Were you able to keep track of the new legislative changes that may affect your real property practice? Don’t worry, we did and here are some key changes every California real property lawyer needs to know.
- Lawns are out, AstroTurf is in. Did you know that 43% of urban water is used for landscape irrigation? And that Gov. Brown has ordered 50 million square feet of lawns be replaced in light of California’s historic drought? Now cities and counties are forced to join the anti-lawn bandwagon: they can’t prohibit the installation of drought-tolerant landscaping, synthetic grass, or artificial turf on residential property. Govt C §53087.7, added by Stats. 2015, ch 671, AB 1164, effective October 9, 2015.
The same rule applies to common interest developments. Homeowners associations (HOAs) can no longer ban artificial turf or low-water landscaping in residential complexes. And when the drought is over, HOAs can’t require homeowners to remove or reverse the water-efficient landscaping they had installed in response to the drought. CC §4735, amended by Stats. 2015, ch 266, effective September 4, 2015.
Redevelopment redux. Since the “Great Dissolution” of redevelopment agencies in 2011, all but a few attempts to revive them have failed. The most notable success this year was AB 2 (Stats 2015, ch 319), which creates a new process to allow local governments to address blight by investing in economically disadvantaged communities. The new law, effective January 1, 2016, allows formation of a new public body called a “Community Revitalization and Investment Authority,” which will have similar powers to the former redevelopment agencies but may be formed only to help truly blighted areas. See Govt C §§62000-62200.
Longer list of protected categories for housing and public access. Effective January 1, 2016, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act will secure equal access to public accommodations and prohibit discrimination by business establishments and housing providers on three additional bases: citizenship, primary language, and immigration status. But notably, the amended law doesn’t require that any service or document be provided in a language other than English. CC §51, amended by Stats. 2015, ch 282, SB 600.
Violent crime victims can move sooner. People often want to move out of a living situation because they or household members have been victims of violent crime, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, or elder abuse. But leaving immediately can be a problem when they’re renting under leases. Existing law allows such tenants to break their leases if they provide certain documentation along with their termination notice and give at least 30 days’ notice of intent to vacate. Starting January 1, 2016, that required notice period is reduced to 14 days. CC §1946.7, amended by Stats. 2015, ch 70, AB 418.
A sweet deal for beekeepers. Bees are essential to California’s agriculture and ecosystem, and beekeepers need access to public lands for their bees to find adequate nectar and pollen. To help out with this, the Department of Fish & Wildlife can now lease state-managed public land for beekeeping, including temporary beehive placement, at below-market rent (as long as the apiary lease doesn’t require exclusive use of the land). In the past, most apiary leases in wildlife areas were hindered by competitive bidding. See Fish & G C §1745.2, Stats. 2015, ch 380, AB 1259, effective September 30, 2015.
Check your lease before listing on Airbnb. Although tenants may not be aware of it, their leases may restrict temporary occupancy by anyone other than the named tenant(s). Soon online hosting platforms for short-term rentals of private residences (like Airbnb and VRBO) will bring that point home: They will have to tell anyone listing a residence that it might violate their lease and could result in legal action by their landlord. This notice will have to be given before the listing is posted, with the lister acknowledging that he or she has read it. Bus & P C §§22590-22594, added by Stats. 2015, ch 239, SB 761, effective January 1, 2016.
Drone users beware: privacy rights now include airspace. The use of drones raises many concerns, including invasion of privacy. Now California’s already-strict privacy laws have been expanded to reach airspace: Effective January 1, 2016, anyone who knowingly enters onto the land “or into the airspace above the land” of another person without permission to take certain unauthorized pictures or recordings is liable for physical or constructive invasion of privacy. Violators and accomplices are subject to hefty penalties and fines. CC §1708.8, amended by Stats.2015, ch 521, AB 856.
Recharged support for electric car drivers. California, already on the cutting edge of energy efficiency, strongly encourages its citizens to drive electric cars. To give those energy-efficient drivers access to charging stations while away from home, the legislature has expanded the Electric Vehicle Charging Station Open Access Act to make it easier to get a permit to install an electric vehicle charging station. See Govt C §65850.7, added by Stats. 2015, ch 598, AB 1236, effective January 1, 2016.
Get more on these and other new developments in the November 2015 issue of the Real Property Reporter. And don’t miss CEB’s upcoming live program Real Property Law Practice: 2015 Year in Review in various Live locations and on Livecast in January 2016.
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