California law puts a cap on the number of application fees that a renter can be charged. The law, Civil Code 1950.6, capped application fees at $30 when it was initially passed in 1998. Since then, the CPI has increased an average of 2.57% per year as has the maximum application fee in California. In 2020 the maximum fee was $47.80; in 2023 the maximum fee was $54.70.
That's just the upper limit, though—a landlord is only allowed to charge you the amount they actually paid in screening fees. To make sure that they aren't doing otherwise you can always ask for a written receipt of your potential landlord’s screening expenses. If their expenses ended up being less than you paid, they have to return the remaining money to you.
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