Guide to California's New Laws

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Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Part 1 will appeared in the November issue of the Apartment Journal.

The bills described in this Rental Property Owners’ and Managers’ Guide are rental housing-related bills that were signed into law in 2016. Some of the bills we supported, on some we remained neutral, and some we opposed initially but moved to a neutral position after the author took significant amendments.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all bills discussed herein become effective on January 1, 2017.

2016 Legislative Bills Signed into Law


AB 2476 (Daly) Notice of Parcel Tax to Non-Resident Property Owners.
The new law requires local agencies, including cities, counties, special districts and school districts, to provide a specified notice of a new parcel tax to non-resident owners within 30 days following a legislative body’s vote to place the proposed tax on the ballot.

AB 2501 (Bloom) Density Bonus Application Time:
Requires local government to adopt procedures and timelines to streamline the density bonus process.

The new procedures include providing a list of all documents and information required to be submitted with the density bonus application, and notifying the applicant for a density bonus whether the application is complete. The bill also prohibits a local government from conditioning the submission, review, or approval of an application on the preparation of an additional report or study that is not otherwise described.

AB 2515 (Weber) Water Efficient Landscaping:
The bill ensures that regulations regarding water-efficient landscaping are current and updated every three years. Specifically, it requires the Department of Water Resources to update the model water-efficient landscaping ordinance every three years, or make a finding that an update to the model ordinance is not a useful or effective means to improve landscape water use efficiency. This could have a profound impact on property owners who repair, remodel or improve exterior landscaping.

AB 2819 (Chiu) Hiding Unlawful Detainer Records from Public View:
Previously, unlawful detainers (UD) court filings were masked, or hidden from public view for 60 days following the initial court filing, and then were automatically unmasked and made public on credit reports unless the defendant prevails within the 60-day period. Under the new law, all UD filings will be permanently masked unless the rental property owner prevails at trial or a default judgment is obtained, because few UDs go to trial, and property owners rarely go back to court to obtain a default judgment, most UD filing records will remain hidden from public view. The permanent masking of this information will hinder rental property owners’ ability to assess a prospective tenant’s history of making or not making timely rent payments. Without an accurate record of UD filings, owners will have to consider new ways to assess the creditworthiness of an applicant’s rental payment history, including asking for bank statements and returned checks. Owners may also want to consider as an industry whether to adopt new reporting processes, in which owners report to the credit bureaus every time a tenant is late paying his or her rent. Individualized reporting would help fill a void created by this new masking law. A Q&A will be written on the new law and will be available within the next 30 days.

AB 2820 (Chiu) Price Gouging:
The bill revises the definition of state of emergency and local emergencies for the purpose of criminal price gouging increasing prices, including residential rental rates and towing services by more than 10 percent. The bill initially defined a “state of emergency” in such broad terms it could have included housing shortages and economic reces sions resulting from policy decisions and regulation  Our amendments sharply limited the ability of a local government to declare a state of emergency and restrict rental increases. If that version of the bill passed, the State could have declared our recent recession as a state of emergency, and placed strict rent control on all residential rentals statewide. San Francisco would have been able to declare an emergency because of its housing shortage. State of emergency is not restricted and only applies to mean a natural or manmade emergency resulting from an earthquake, flood, fire, riot, storm, drought, plant or animal infestation or disease, or other natural or manmade disaster.

Our lobbyists worked with the author to amend the bill to ensure that “emergencies” for the purpose of rent freezing, relates to natural and manmade disasters like earthquakes, floods, fires, riots, storms, droughts, and plant or animal infestation or disease.

AB 2873 (Thurmond) All Building Inspectors to Become CASp Inspectors by 2020: Under the bill, starting January 1, 2020, all city and county building inspectors employed or retained by a local agency who conduct permitting and plan check services to review for compliance with state construction related accessibility standards by a place of public accommodation with respect to new construction or renovation, including, but not limited to, projects relating to tenant improvements that may impact access, must be by certified access specialists.

Requiring all city building inspectors to become CASp inspectors will help make the inspection and permitting process more efficient. Because all buildings need to be disability-access compliant, it makes sense that building inspectors be trained to ensure that the buildings they inspect are access compliant. To pay for the new mandate, the bill increases the fee from January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2019 for an application for a local business license from $1 to $4, however, in no case will the fee be less than $1 per business license on an indefinite basis.

