Well, the New Year is quickly approaching and, with it, a new round of laws affecting landlords.

On September 30, 2012, Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown signed several bills into law which, in one way or another, directly affect landlords. Each law is set forth below with its original Bill designation, as well as the law’s basic principles. You can also look up each law at www.leginfo.ca.gov for more details.

Here is a look at the laws going into effect beginning January 1, 2013:

 AB 1679 -Security Deposits

AB 1679 changes the existing law regarding the method by which a landlord may provide former tenants with an accounting of their security deposit as well as a refund of any unused portion. Currently, first class mail or in person are the only permissible methods by which landlords may provide former tenants with a security deposit accounting and, if applicable, the unused portion of the deposit. However, under the new law, landlords and tenants are permitted to mutually agree that the landlord can provide a copy of the itemized security deposit statement by sending it to an e-mail address provided by the tenant, and may deposit any remaining portion of a tenant’s security deposit directly into the tenant’s designated bank account.

AB 1953 -Notice to Tenant of New Owner

Current law requires landlords of newly acquired properties to notify tenants of the change in ownership within 15 days of succeeding the previous owner. AB 1953 adds to that law by prohibiting the new owner from filing an eviction for non-payment of rent until such time that the owner complies with the notice requirement.

Specifically, the law requires a new property owner to provide the tenants with the new owner’s name and the location at which rent is to be paid within 15 days of purchasing the property. While the owner may be prohibited from evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent until the owner provides the notice, the law does not relieve the tenant from the responsibility of paying rent during the time in which the owner failed to do so.

AB 2521 -Tenant Abandoned Personal Property

This law increases the threshold value of a tenant’s abandoned personal property, from $300.00 to $700.00, before requiring an owner to take the additional steps of storage or public sale before disposing of the personal property. In other words, where the value of the abandoned personal property is less than $700.00, a landlord may dispose of the property in any manner whatsoever, or retain it for his/her own use.

The law also permits a landlord to notify the tenant via email of their ability to make arrangements to collect their personal property. Landlords may still recover reasonable fees for moving and storage of the property, but they are not permitted to require the tenant to pay any unpaid rent before releasing the property to the tenant.

AB 2610 -Termination Notice to Tenants of Foreclosed Properties

AB 2610 provides protections to tenants who are in place at the time of a foreclosure sale.

Much like Federal law, the bill requires new owners to do the following:

  • Provide at least 90 days’ notice of termination to a month-to-month tenant;
  • Honor a tenant’s existing fixed term lease, unless the property is sold to a buyer who will occupy the premises as his or her primary residence. In that case, the tenant is entitled to 90 days’ notice.

The following situations are exceptions to the notice provisions:

  • Tenancies where the tenant is the child, spouse, or parent of the mortgagor;
  • The lease or tenancy was not the result of an arms-length transaction; or,
  • The rent is substantially less than fair market rent for the property.

AB 1964 -Fair Housing

AB 1964 prohibits owners of rental property from discriminating against an individual based on the individual’s religious dress or religious grooming practices.

AB 2386 -Fair Housing

Under existing law, landlords are prohibited from engaging in discriminatory practices related to housing accommodations on the basis of sex. “Sex”, for purposes of the law, includes gender, pregnancy, childbirth, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. AB 2386 merely broadens the term “sex” to include breastfeeding or medical conditions related to breastfeeding.

SB 825 – Foreclosure Notice of Termination Cover Sheet

Under the current law, any notice to quit regarding a housing unit served within one year after a foreclosure sale is required to include a separate cover sheet which contains an additional notice to renters and provides them with specified information regarding tenants’ rights. The cover sheet is required to be included until January 1, 2013. However, SB 825 extends that requirement until December 31, 2019.

SB 1229 -Requiring Tenants to Declaw or

Devocalize Animals at Rental Properties

This law prohibits landlords from advertising or establishing rental policies that require a potential or existing tenant to have their animal declawed or devocalized as a condition of occupancy. Penalties include $1,000.00 for improper ad or $1,000.00 per animal.

