Below are a few real estate laws that will commence in 2014 that may affect you as a Buyer, Seller, or Property Owner:
Adjoining Owners Equally Responsible for Shared Fences and Boundaries
Commencing January 1, 2014, adjoining landowners must share equally the responsibility for maintaining boundaries and monuments between them. Adjoining landowners are presumed to share an equal benefit from any fence dividing their properties, as well as equal costs for construction or maintenance, unless otherwise agreed in writing. This new law also provides specific procedural requirements for an owner who intends to incur costs for a division fence to notify the adjoining owner of the estimated costs and other information. Existing law enacted in 1872 which requires a homeowner who fully encloses a property to refund a neighbor a just proportion of the value of a division fence has been repealed. Assembly Bill 1404.
Smoke Detectors Specifications Changed
Starting on July 1, 2014, the State Fire Marshall will not approve a battery-operated smoke alarm unless it contains a non-replaceable, non-removable battery capable of powering the smoke alarm for at least 10 years. This rule was originally slated to take effect on January 1, 2014. Until July 1, 2015, an exception to this rule applies to smoke alarms ordered by, or in the inventory of, an owner, managing agent, contractor, wholesaler, or retailer on or before July 1, 2014. Furthermore, starting January 1, 2015, the State Fire Marshal will not approve a smoke alarm unless it does all of the following: (1) displays the date of manufacture on the device; (2) provides a place on the device to insert the date of installation; and (3) incorporate a hush feature. A previous requirement for the smoke alarm to incorporate an end-of-life feature that provides notice that the device needs to be replaced has been eliminated. The requirements taking effect on January 1, 2015 was originally slated to take effect on January 1, 2014. The State Fire Marshal has the authority to create exceptions to these requirements. Senate Bill 745.
Landlord Required to Provide Specific Utility Rate Schedules
Starting January 1, 2014, a master-meter customer of an apartment building, mobilehome park, or similar residential complex, must post in a conspicuous place the applicable specific current residential gas or electrical rate schedule as published by the serving utility, rather than the prevailing residential utilities rate schedule as previously required. Alternatively, the landlord as a master-meter customer may elect to post a website address for a tenant to access the schedule as long as the landlord also does the following: (1) state in the posting that an individual user may request a copy of the specific current residential gas or electrical rate schedule from the master-meter customer; and (2) provide the schedule upon request at no cost. Senate Bill 196.
Local Code Enforcement Officer Can Determine Substandard Housing
As of January 1, 2014, the enforcement authority for determining certain substandard housing conditions previously delegated only to county health officers, has been expanded to include local code enforcement officers as defined. To help clean up blighted areas, an infestation of insects, vermin, or rodents, as well as inadequate garbage storage and removal facilities, can now be determined by a local code enforcement officer if the city does not have an agreement or the resources to contract for county health services. To qualify to make these determinations, the local code enforcement officer must successfully complete a course of study in the appropriate subject matter as determined by the city. A property owner will not be cited by both local and county enforcement agencies for the same violation regarding pest infestation or inadequate garbage storage or removal. Senate Bill 488.
City May Allow Small-Scale Urban Farms
Beginning on January 1, 2014, the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Act has been enacted to promote small-scale sustainable urban farm enterprises. This new law authorizes a city or county and a landowner to enter into a contract for at least 5 years to restrict the use of vacant, unimproved, or otherwise blighted lands for small-scale production of agricultural crops and animal husbandry. The property must be at least 0.10 acres in size. The county assessor must value property restricted for crops and animal husbandry at a rate based on the average per-acre value of irrigated cropland in California, adjusted proportionately to reflect the acreage of the property as specified. This law expires on January 1, 2019. Assembly Bill 551.
(All information herein provided by the California Association of Realtors)