By Jonathan Seigel
Scheer Law Group, LLP
A number of new landlord tenant laws went into effect on January 1, 2014. Below is a general discussion of some of those laws. Please contact Jonathan Seigel for more details. Although none of these laws is groundbreaking, remember, for landlords, getting the little things right is critical.
Beginning January 1, 2014, all smoke alarms installed in residential rental units must be on the State Fire Marshal’s list of approved devices. In order to be on the list of approved devices, the device must:
Under current law, only owners of multi-familyrental units are responsible for testing and maintaining the devices. However, as of January 1, 2014, owners of multi-family and single family rental units who rent or lease their property will be responsible for testing and maintaining the smoke alarms within all of the units in, or on, their properties. Landlords will be responsible for testing and maintaining the devices in every unit, including vacant units. Landlords or their agents will be permitted to enter the unit during normal business hours for the purposes of installing, repairing, testing, and/or maintaining the devices with the normal 24 hours written notice.
In addition, landlords are required to ensure that smoke alarms are operable at the time a new tenancy is created. However, during the course of the tenancy, the tenant has the obligation to notify the owner once the tenant becomes aware of a problem with the smoke alarm and, of course, the owner is then required to correct any reported deficiencies in the smoke alarm.
Significantly, building permits for alteration or repairs costing $1,000 or more will not be issued unless the landlord demonstrates that all smoke alarms installed are on the State Fire Marshall’s list of approved devices. Lastly, the failure to comply with these laws is an infraction resulting in a fine of $200 per violation.
Beginning January 1, 2014, master meter landlords must post in a conspicuous place current utility rate schedules. Previously, landlords were required to post the prevailing utility rates. Alternatively, landlords may post a website address for tenants to access the rates if the landlord states in 1) posting that the user may request a copy of the specific rates; and 2) providing a schedule to the tenant upon request at no cost.
Beginning January 1, 2014, adjacent landowners will have equal responsibility for maintaining shared boundaries and fences. In addition, there are specific requirements for an owner who intends to build a division fence to notify the owner of the adjacent property of the estimated costs of building the fence as well as other information. This new law replaces the current law requiring a landowner to refund a just proportion to a neighbor if a fence built enclosed the entire property.
Beginning January 1, 2014, any person engaging in a prepaid rental listing service must have a prepaid rental listing service license or a real estate license. Rental service licensees will be required to include their licensee number and notice regarding refunds before accepting a fee from a prospective tenant.
Owners of San Francisco multi-residential rental properties that permit smoking in some of their units must:
(1) complete a process to designate each rental unit as either smoke-free or smoking-optional, and include the designation in both the lease agreement and rental listings;
(2) prior to renting unit to applicant, provide applicant with a list designating units as smoking-optional; and
(3) prior to entering into a lease agreement, disclose in writing that landlord has designated the rental unit as smoke-free or smoking-optional.
(1)Provide written notice to existing tenants stating the proposed initial designation of their unit as either smoke-free or smoking-optional. If an existing rental unit has a lease designating it as smoke-free, then it shall continue to be smoke-free. If the rental unit does not have a lease stating that it is smoke-free, then it shall be designated as smoking-optional. Only a tenant in a smoking-optional unit may request that it be changed to a smoke-free unit. Tenants in a smoke-free unit may not request that the unit be changed to smoking-optional.
(2) Tenants will have 30 days to review and comment on the initial designation before it is then finalized. Tenants can request a change only during this 30-day designation process.
(3) Owners will maintain a master list identifying which units are smoke-free or smoking-optional, and notify tenants that the list is available upon request. 4
(4) The master list must list be given to a prospective tenant before the unit is rented and disclose in writing that the prospective tenant has been given this list before entering into the lease agreement.
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