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Oceanside rental fees: California state law allows landlords to charge up to nearly $60 per applicant. Stock photo
California state law allows landlords to charge up to nearly $60 per applicant. Stock photo
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Oceanside seeks to limit rental application fees

OCEANSIDE — As rents and living costs continue to increase, the city is looking into developing a policy  limiting rental application fees to ease the burden on renters.

Councilmember Eric Joyce and Mayor Esther Sanchez on March 8 proposed limiting rental application fees to the rest of the Oceanside City Council.

“A lot of Oceansiders are facing a very distinct housing crisis,” Joyce said.

According to the city’s housing element, about 55% of Oceanside renters are overburdened by housing costs.

“That’s about 14,000 households,” Joyce said. “Three out of four low income households are overpaying for housing.”

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Oceanside is currently around $2,500.

California state law allows landlords to charge up to nearly $60 per applicant – even if they don’t qualify for a residence. On top of that, if an applicant is accepted, they are usually expected to pay the first month’s rent plus a matching security deposit.

“The cost of getting into housing is huge,” Joyce said. “It’s a massive cost that is most placed upon the lowest wages in our city.”

Joyce’s office randomly called 10 rental units throughout the city to find the average cost of a rental application in Oceanside. Six units cost $50 or more for an application, and the overall average was $48.50.

“I’ve had people come up and tell me this is affecting their ability to get into a house and are now being forced out,” Joyce said. “These are people who have lived here their whole lives.”

A new state law limits application screening fees by creating a single-fee reusable tenant screening report that California tenants may use when applying for multiple rental units. These reusable reports must include the applicant’s name, contact information, employment verification, last known address and eviction history and are only valid for 30 days.

Though the option to accept reusable tenant screening reports exists, California landlords are not required to accept them. Landlords cannot charge a separate fee if they take the reusable reports.

Joyce suggested potentially turning the choice to accept the reusable reports into a mandate for Oceanside landlords.

Judah Coker with the San Diego Organizing Project, a group that unites faith-based organizations across the county to advocate for racial and economic justice policies, spoke in support of limiting rental application fees.

“People are sometimes paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars in application fees not even to be guaranteed new housing,” Coker said. “This is really pushing more and more of our folks into housing insecurity, contributing to the homeless crisis, gentrification and displacement in our city. We really believe this is the first step to try and address this issue to lower the extremely high cost of living.”

Coker also translated for Kristina Moreno, who has lived in Oceanside for 20 years and is currently facing a severe rent spike that is forcing her family to either pay or move. Throughout her family’s search for new housing, most places require her husband to have a higher income to qualify.

“It’s very difficult to find another place,” she said.

The City Council voted 4-1 to direct staff to bring back possible policy options to limit rental application fees. Councilmember Peter Weiss, who voted against the motion, was concerned about the city’s authority to implement such a policy.

City Manager Jonathan Borrego said staff could bring back considerations for a policy within 60 days.

Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim noted he did not want to overburden “mom-and-pop” landlords with covering costs by limiting rental application fees. Joyce agreed, noting that whatever staff brings back to consider options that would not overburden small-time landlords.

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