10 new laws that will affect the rental housing industry next year

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Numerous laws taking effect on New Year’s Day will impact the way rental housing providers do business in California.

To help you prepare, we’ve summarized 10 of the most significant of those new laws in the paragraphs below. For information on other rental housing-related laws coming up in 2019, check out CAA’s New Laws Webinar.

Safety at the property

Balcony inspections: SB 721 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, will require periodic inspections of certain apartment balconies, stairwells and other elevated structures. This law came in response to tragic balcony and stairwell collapses in two apartment buildings several years ago. Under the bill, 15 percent of the load-bearing, elevated exterior elements at apartment buildings and complexes with three or more units must be inspected every six years. The load-bearing outdoor elements subject to inspection are balconies, decks, porches, stairs, walkways and entryways that extend beyond the exterior walls of a structure, are six feet or more above the ground, and rely on wood or wood-based products for stability and support. With certain exceptions, the first inspections under the law must take place by Jan. 1, 2025.

At the urging of CAA, Sen. Hill agreed to incorporate a number of amendments to the bill. For example, Hill agreed to focus the bill on wooden balconies, include general contractors in the list of people who can do the inspections, and apply the inspection requirement to a certain percentage of balconies, as opposed to 100 percent.

Automatic garage doors with battery backup: Beginning next summer, landlords and other property owners will no longer be allowed to install automatic garage doors unless they have a battery backup function designed to operate during electrical outages.

While property owners won’t need to proactively install new automatic garage doors, any replacement door installed on or after July 1, 2019, must have the battery backup feature. The law provides for a civil penalty of $1,000 for a garage door not installed in compliance with the law.

The requirement comes from SB 969 by Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and applies to all automatic garage door openers manufactured and sold for use in California for any residential building.

As reported in a news release from Sen. Dodd’s office, while garage door motors can be disconnected to open the doors manually, many people, especially seniors or those with heavy doors, found it impossible to open their doors during the fires in Santa Rosa.

Dodd introduced the bill after a personal experience during the fires that raged through his area last year, leaving him and his neighbors without power.

Collecting the rent

Third-party rent payments: AB 2219 by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, involves the payment of rent by a third party on behalf of the tenant.

Historically, landlords have been unwilling to accept payments from third parties over concerns that a third party would claim a right to possession of the unit. The California Apartment Association worked with Assemblyman Ting to prevent this from happening.

AB 2219 provides that a landlord who accepts a rent payment from a third party can require that the third party sign a document acknowledging that the transaction does not make that third party a tenant.

Third-party payments may come from a variety of sources, such as social service agencies, or programs created by local jurisdictions or nonprofits. They also may come from individuals such as family members or caretakers, according to a bill analysis.

This new law is not intended to require that a landlord or landlord’s agent participate in, or enter into, a contract in connection with a federal, state, or local housing-assistance program, including, but not limited to, the federal housing-assistance voucher programs under Section 8.

Cannabis cultivation

Liability for marijuana growing: Under AB 2164 by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, a city can immediately penalize individuals who have violated local cannabis laws. The law is intended to deal with marijuana growers who violate local laws and who avoid fines by simply picking up and moving their operations. As originally drafted, AB 2164 would have left innocent rental property owners vulnerable to immediate penalties without the opportunity for an appeal. CAA, however, worked with Assemblyman Cooley to provide landlords the ability to address a marijuana-related violation that catches them unawares.  Under the law, the owner will not be held liable and will not face fines if the rental property owner can show all three of the following:

  • A tenant is in possession of the unit where the violation occurred
  • The owner had no actual knowledge that the tenant was cultivating cannabis
  • The owner has a lease agreement that prohibits the illegal activity.

CAA’s rental agreement specifically prohibits this marijuana activity on the property.

Electric vehicles and rent control properties

EV charging stations: AB 1796 by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, extends to tenants in rent controlled properties the right to install an electric vehicle charging station when certain conditions are met. Those conditions include a tenant being willing to pay for all expenses related to the installation and operation of the station and to comply with other provisions under the law. Previously, the right to install EV charging stations applied only to tenants in non-rent-controlled housing.

States of emergency

Ban on rent gouging: AB 1919 by Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa, clarifies existing law that makes it a misdemeanor to raise rents more than 10 percent after a state of emergency is declared. After fires devastated California’s Wine Country and areas of Southern California late last year, there was confusion over how and when California’s existing ban on price gouging applied. AB 1919 seeks to eliminate future confusion by clarifying elements of existing law.

Public safety

Right to call police: AB 2413 by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, will prohibit local agencies from penalizing property owners or residents if they call law enforcement to report domestic abuse or other crimes or emergencies at the property. The bill also will prohibit landlords from evicting or otherwise penalizing tenants simply because they call authorities to get help.

Evictions

Three-day notices and unlawful detainer: AB 2343 by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, extends two deadlines associated with the eviction process, effective Sept. 1, 2019. First, the law specifies that, when given a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit or 3-Day Notice to Perform Covenants or Quit, tenants have three court days to comply, rather than just three calendar days. Second, the bill establishes that a tenant has five court days to file a response to an eviction lawsuit, rather than just five calendar days.

Pilot program extended: AB 2930 by Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, once again extends a California pilot program that helps rid apartment communities of tenants who are in the illegal possession of guns, ammo or drugs. The pilot program, which applies only to certain jurisdictions, allows prosecutors and city attorneys to initiate the eviction process, at a landlord’s request, to stop nuisances involving unlawful weapons, ammunition or drugs. The program allows those evictions to be based on law enforcement paperwork, such as an arrest report, and affects the cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Sacramento and Oakland.

Employment law

Sexual harassment: Inspired by the #MeToo movement, more California small businesses — including those in the rental housing industry — will be required to conduct training to prevent sexual harassment. SB 1343 by state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, expands the training requirements to businesses with as few as five employees, including temporary and seasonal workers. Until now, sexual harassment-prevention training has been required for businesses of 50 employees or more and was mandated only for supervisors.

The expanded requirements include at least two hours of sexual harassment-prevention training for all supervisory employees and at least one hour of sexual harassment-prevention training to all workers in non-supervisory roles. Moreover, training must be provided within six months of the employee being appointed to his or her position and then once every two years. Training for affected employees must happen by Jan. 1, 2020. If training occurs in 2019, it doesn’t need to be repeated before the 2020 deadline.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, seasonal and temporary employees must be provided with the training within 30 calendar days of hire or 100 hours worked, whichever is first.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing will provide a free web training.

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