January 1, 2013, there are new laws that go into effect in California which property owners and managers must be aware of. The laws discussed here are not meant to be an all inclusive list and should be viewed as a summary – not a detailed explanation.

Senate Bill 1394 Smoke Alarm Requirements for Home Improvers and Landlords: Starting January 1, 2013, for properties rented or leased, an owner is generally responsible for testing and maintaining smoke alarms in an apartment complex or other building. Beginning January 1, 2014, this also will apply to a single family residence.  Also beginning January 1, 2014, the property owner will be responsible for installing additional smoke alarms as needed to comply with stricter building standards going into effect in January 2016. Owners should also prepare for January 2014 when all dwelling units intended for human occupancy for which a building permit is issued in excess of $1000; the issuer will not sign off on the completion of the work unless the owner demonstrates that all smoke alarms are approved by the State Fire Marshal. To be approved, a smoke alarm must display the date of manufacture, allow a place for the date of installation to be written, incorporate a “hush” feature, incorporate an “end-of life” warning, and, for battery operated devices, contain a non-removable 10 year battery.

Key notes: Starting in January 2013, landlords will be responsible for the smoke alarms in apartment complexes but not in single family homes until 2014 which is when the larger portion of this bill takes place. However, there is quite a bit involved in the 2014 requirements, so it would behoove a conscientious landlord to start early!

Senate Bill 1191 Landlord must Disclose Notice of Default to Prospective Tenants: Starting January 1, 2013 every landlord who offers to rent a residential property containing one to four units must disclose in writing to any prospective tenant the receipt of a notice of default which has not been rescinded. This disclosure must be made prior to executing a lease agreement. The written notice must be made in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalong, Vietnamese and Korean. If a landlord violates this law, the tenant may elect to void the lease and recover one month’s rent or twice the amount of actual damages – whichever is greater- in addition to all prepaid rent. If the lease is not voided and the foreclosure sale has not occurred, the tenant may deduct one month’s rent from future amounts owed. Property managers will not be held liable for failing to provide the written disclosure unless the landlord has given them written instructions to deliver the disclosure to the tenant.

Key notes: This law pertains to landlords operating single family homes or small properties only – not larger complexes – yet. The law also applies to prospective tenants. There is no mention of a requirement to notify current tenants.

Assembly Bill 2610 Tenant Entitled to a 90-Day Notice to Terminate After Foreclosure: Starting January 1, 2013 a month–to–month tenant in possession of a rental housing unit at the time the property is foreclosed must be given a 90-day written notice to terminate. For tenants who have a fixed term lease, the tenant can generally remain until the end of the lease term with all rights and obligations under the lease surviving the foreclosure, including the tenant’s responsibility to pay rent. There are, however a few conditions when a landlord may give a tenant on a fixed term lease a 90-day written notice to terminate including (but not limited to) when the new owner will occupy the unit or when the tenant is the borrower, his spouse , child or parent.

Assembly Bill 2521 Landlord May Dispose of Abandoned Personal Property Less than $700: Starting January 1, 2012, the total resale value of personal property abandoned by a tenant after termination of a tenancy that a landlord must sell at public auction has been increased from $300 to $700 dollars – if specific procedures are met. This law also prevents a landlord from assessing storage fees if the property is recovered by the tenant within two days of vacating the premises. The landlord’s notices of termination of tenancy and pre-move out inspection must contain specific language that former tenants may reclaim abandoned personal property left on the premises, subject to certain conditions.

Key notes: Personal property abandoned by tenants valued at the new $700 limit means that that property valued over $700 must be sold at public auction rather than disposed of or retained at the property owner/manager’s own use. As before, certain procedures must be followed so be sure to contact your own counsel. Owners and property managers should review and update termination of tenancy notices and pre-move out inspection forms for 2013.

Senate Bill 1964 and Assembly Bill 2386 Anti-Discrimination Protections for Religious Grooming and Breastfeeding: Starting January 1, 2013 the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) has been expanded to require employers and other covered entities to make reasonable accommodations for an individual’s religious grooming or dress practices. Additionally, The FEHA protection against sex discrimination has been expanded – not changed – to require reasonable accommodations for breastfeeding or medical conditions relating to breastfeeding.

Key note: Segregating an individual is not a reasonable accommodation!

Again, there is a lot of information here and it is abbreviated. Please spend some time and look up the new laws to discuss with your counsel. Update necessary forms. Be Prepared – the alternative can be expensive!

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About the Author

Author Caryn BennettCaryn Bennett has been working in the Multifamily Housing Industry since 1990 with experience ranging from onsite property manager to the current position as Compliance Manager for CIC. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from University of the Pacific in Stockton, Ca. and has numerous FCRA and Experian course certifications. Caryn also serves as the chair of the tenant screening committees for the NCRA and NAPBS, and is a Notary Public of the State of California. When not working, she spends time with her husband, children and grandchildren. She enjoys reading and rock music.

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