2011 Changes In The Law

2010 was a busy year for our state legislators. And as a result there were a number of new laws crafted which affect the homeowners of California. The following is a brief synopsis of the regulations that have the greatest impact on you as a homeowner.
First, it never fails to occur that once you purchase your new home, you immediately become inundated with documents offering to provide you with copies of your grant deed (for a fee), or a homestead document (for a fee). These solicitations are well crafted solicitations that cleverly mimic government documents. As a result an unsuspecting homeowner might be paying a premium price for a document he could get for free, or a service he does not need. AB1373 restricts these companies from these practices as of January 1, 2011.
Next on the new law hit parade is SB 183. This law mandates a couple of things. First it requires that a Carbon Monoxide detector be installed in every unit or dwelling intended for human occupancy statewide. This can be either a battery operated unit or one that is hardwired. The law takes effect July 1, 2011 for all single family units. And, on or before Jan 1, 2013 for all other existing units. Failure to do so will result in a fine of $200 for each occurrence.
In the case of a residential rental unit, the tenant has an obligation to notify his or her landlord of inoperative or defective carbon monoxide device.
This next new law (AB 1864) affects one of the most curious laws on our books. And that is the law of Adverse Possession. This law states that if a claimant making an adverse possession claim occupies the property for a period of five consecutive years and makes payment of all property taxes during this period. The claimant is entitled to claim ownership of the subject property. The law is amended as of the first of the year to require that the taxes be paid in a timely manner, as established by certified records of the county tax collector.
Existing law requires a legal owner of vacant residential property purchased at a foreclosure sale to maintain the property with penalties for failure to do so of up to $1,000 per day, per violation.
The law (SB 1427) requires the government to provide the owner of the property purchased at auction with a notice of the violation. And, to allow a reasonable time to cure the condition. The only exception for this requirement is if the violations provide a public health or safety concern.
This is important because some cities were assessing excessive fines that bore no relationship to the cost of remedying the violation. I had a listing in a nearby (un-named city).  Upon beginning my due diligence on behalf of the bank who had purchased the property at auction, I discovered that the home had an unpermitted second story that resulted in the city red tagging the home (deeming it to be uninhabitable).
I worked non-stop with the building and code enforcement department to rectify the situation. This required the city department to initiate a construction audit which ultimately determined the construction standards of the city to have been met.
While all of this was going on in code enforcement, the city had created a new department (without my knowledge) which oversaw REO properties within the city limits. This department in a period of sixty days had amassed fines in the amount of over ninety thousand dollars against the property which we had sold for $80,000 to a cash buyer.
Ultimately we were able to negotiate the fines down to nine thousand which still is substantial given that they did no work on the property and therefore had accrued no actual loss.
And finally, we have AB 1800 which took effect at the first of the year. This law actually makes it a misdemeanor for any person to claim ownership, and or take possession of someone else’s residential property for the purposes of renting or leasing it out to another party without the expressed consent of the owner. Penalties for this offence allow for fines up to $2,500 and or imprisonment for up to one year in a county jail.
Historically this has been a major problem in a down market. Someone breaks into an abandoned home, rekeys the locks, advertises the property for lease. And collects rents for as long as he can until the home is foreclosed on. And, until now this was a civil matter which usually resulted in an eviction with no criminal penalty.