This list summarizes new laws passed by the California Legislature during the first half of the 2013-14 legislative session and the U.S. Congress that may affect, or otherwise be interesting to REALTORS®. Although this webpage is entitled “2014 Laws”, some of the laws contained in this list may have already come into effect in 2013 or not be effective until after 2014. More laws will be added to this list as Governor Brown has until October 13, 2013 to veto any bills. For the full text of any law, click onto the legislative number as indicated, or go to http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/ for California laws or http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/ for federal laws. A legislative bill may be referenced in more than one section.
Adjoining Owners: Adjoining Owners Equally Responsible for Shared Fences and Boundaries
Adjoining landowners, with properties contiguous or in contact with each another, 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, and unless otherwise agreed in writing, are presumed to be equally responsible for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence. A landowner must give each affected adjoining landowner a 30-day prior written notice of any intent to incur costs for a division fence. The notice of intent must include the following: (1) a notice of the presumption of equal responsibility for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence; (2) a description of the nature of the problem with the shared fence; (3) the proposed solution for the problem; (4) the estimated construction or maintenance costs to address the problem; (5) the proposed cost sharing approach; and (6) the proposed timeline for addressing the problem. An adjoining landowner can overcome the presumption mentioned by demonstrating by a preponderance of the evidence that imposing equal responsibility would be unjust. To determine whether equal responsibility for the reasonable costs would be unjust, a court will consider the following: (1) whether the financial burden on one landowner is substantially disproportionate to the benefit conferred upon that landowner by the fence; (2) whether the cost of the fence would exceed the difference in the value of the property before and after its installation; (3) whether the financial burden to one landlord would impose an undue financial hardship given that party’s financial circumstances as demonstrated by reasonable proof; (4) the reasonableness of a particular construction or maintenance project, including the extent to which the costs appear to be unnecessary, excessive, or the result of one landowner’s personal aesthetic, architectural, or other preferences; and (5) any other equitable factors appropriate under the circumstances. This law does not apply to a city, county, political subdivision, public body, or public agency. 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 (codified as Cal. Civil Code § 841) (effective January 1, 2014).
Landlord-Tenant – Telephone Jack for Tenant Must Satisfy California Standards
Existing law requires a residential landlord to install at least one usable telephone jack on leased premises and to ensure that the inside telephone wiring is in good working condition and meets the most recent statutory standards. The new law replaces the applicable standards of the National Electrical Code as adopted by the Electronic Industry Association with that of the California Electrical Code.
Senate Bill 745 (codified as Cal. Civil Code § 1941.4) (effective January 1, 2014).
Landlord-Tenant: Landlord Required to Provide Specific Utility Rate Schedules
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 master-meter customer may elect to post the website address for a tenant to access the schedule as long as the master-meter customer 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 (codified as Public Utilities Code § 739.5(e)) (effective January 1, 2014).
Landlord-Tenant: Tenancy Termination by Victims of Human Trafficking and Other Crimes
Existing law allowing a residential tenant to terminate a tenancy within 30 days by notifying the landlord that the tenant was a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or elder or dependent adult abuse, has been broadened to include victims of human trafficking as defined. The notice to terminate tenancy must include a copy of a police report or a temporary restraining order or other court order protecting the tenant or household member from further domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, or elder or dependent adult abuse. The notice to terminate must generally be given within 180 days from the date of the police report or court order. Instead of a police report or court order, a tenant may, from January 1, 2014 until January 1, 2016, provide documentation from a qualified third party professional indicating that the tenant or household member is seeking assistance for physical or mental injuries resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, or elder or dependent adult abuse. The law provides a sample Qualified Third Party Statement for this purpose. A landlord is prohibited from disclosing to a third party any information provided by the tenant seeking to terminate tenancy under this law, except if the tenant consents in writing or if disclosure is required by law or court order.
Senate Bill 612 (codified as Cal. Civil Code § 1946.7) (effective January 1, 2014).
Landlord-Tenant: Protection from Eviction for Victims of Human Trafficking
The existing prohibition against a landlord from terminating a tenancy or failing to renew a tenancy based on acts against a tenant or tenant’s household member that constitute domestic violence, sexual assault, or elder or dependent adult abuse, has been expanded to include human trafficking. This prohibition applies if the acts of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, or elder or dependent adult abuse is documented by police report or protective court order and the wrongdoer is not a tenant of the same dwelling unit. The landlord, however, may terminate or refuse to renew a tenancy if, after invoking protection under this law, the tenant allows the wrongdoer named in the police report or protective order to visit the property, or the landlord reasonably believes that the wrongdoer poses a physical threat to other tenants or guests or to the tenant’s right to quiet possession. On or before July 1, 2014, the Judicial Council must develop a new form or revise an existing form that a tenant can use to assert this law as an affirmative defense in an unlawful detainer action.
Senate Bill 612 (codified as Cal. Code of Civil Procedure § 1161.3) (effective January 1, 2014).
Property Taxes: New Construction Notice Requirement for Tax Assessment Exemption
Certain owners seeking exemption from tax assessment starting from the date of completion of new construction, based on the owner’s intent not to occupy or use the property, have a new notice requirement. Under existing law, new construction is generally deemed completed for tax assessment purposes on the date of completion, unless an owner does not intend to occupy or use the property (Cal. Rev. & Tax Code § 75.12(a)(1)(A)). To avail oneself of this exemption, existing law requires the owner to notify the assessor, either before or within 30 days of commencement of construction, of his or her intent not to occupy or use the property (Cal. Rev. & Tax Code § 75.12(a)(1)(A)). However, also under existing law, the notice is generally not required for a subdivision of 5 or more single family residences with a recorded parcel map (Cal. Rev. & Tax Code § 75.12(a)(1)(B)). The new law requires an owner previously exempt from this notice requirement to nevertheless notify the assessor within 45 days if the property changes ownership, is leased, or is used for other purpose as specified, whichever is earliest.
Senate Bill 825 (codified as Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 75.12(e)) (effective January 1, 2014).
Property Taxes: 30 Day Notice of Tax Sale to Tax Assessor
Existing law requiring a tax collector conducting a sale to notify the tax assessor about the sale and provide other information within 10 days after the sale has been extended to 30 days after the sale. As background, if an owner defaults on the payment of property taxes, existing law authorizes a county tax collector to sell residential property 5 years after default or sell commercial property 3 years after default (Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 3691).
Senate Bill 825 (codified as Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 3716) (effective January 1, 2014).