Birth Certificates [Do you need to provide one to a landlord?]

Is it legal for an apartment manager to suddenly, after 15 years residence, demand a copy of a renter’s birth certificate which they (the mgmt) will “keep” in their file? It is suspicious when we have c. 10 million illegals here and all at once tenants are supposed to give up copies of their BCs to someone else. Can this be legal?

I don’t think it’s illegal in the US to ask for it, but I also don’t think you have to provide it if you don’t want to. Of course if you don’t provide it that gives them a reason not the rent the apartment to you. I would ask them why they need it since providing ID such as a drivers license proves you are who you say you are. Is it illegal to discriminate based on not being born in the US? That’s the only reason I can think of why they would ask for it.

If your current lease doesn’t require it, and there has not been some new law passed that landlords have to verify the status of tenants, then they probably have to let you stay to the end of your current lease, but they do not have to renew it. I think in the current political climate, it’s not unreasonable of them to want to verify the legal status of their tenants. I don’t know that it’s illegal to rent to undocumented immigrants, but there might be places where it is, or where there is pending legislation.

What’s the problem with providing it? are you worried about identity theft? or do you just think the landlord is being nosy, and you resent it?

Since this involves legal advice, let’s move it to IMHO. I also edited the title to indicate the subject. Please use descriptive thread titles.

General Questions Moderator

It sounds like the landlord may be trying to verify that the tenants are legal US residents. If so, whether that’s legal depends on the state. A quick Google search suggests that it’s illegal in California (and maybe New York) for the landlord to ask about legal residency status. On the other hand, there may be states in which the landlord is required to verify legal residency. (And, by the way, checking birth certificates alone is an incomplete way to check this. Plenty of people were born outside the US but are legal US residents, while others may have been born in the US but are not.)

By merely asking for a birth certificate, the landlord is exposing himself to potential accusations of housing discrimination. “National origin” is a protected class, and is the only thing that a birth certificate can confirm or refute.

If the landlord refuses to renew a lease because of a renter’s failure to provide a birth certificate - or because the renter’s birth certificate was foreign - then he’s asking for a lawsuit.

If the landlord wanted to confirm legal residence, he should have asked for a US passport, a foreign passport with a valid visa, or a green card.

If you’re curious you could say you’re unable to obtain one and what other documents would you take as a substitute. Otherwise if you’re in the USA, the state will have a housing board you can file a complaint with.

The problem then is, do you really want to live in a place where you’ve filed a complaint against the landlord. There are plenty of legal ways to make a tenant miserable and you don’t want to give him reason to find those.

It’s quite possible to be a legal resident of the US without having any of these things. there are doubtless millions of US citizens who were born in this country, have never set foot outside it, and don’t have a passport.

Don’t apartments usually get an SSN so they can run a credit check? If there were a law that required them to check immigration status, wouldn’t they use e-Verify?

You are correct in that the absence of a passport/valid visa/green card does not disprove legal residence. However, my point was that a birth certificate by itself does not prove or disprove legal residence:

[ul][li]There are countries that do not allow dual citizenship, and so even though a person may have been a natural-born US citizen, they may have had their US citizenship revoked in order to obtain citizenship elsewhere.[/li][li]A foreign birth certificate does not prove or disprove legal US residence.[/ul] [/li]
The presence of a US passport/valid visa/green card is the only way I can think of for anyone to definitively prove legal residence.

OP, has your landlord explained clearly why they want your birth certificate?

That brings up an interesting question: What percentage of African Americans have passports as compared to white Americans?

I couldn’t find this statistic anywhere.

Writing as a landlord of one small place, I would never dream of asking this from a tennant. I don’t think it is legal.

I recommend responding by saying Yes, you’ll get it… then stall if asked again… say you’re having trouble finding it if asked again… stall some more if asked again… then say you’re applying for a duplicate if asked again… then say you’re having trouble getter ng that copy if asked again…

If STILL asked again, ask why s/he needs it.

geezermodo, it would help if you’d tell us what state and/or country you’re in.

Fairly certain that your landlord is inviting a lawsuit with this request, this may be something that the ACLU might be interested in although I’m loath to mention them.

Most cities have tenants rights offices that may be able to provide more specific answers.

Have you recently started a job in the US? The employer is required to complete an I-9 form which requires the new employee to show documents that prove legal residency and employment eligibility. These documents can be a US passport or green card, but you can satisfy the requirements without them.

The US has jus soli birthright citizenship, so the number of people born in the US but not legally allowed to remain is going to be fairly low. I believe the only two categories that this would apply to are people born in the US to parents not subject to the jurisdiction of the US (i.e. persons with diplomatic immunity and invading armies, but NOT immigrants, even illegal ones), and former US citizens who have renounced their citizenship. Why a person would renounce their citizenship and then illegally immigrate to their home country makes me scratch my head.

I can’t see a reason they would need to see a birth certificate. Proof of legal residency (if they’re allowed to ask) should be good enough.

Out of curiosity is this some small time landlord doing this for their personal building or a management company?

As a former apartment manager, the only part of a birth certificate that makes sense to me would be establishing a family relationship between multiple tenants. If there were two unrelated tenants on a lease, we’d have drawn up a new lease and put both tenants on it. We’d also have run a criminal background check on any new tenants. For family members, we wouldn’t have considered those steps to be necessary.

Of course, plenty of landlords do all kinds of weird and wrong things, and birth certificates only prove a limited set of family relationships.

Anyway, I’ll echo the responses that suggest contacting your local landlord-tenant offices. They’ll know the laws specific to your state (and sometimes even specific to a county or city).