exempted, to the extent they are complying with federal regulations requiring them to exclude certain tenants based on conviction history;
  • Units rented to tenants where the owner seeks to recover the unit for their re-occupancy as their principal residence, and the owner has the right to re-occupy the unit in the existing lease agreement; and,
  • Tenants renting rooms to cotenants or subtenants in the unit in which the tenant resides.



No Upfront Costs for Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Act Lawsuit

Astanehe Law handles California Ban the Box claims, including Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Act claims, on a contingency basis. This means that applicants who were asked about their criminal record on a Berkeley rental application can pursue their claims without having to pay an upfront flat fee or exorbitant billable rate.



Astanehe Law Knows Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Law

Astanehe Law, California’s leading tenants’ rights law firm, has significant Ban the Box experience. If you recently completed an application requesting information pertaining to your criminal record, your rights were violated, and you have a claim. Astanehe Law will fight for you.

Litigation is stressful. To that end, Astanehe Law provides each client with comprehensive legal service so that they remain fully informed and comfortable throughout the process. Astanehe Law is a full-service law firm committed to fiercely litigating injustice on behalf of its clients.

If you have any questions about the Berkeley Fair Chane Housing Act Law, Berkeley Rent Control, the Berkeley Rent Ordinance, or to discuss your rights and options, contact Astanehe Law to speak with an experienced tenant attorney.



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