If you’ve managed property in California for any length of time you understand there are many laws that must be followed or you could end up in some very hot water. These laws are constantly changing every year and you need to be aware of what laws have been passed and what you as a property manager must do to comply with them. There are a number of new laws, but let’s look at two major ones that will affect all rental property managers in the state.
Bed Bugs (AB 551)
In my previous blog about bed bugs I talked all about what a nuisance they have become all throughout the developed world. California has now enacted a law that will regulate how property managers respond to this growing problem. This actually isn’t a bad law, and it could save you some headaches when it comes to bed bug outbreaks. Here are the basics:
- Any new leases and month-to-month rental agreements need to include a specific notice about bed bugs. These notices must contain information on identification, behavior, biology, and how to respond to treatments. It also must have some information on how to prevent a bed bug infestation. Having a mandatory notice on all new leases goes into effect on July 1, 2017, and all current tenants must receive the same notice by January 1, 2018.
- Rental property managers must not show or market a unit that is known to have a current bed bug infestation. The law does not impose a duty on an owner to inspect a dwelling or common area if there is no evidence to believe that an infestation is currently taking place.
- If a unit has been inspected by a pest control operator (PCO) the owner/manager must notify the tenant of the unit of the pest control operator’s findings in writing within two business days of the inspection. This is important! It’s the owner/manager’s responsibility to make sure the report is received by the tenant. If the PCO forgets to leave behind a written report in the unit it is your responsibility to get it. This is going to take some due diligence on your part to ensure the tenant has been notified. An email notice is a grey area because it’s hard to know exactly if the resident has received it or not. It’s best to leave the written report in the unit immediately after the inspection.
- All tenants must be notified of a bed bug infestation if one is found in a common area.
- Tenants must cooperate with the inspection for detection and treatment for bed bugs. This is interesting because sometimes furniture, such as couches and mattresses, must be thrown away. By law, the resident must comply with the treatment prescribed by the PCO.
- Residents are protected against any retaliatory action by a rental property managers to action taken to punish a tenant after reporting an incident of infestation.
- Originally the law would force owners to pay for all treatments of bed bugs even in the case where it was proven that the tenant was the one responsible for the infestation. Thanks to some great lobbying work representing owners, this is not a mandatory cost that owners have to pay. If there is evidence that the resident has brought in bed bugs there is the possibility that the resident would be responsible for the treatment.
Hiding Unlawful Detainer Records from Public View (AB 2819)
This is also a big one. Before AB 2819 was passed unlawful detainers (UD) court filings were masked, or hidden from public view for 60 days. If the tenant prevailed against the UD then there would be no public record of the filing of a UD against them. However, if the tenant did not prevail against the UD then that filing would be made public to credit reports. This would show future landlords who checked the perspective tenant’s credit that they had a UD filed against them.
Now, under this new law, a UD will be permanently masked to the public and all credit reports unless there is a judgement obtained through a court trial. Because very few UDs ever make it to court, most residents whose owners file UDs against them will be permanently masked to the public. This will make it harder for future landlords to see the negative rental history of apartment applicants.
Additionally, because nobody wants a UD filing on their record, there was typically an urgency to settle the UD within 60 days (before the UD filing is made public). This would expedite and motivate the parties to settle the UD in a timely manner.
The law was probably passed out of sympathy to those who through difficult seasons could not keep up on their rent and then had a UD filed against them. The history of their UD would make it harder for them to rent another apartment and could put them into a cycle – possibly leading to homelessnes or not being approved to rent another desirable space.
However, by protecting these hard-working people who were in the midst of a hard season, it has opened the door for vexatious litigants to operate easier within the State of California. There are those full time con artists who prey upon rental property managers who don’t do their due diligence to check rental history. This new law will give them more freedom to remain hidden and thus increase the risk of owners when screening tenants.
Knowledge is Power
As a rental property manager, it’s important for you to stay up on the laws in your state. Other new laws that have just been passed in California that may affect you as a property owner are AB 1750, AB 1928, AB 1934, AB2093, AB 2228, AB2299, AB 2362, AB 2406, AB 2442, AB 2476, AB 2501, AB 2515, AB 2820, AB 2873, SB7, SB 269, and SB 814. New proposed state regulations for next year include maximum occupancy laws and possible stricter rent control/government controlled maximum rents. These are going to be hotly debated in the future.
As a rental property manager, it’s your responsibility to be informed on changing laws concerning your rental units. If you would like help or advice managing property in Northern California please contact us at Hignell Property Management.