How to Become a Leasing Agent in California

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Home ownership is inching upward in California, but it’s still below the pre-recession level of 60.7%. And in Southern California, some counties have a homeownership rate below 50%.

Real estate agents can still make a healthy living selling homes, but some salespeople are understandably interested in increasing their income by offering leasing services. Since apartment leasing is decidedly different from home sales, some people wonder if becoming a leasing agent in California requires a special license.

Do I Need a Real Estate License to Lease in California?

Apartment leasing in California falls under the property management umbrella. But there’s no specific license for property management. California Real Estate Law states that if a person conducts certain leasing or property management activities they must have either a broker license or get a real estate license and operate under the supervision of an employing broker.

Which leasing activities require a broker or real estate license?
  • Leasing or renting a property
  • Offering to lease or rent a property
  • Placing a property for rent
  • Listing places for rent
  • Soliciting for prospective tenants
  • Collecting rents from real property or improvements
  • Negotiating rental leases

These rules apply to all types of properties from private homes to residential apartment units if you’re providing services on behalf of another for compensation. For a full explanation of the rules, read through section 10131 of the Business and Professions Code.

Are There Leasing License Exceptions?

As often is the case in life, there are a few exceptions to the leasing rules. If you meet one or more of the exceptions you can practice leasing and bypass the licensing.

Leasing Your Own Property

Like other states, in California you don’t need a real estate license to lease or act as the property manager for your own properties.

Transient Occupancies

Services like AirBnb and Homeaway have been a gamechanger for short-term rentals. In California these are classified as transient occupancies. Short-term refers to any stay that’s less than 30 days.

Because people have abused this exemption in the past to skirt the licensing requirements, the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) pays careful attention to short-term leasing activity. One of the chief offenses is structuring the payments and paperwork to make it look like a short-term rental when in fact the same individual is remaining in the property for more than 30 days.

Since breaking the leasing laws can result in fines and criminal charges, the safer bet is to get a California real estate license if you want to earn money as a leasing agent.