Skip to main content

Immigrants today are under scrutiny more than at any other time in recent history, affecting all aspects of their lives including where they live. Because of this it is vital that immigrants understand their rights when it comes to finding and renting an apartment. The law protects immigrant rights by limiting the type of information landlords can ask you when applying for a lease. In this article attorney Eric E. Castelblanco will explain what you need to do to protect your rights when you rent a new apartment.

Landlords cannot ask about your immigration status: Existing California law forbids rental property owners and their managers from asking about a tenant or applicant’s immigration or citizenship status. This means that when you apply to rent an apartment, neither the manager or the application can ask you questions about your immigration status including whether or not you have immigration documents.

Identification Documents: Owners can still ask for information or documents that they can use to verify your identity. In order to verify your identity any “government issued” document will suffice. This document does not have to be from the United States and can be from your home country. These documents can include a passport, foreign driver license or foreign identification card. Any of these identification documents will be sufficient to prove your identity for rental purposes. Also any California Driver’s License will suffice, regardless of your immigration status when you received the license.

Ability to Pay: Landlords can also ask for documents to determine if you qualify financially to rent an apartment. This doesn’t mean they can require a social security number. A landlord can evaluate your ability to pay by looking at other documents such as your recent pay stubs, payment receipts from prior rentals, paid utility bills or other regular monthly bills. A landlord cannot refuse to rent you an apartment because you do not have a social security number. If you have a Tax Identification Number, this should be sufficient many times for the landlord to check your credit.

If a landlord turns away an applicant for being undocumented, that is considered illegal discrimination and is against the law. So when renting an apartment remember that a manager cannot discriminate against an applicant because of their immigration status. Any government identification from your home country is sufficient to prove your identity, and you can qualify if you show an ability to pay rent through your income history and payment history of other bills. If you are turned away from a property even though you can meet these requirements, then you may have been unlawfully discriminated against.

Since 1995, attorney Eric E. Castelblanco has been dedicated to helping tenants understand and assert their rights. For more information about your rights, call 213-388-6004 or visit their website at: The information presented in this column is for educational purposes only. You should seek the advice of an attorney regarding your individual situation.