pliance 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 buildings 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 used 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 or proof and is rebuttable by a preponderance of the evidence showing that the plaintiff did experience difficulty, discomfort, or embarrassment of 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 22 RENTAL HOUSING
| DECEMBER 2016 |
emergencies by metered residential customers in single family homes and multi-family 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.
Significant 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 three-bedroom 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 solution 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 proposed with respect to screening tenants for residential units, we are likely to see movement in that area in the next few years. RH
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 Kingston is the EBRHA state lobbyist and president of the California Political Consulting Group. He can be reached at 916-447-7229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.