SB 7 (Wolk) Submetering and Residential Utility Billing Service Requirements.

On January 1, 2018, water submeters are to be installed in new multifamily construction or mixed use commercial properties. In addition, tenants that are to be billed for actual water use through submeters are to receive a specified notice at point of rent concerning the billing and are to receive notice about water usage on each water bill. Owners will be permitted to charge up to $4.75 per bill for administrative processing. Repair and replacement of water-related drips and leaks are to be completed within 21 days. Remedies for non-payment are restricted. Billing for excessive water use is defined. Deductions from a tenant’s security deposit will be permitted if the tenant fails to pay his or her water bill. Grace periods to pay water bills are defined. Limitations on late payment fees are specified. The bill only applies to owners that have submeters.

SB 269 (Roth) Technical Violations of Disability


Access Laws: The bill allows qualifying small businesses to avoid liability for minor “technical violations” of disability access laws if they correct the violations within 15 days. “Technical violations” include certain interior signs (other than directional signs or signs that identify the location of accessible “elements, facilities, or features”), lack of certain exterior signs (other than parking signs and directional signs that indicate accessible pathways or entrance and exit doors), and the order in which parking signs are placed, the color of parking signs, the color of parking lot striping, faded or damaged paint on otherwise compliant parking spaces, and others. The new law states that the above presumption of limited immunity affects the plaintiff’s burden of proof and is rebuttable by a preponderance of the evidence showing that the plaintiff did experience difficulty, discomfort, or embarrassment on the particular occasion as a result of one or more of the technical violations. The bill also protects certain businesses in certain conditions from paying minimum statutory damages for construction-related accessibility claims made during the 120-day period after a CASp has inspected the business.

SB 814 (Hill) Water Conservation:
The bill prohibits excessive water use during periods of drought emergencies by metered residential customers in single-family homes and multifamily properties where each unit is individually metered or submetered “by the urban retail water supplier.”

Our amendments assure that penalties will not apply to multifamily properties where each unit is not separately metered or where each unit is submetered and the owner bills water to the tenant. It also requires water suppliers to implement ways to discourage excessive water use, including rate hikes, block tiers, water budgets, and rate surcharges.

Proposed State Regulations

Although no new housing regulations were adopted in 2016, there are some significant housing regulations that are being proposed.

Support Animals: The State’s housing agency, Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), is proposing broad new regulations requiring rental property owners to allow tenants to have “emotional support animals” (ESA) of all breeds and types to live with them in their units. An ESA is an animal that provides emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. Although federal regulations already proscribe rules requiring owners to make reasonable accommodations to allow tenants to have ESAs living with them, DFEH’s proposal is concerning because of how broad the right to have an ESA is under the proposal, and the limited to nonexistent authority owners have to deny a support animal request when the animal poses a threat to health and safety of other tenants, and to the property. Our lobbying team has been involved with the ongoing discussions on the state level, and will keep the Association updated on its progress.

Occupancy Limits: DFEH is also proposing new occupancy limits and standards. Occupancy limits the maximum number of tenants per unit an owner can establish. Currently, the occupancy limits are based on what is “reasonable.” Unofficially, reasonable occupancy limits in California is two persons per bedroom plus one additional tenant. The proposed new occupancy standards, however, would require owners to allow up to 15 people in a threebedroom apartment. Apartments and neighborhoods are simply not built to withstand the impact of allowing 15 people per apartment unit. Our lobbyists have and will continue to be involved at the State level to find reasonable solutions to address the State’s occupancy concerns.

Criminal Background Screening:
New regulations are being adopted with respect to employment criminal background screening procedures and rules. The rules include delaying background checks at least until after the first level of screening has been completed. Although no current regulations are being proposed with respect to screening tenants for residential units, we are likely to see movement in that area in the next few years.

The information provided herein is intended to provide general guidance and awareness on recently passed State laws and regulations and shall not be construed in any way as a substitute for individual legal advice. Those that require specific advice should consult an attorney.

The information provided herein is intended to provide general guidance and awareness on recently passed State laws and regulations and shall not be construed in any way as a substitute for individual legal advice. Those that require specific advice should consult an attorney.

Ron may be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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