SB 1055 – Requiring Rental Payments via Electronic Funds

SB 1055 prohibits landlords from requiring either cash or electronic funds transfer (EFT) as the only form of payment for rent or the security deposit. The law does not, however, prohibit a landlord from requiring cash as payment for rent where the tenant has either bounced or placed a stop payment on a check.

SB 1186 -Building Accessibility for the Disabled

This law bans “demand for money” letters (written by either individuals or attorneys) to landlords of rental properties involving claims that the building is not accessible to individuals with disabilities. It also reduces damages for landlords who correct the violations within 30 to 60 days from the time of notice or from receiving any payment, settlement, compensation

This law is considered an “urgency measure” which means it went into effect immediately Governor Brown signed it on September 30, 2012.

SB 1191 -Notice to Tenant of Owners’ Default

This bill requires property owners of 1 to 4 units who have received a Notice of Default (NOD) on their mortgage payment, (whether from the lender, a trustee, or any other person authorized to take the home to foreclosure sale) to notify prospective renters that a Notice of Default has been filed against the property.

Notice to the tenant must use the statutory language.

Penalties for failing to notify the tenant include allowing the tenant to cancel the lease and recover any monetary loss incurred as a result of moving, etc. Tenants may recover one month’s rent, (or twice the amount of actual damages) and all prepaid rent in the event the tenant decides to cancel the lease and vacate the property. The law also permits a tenant who elects not to cancel the lease to deduct one month’s rent from future rent where the foreclosure sale has not yet occurred.

SB 1394 -Smoke Detectors

This law requires owners of dwelling units in which one or more units are rented to install smoke alarms in each bedroom of a rental unit on or before January 1, 2016. The smoke alarms may be battery operated, and existing alarms do not need to be replaced unless they are inoperable.

Keep in mind that beginning January 1, 2014 owners of single family houses that are rented are responsible for testing and maintaining the smoke detectors.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

On a related topic, The Carbon Monoxide Poison Prevention Act went into effect back in 2011. However, it was inapplicable to multi-family units until January, 2013.

The law requires landlords to install and maintain carbon monoxide units in all residential units that have fossil fuel burning appliances, fireplaces, or an attached garage. The units must be installed no later than January 1, 2013, and each dwelling must have at least one unit installed on each floor.

The devices may be battery powered, plug in (with a battery backup), or hardwired, and the detectors must be installed and operable when the tenant takes possession. However, it is the tenant’s responsibility to notify landlords of broken or inoperable detectors.

Failure to install the devices will result in an “infraction” carrying a $200.00 fine. However, the fine can’t be levied against a landlord unless they were first issued a 30 day notice to correct the violation and they failed to do so within the thirty day period. Furthermore, landlords may not be found in violation of the statute where a tenant fails to notify the landlord of a broken or inoperable detector.

The code specifically allows landlords and their agents to enter the unit to install, test, repair, and/or maintain the detectors, provided the landlord provides the tenant with the standard twenty four hour notice of entry.

Finally, landlords should take note of two additional aspects of the law. First, it requires landlords to disclose the existence and operability of the units when transferring title to the property, (although a failure to comply with this component will not invalidate the transfer) and, second, the act requires the detectors to be replaced every seven years from the date of manufacture (and not the date of installation). So it pays to look at the dates of manufacture when you are purchasing the units.The foregoing information is presented and intended to address the topic(s) covered above in a general nature. Specific situations and their facts should be presented to your attorney for review. The Brennan Law Firm is one of the fastest growing and most experienced landlord-tenant law firms in Southern California, representing landlords exclusively in evictions, negotiations, and judgment enforcement. Mr. Brennan may be reached at (626)294-0500, or toll free at (855)285-2230. Visit our website at www.MBrennanLaw.com for more information.

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