Separate measures strengthen fire insurance, aid commercial landlords
California loves new laws, and there are plenty of fresh ones for the real estate industry to sink their teeth into this year.
Most of the legislation came in reaction to big events in the state. New rules for balconies came after a tragedy in Berkeley that killed six students. Stronger fire insurance regulations were in reaction to destructive wildfires. Laws helping tenants came as housing shortages and homelessness become more of a political issue.
Addressing new laws at the start of each year is a tradition of the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors. Around 350 people attended a new-laws event at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Mission Valley on Wednesday. Gov Hutchinson, assistant general counsel for the California Association of Realtors, explained the new laws.
This year’s meeting for the real estate organization was a bit of a victory lap after the failure of Proposition 10, a statewide measure that would have repealed a 1995 law that limits county and city governments’ ability to slow rent hikes. The California Association of Realtors spent $8 million to help defeat the measure.
Renters will now potentially have more time to fight an eviction. The previous law said a renter would have three days to pay rent or get out. But, the new law has switched it to business days.
That means if a renter gets a notice on a Friday, they will be able to stay — or get the situation sorted out — by Wednesday the next week. Also, holidays don’t count, so that could also extend time, depending on when the landlord served the notice. Unlike other laws on the list, this one takes affect Sept. 1, not Jan. 1.
Another law that will apply to renters is a requirement for landlords to get balconies inspected every six years to ensure they are sturdy. The inspector must be a licensed architect, civil or structural engineer, building contractor with special licenses or a certified building inspector from outside the local jurisdiction.
The law is in response to a tragedy in Berkeley in 2015 where six Irish students died when the fifth-floor balcony they were standing on collapsed.
If someone else is paying your rent, they might have to put in slightly more effort. A new law relates to California’s strong tenant laws.
“If you accepted that rent check (from a third party), were you turning that person into a tenant?” Hutchinson asked the crowd. “Yes. Until now.”
The landlord can request the third party includes a letter that says they are not a tenant and, even though they are paying, they acknowledge they don’t have any rights as a tenant.
If a business abandons its space without paying rent, landlords now have some relief. Before, a landlord had to wait 14 days after rent was unpaid before they could give the tenant notice. It has now been shortened to three days.
Also, abandoned personal property created additional headaches. If what was left behind was deemed to be worth more than $750, it had to be sold in a public sale, instead of just keeping it or throwing it out. The threshold has now been moved up to $2,500.
In the wake of wildfires, there are a litany of new laws aimed at protecting consumers and aimed at insurers.
Under the changes, a person who loses their entire home cannot be denied repayment if they build or buy another home at a different location. Also, the statue of limitations to sue an insurer has been extended from 12 to 24 months.
Other laws prevent an insurer from refusing to renew a home insurance policy one year to the date of an emergency declaration, increase living expenses for survivors, and extend the period a policy holder can collect full replacement benefits from 24 to 36 months.
If negotiations of a loan modification was in one of five languages, it is the requirement of financial institutions to translate documents. The languages are Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Korean.
New laws affecting the hiring and treatment of employees will affect all businesses in the state, not just those working in real estate. But, it was a big focus of the Wednesday event, because many of the attendees own agencies with multiple employees.
Businesses can no longer ask prospective employees their salary history. But, an employer can ask an employee what their employee expectations are.
Hutchinson said employers might want to be careful about another wrinkle in the law, which requires an employer to provide a pay scale for the position if the employee asks after the interview.
For current employees who are pregnant or recently pregnant, there is a new law regarding lactation. If the woman asks for space to express milk, the employer must make reasonable efforts to get a room for the worker that is not a bathroom.
San Diego Union-Tribune