02 Oct 2017 Upcoming Changes to Landlord-Tenant Law in California
For those who own or manage residential properties in California, you should be aware of these upcoming changes to landlord-tenant law. There are at least two new laws in California that can affect landlord and tenant rights and duties.
The first law, passed as a bill and waiting for a signature by the governor, would prohibit a landlord from reporting immigration status to federal agents. This new law would also put restrictions on what actions a landlord can take against a tenant. The primary focus of the law is to deter the use of a tenant’s immigration status as a way to get rent, or even evict a tenant. Under the proposed law, landlords would be open to a lawsuit over any violation.
According to the provisions of the proposed law, anytime a landlord abuses his or her position by reporting a tenant’s immigration status, or by threatening to do so, that landlord could be sued by the tenant in court. The maximum civil penalty for each violation would be $2,000, and for owners of large apartment buildings, this could lead to substantial damages.
It is unclear, however, whether this law would survive a legal challenge in federal court. There are several potential legal challenges, not the least of which is based on the First Amendment of the Constitution. Anytime a state tries to restrict a person’s freedom of speech, there is a high legal hurdle to overcome.
Reporting Bedbug Information
The other new law works in the opposite direction, and puts an affirmative obligation on landlords to provide tenants with information about bedbugs. This new law represents an effort by the California legislature to curb the number of bedbug infestations across the state. It is assumed that once tenants have the relevant information, they will feel free to report bedbug infestations, as well as know when one is happening.
There are other provisions in the new law which, like the proposed law prohibiting landlords from reporting immigration status, prohibit landlords from taking certain actions. The law aims to prevent landlords from retaliating against tenants who report bedbug infestations. In many cases, a tenant will report an infestation and then find an eviction notice on his or her door soon after. The new law will prevent this from happening.
In the event that an apartment or other property has an active bedbug infestation, landlords will be prohibited from renting the space, even when it is vacant. These provisions go towards the underlying California policy and other state laws that dictate when a property is rented, it comes with a warranty of habitability. The state is making a policy judgment that a home with bedbugs is uninhabitable.
Stay Current and Compliant With State Law
These are two examples of the many laws which are passed each year that affect the acquisition, development, and management of residential real estate in California. As you work to stay compliant with California law, contact us. At the Royse Law Firm we have an entire practice group dedicated to these issues. We look forward to hearing from you soon.