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New Year, News Laws for Real Property Lawyers

thinkstockphotos-498422290The California legislature has enacted several new laws that may affect your real property law practice. Here’s an overview of some of the key statutory changes you need to know about.

 

  • Prelitigation requirements for homeowners associations are extended.
    To cut down on suits, homeowners associations must follow a special dispute resolution (meet and confer) process before they can sue their builder for damages from construction defects. Apparently the Legislature believes this required prelitigation process (known as the Calderon Procedures) has been successful, because they pushed off its expiration date by seven years to July 1, 2024. See CC §6000(s), as amended by Stats. 2016, ch 71, AB 1963 (effective January 1, 2017).
  • More privacy for tenants who are being evicted.
    Tenants named in eviction suits that take over 60 days to resolve have a big problem: Their names end up in “unlawful detainer registries,” resulting in negative credit reports even if they ultimately win their cases. But things will soon improve for tenants in this situation. Starting January 1, 2017, the case records in eviction actions will remain sealed from public view unless the landlord prevails within 60 days after filing the suit or the court later orders unsealing. But before tenants’ attorneys get too excited, beware that the bill’s amendments have caused confusion and will be difficult to implement. See CCP §1161.2, as amended by Stats. 2016, ch 336, AB 2819 (effective January 1, 2017).
  • The task of finding developable land is looking up!
    Every California city and county must identify where new homes can be built as part of its general plan. This task is getting harder as the state runs out of developable land. The solution? Go up. Beginning in 2017, the definition of “land suitable for residential development” will include the airspace above sites owned or leased by cities and counties. So don’t be surprised to see new apartments built above your local City Hall or County Clerk’s Office! See Govt C §65583.2, as amended by Stats. 2016, ch 460, AB 2208 (effective January 1, 2017).
  • Good news for those immune from hazmat cleanup costs.
    We all know that hazardous waste cleanup is extremely expensive. But innocent landowners, bona fide purchasers, and next-door neighbors are off the hook for cleanup costs if they qualify for immunity under the California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act of 2004. That Act was set for repeal soon, but luckily for its beneficiaries, it’s been extended to January 1, 2027. Plus, the immunity of everyone qualified under the Act before the new repeal date will extend after that date if they continue to comply with the Act. See Health & S C §§25395.109-25395.110, as amended by Stats. 2016, ch 166, SB 820 (effective January 1, 2017).
  • Do sellers have to disclose to buyers that someone died on the property?
    It’s been the law in California for 30 years that property sellers and their agents aren’t liable for failing to tell prospective buyers or tenants that an occupant of the home died or had AIDS. That law now goes a step further to state that there’s no affirmative duty to disclose such information. But, as before, if a prospective buyer or tenant directly asks about deaths on the property, then the seller or agent must answer truthfully. See CC §1710.2, as amended by Stats. 2016, ch 548, AB 73 (effective September 24, 2016).
  • More disability access disclosure rules for commercial properties.
    To encourage landlords and tenants to address accessibility during lease negotiations, a new law requires commercial landlords to give prospective tenants a copy of any Certified Access Specialist (CASp) report at least 48 hours before they sign the lease or else the tenant can rescind the lease within 72 hours after signing it. If the property hasn’t had a CASp inspection, the tenant may request one and the parties would then have to agree on arrangements for the inspection and how to pay for any needed repairs. See CC §1938, as amended by Stats. 2016, ch 379, AB 2093 (effective September 16, 2016).
  • Know this before suing a school or business for accessibility issues.
    When sending a prelitigation demand letter or serving a complaint alleging a construction-related accessibility claim against a California school, college, or university, attorneys must follow new requirements effective January 1, 2017: (1) send a copy of the letter or complaint (along with information about the complaint) to the California Commission on Disability Access within five days; and then (2) notify the Commission within five days after any judgment, settlement, or dismissal of the claims. Not doing so is cause for attorney discipline. CC §54.27 added by Stats. 2016, ch 892, SB 1406 (effective January 1, 2017). There are already similar reporting requirements when accessibility demand letters and complaints are served on business establishments open to the public (other than schools). But now there’s another requirement for accessibility claims against this broader class of establishments: Certain information about the demand letter and the complaint has to be submitted to the Commission on its website. See CC §54.32, as amended by Stats. 2016, ch 872, AB 54 (effective January 1, 2017).

Get more details on all of these statutory developments as well as others in the featured article of the November issue of CEB’s Real Property Law Reporter, which is included in CEB’s OnLAW® Real Property Law Library — a virtual encyclopedia of real property law. And don’t miss CEB’s upcoming live program Real Property Law Practice: 2016 Year in Review in various locations (and Livecast) starting on January 20, 2017.

Check out all CEBblog™ posts on real property law.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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