Artificial Intelligence General Government & Technology

California Rentals, Civil Code 1950.6 and ChatGPT

renting in California

Frustrated with the renting process in California? The fees you pay over and over?  Santa Cruz County is trying to liberate the renter from the mess by making application fees a thing of the past as people struggle from the massive cost and complexity that is the rental process,  without losing their money and minds.

Maybe, I thought, artificial intelligence has something to say that I am not. I asked ChatGPT to write a poem about trying to rent in California in today’s wild world of rentals. Say what you will about AI, this poem is a gem that captures the scene. Here are a few lines from the poem: (entire poem included, keep reading!)

In valleys deep, where tech giants reside,
Rents soar like birds on a limitless tide.


LET’S DIVE IN: (and as ZILLOW and/or the CA Department of Real Estate responds, I will update)

Here’s the background to why I asked for a poem.

The California rental market of today takes me down memory lane to days of Bulletin Boards. (I hear it, Ok, Boomer)  It was so easy: post a name and some basic info and wait for the people to call. Meet and greet and soon you’ve got a renter. Or you, the renter, had a place. There were no credit checks, no credit reports, no $50 fees (over and over) for the right to apply. No complicated application forms, no social security cards “to be presented in person.”  No one needed to know your life history from playground to present.

My most recent frustration began because of Zillow.  I paid their $35 fee for a credit report good for only 30 days, upon which time it ‘expires’.  This is needed they say for “the right to apply.”   If you don’t rent a place in one month, you pay again – (question – which expires first the credit report or the exhausted renter?)  and when I asked for a copy of my report I got  no response.  Not then and not after.

I recently finally found an email for a Zillow customer service rep for rentals,   I wanted to know why Zillow doesn’t give an applicant the copy of the credit report because a landlord or property manager is required to do so if requested by applicant.   This is stated in CA Civil Code 1950.6: If an application screening fee has been paid by the applicant and if requested by the applicant, the landlord or his or her agent shall provide a copy of the consumer credit report to the applicant who is the subject of that report. 

Section 1950.6 also says :The landlord or his or her agent shall provide, personally, or by mail, the applicant with a receipt for the fee paid by the applicant, which receipt shall itemize the out-of-pocket expenses and time spent by the landlord or his or her agent to obtain and process the information about the applicant.

No one I know has ever received this.  Zillow, what’s up with this?

CA Civil Code is full of juicy renter’s rights.  There are more such as a return to renter of any unused fees. And no one knows about these rights or if they do I don’t see them put into action.  Not even real estate giant Zillow?  Nope. The response for my getting a copy of credit report is  they don’t have it any more, and anyway, no one is allowed to see it,  but if there is something on it I don’t like I should contact Experian.  A cosmic sigh follows this logic.

I tried to contact the CA Dept of Real Estate regarding this situation and was dismissed. I asked for an email address and was informed there is no way to email CA DRE.    Enter Google and I found one email. Happened to be the Commissioner so I cc: ed her on my emails to Zillow. I am awaiting a response from my last email response to Zillow.  BTW, Tania the customer service rental rep, is quite polite and obviously attempting to help but seems hamstrung by rules beyond her pay grade.

Santa Cruz County  is attempting to do away with application fees altogether. (Fantastic!)  It is scary how much of a profit center this has become and such a burden to already burdened applicants,  (yes, I hear the echos of denial from landlords) so I will let you decide. Here’s Santa Cruz County and its fight against application fees: Santa Cruz and Application Fees

Best of all,  here is ChatGPT capturing the flavor so well. The prompt: write a poem about how difficult it is to rent in california

California Rental Struggle (titled by ChatGPT)

In California’s land of dreams, where palm trees sway,
Where golden sunsets paint the end of day,
Beneath the azure skies, a struggle unseen,
Lies the weary quest for a place to convene.

In cities bustling with life’s vibrant dance,
The hunt for shelter becomes a dire chance.
For rent, a lofty mountain, hard to scale,
Where dreams collide with harsh, economic gale.

The sun-kissed coast, a beacon for the free,
Yet shackled by the chains of realty.
In valleys deep, where tech giants reside,
Rents soar like birds on a limitless tide.

In San Francisco’s hills, where fog rolls in,
The cost of living feels like a sin.
With every lease, a slice of soul is sold,
In this game where the stakes are never old.

From Hollywood’s glitz to Silicon’s glow,
The struggle to secure a home does grow.
In labyrinthine markets, landlords reign,
As hopeful tenants navigate the pain.

For every room, a dozen seekers plead,
In California’s race for a place to feed.
Where rent is king and pockets grow thin,
The battle to belong feels like a sin.

Yet amid the chaos, hope still flickers bright,
In the hearts of those who strive with all their might.
For in the land where dreams are born anew,
Hope springs eternal for the chosen few.

Though California’s rent may seem a daunting plight,
With perseverance, one may yet see the light.
For in the heart of struggle, resilience thrives,
And in the quest for home, hope forever survives.



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