March 16, 2017

Rental property owners and managers face strict laws intended to provide protections for tenants. There are three developments in California landlord-tenant law that you should be aware of if you own or manage any rental property.

First, AB 551 amends several sections of the California Civil Code to address bed bugs in rental properties. The most pressing amendment requires landlords to give a notice to new tenants containing particular language on and after July 1, 2017, and to give the same notice to existing tenants by January 1, 2018. The legislation also prohibits a landlord from retaliating against a tenant who gives notice of a suspected bed bug infestation, and from showing, renting or leasing a rental property the landlord knows has bed bugs. In addition, the legislation requires landlords to give notice of their intent to enter a unit to inspect and treat a bed bug infestation, and requires tenants to cooperate with such inspections and treatments. Finally, the legislation requires landlords to inform tenants within two business days after receiving the results of a bed bug inspection. The full text of the amendments can be found at Civil Code Sections 1942.5 and 1954.600 through 1954.605, and the language to be included in the notice can be found at Section 1954.603(a).

Second, AB 1732 requires all single-user bathrooms that are open to the public to be identified by their signage as “all-gender” as opposed to “men’s” and “women’s”. If a landlord has a single-user bathroom that is available to the public on its premises, it must be in compliance with this legislation as of March 1, 2017. This law is not limited to rental properties, but extends to single-user bathrooms located on any property that is open to the public.

Third, AB 2819 amends previous law providing that court records regarding eviction cases are unavailable to the public, or “masked,” for sixty days after a case is filed and available thereafter, regardless of the outcome of the case. The new law provides that court records regarding eviction cases will be permanently masked in any case in which the landlord does not prevail within sixty days after the case is filed. The legislature believes the new law “strikes a just balance between ensuring open access to public records and protecting the credit and reputation of innocent tenants.” The full text of the amendments can be found at California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 1161.2 and 1167.1.

Each of these new laws is part of current social trends. Hotels were the first to draw the attention of regulators with regard to bed bugs, so it is not surprising that attention has turned to how this issue may be impacting rental properties. The all-gender signage law is an expression of public policy in California regarding transgender access to bathrooms. And the “masked” eviction law is one of numerous laws that have been enacted following the Financial Crisis to ease the financial difficulties many faced then and continue to face today. All landlords would be wise to familiarize themselves with these developments, because new laws often attract heightened attention and enforcement efforts from regulatory agencies and tenant advocates. Act now to ensure that you are in compliance.

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