Housing Policy • August 1, 2006
The Legislature is in the middle of its summer vacation as this article is being written. When it returns, it will have to sprint to the end of the session. Several major bills are pending that will impact rental housing providers. This brief report features some of the major bills under consideration.
AB 2712 (LENO) HOUSING: SEX OFFENDERS
This bill would clarify the duties and obligations that arise for a landlord who complies with state law mandates that prevent the landlord from using information from the Megan’s law website to make decisions about whether to rent to a registered sex offender. This bill would also clarify that under current law there is no duty for a landlord to use information from Megan’s List to protect their other tenants and therefore no liability solely for having rented to a person who is registered or required to register.
The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-0 bi-partisan vote. It now goes to the Senate Floor.
BPOA took a leading role in this breakthrough legislation. We were joined in support by the California Housing Council, which represents the largest owners and developers in the state, and most of the independent landlord associations including AAGLA, MAOA, NVPOA and SBRPA. The Western Center on Law and Poverty (tenant lobby) spoke in favor of the bill as did the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMHCA). WMHCA asked for an amendment to clarify that their owners and operators of mobile home parks are covered by the liability protections that are included in the bill. The trial lawyers, who almost always oppose bills that limit liability, were neutral.
We focused our bill on liability protections and limiting landlord obligations. The essence of our argument is that it is manifestly unfair to prevent landlords from using the website to make housing decisions and leave them vulnerable to lawsuits from tenants who would claim that the landlord had a duty not to rent to a person who he knew or should have known was dangerous.
The Senate Judiciary Committee Analysis is very clear about how the bill protects owners from frivolous lawsuits. It can be viewed at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/bill/asm/ab_2701- 2750/ab_2712_cfa_20060628_165718_sen_comm.html
The importance of this favorable analysis cannot be overstated. It is now a part of the legislative record on this bill. In any future litigation that might arise, it will be reviewed by a court to help determine the purpose of the bill and the intent of the legislature.
As we stated in the past, this bill does not resolve all of the issues pertaining to Megan’s Law. However, it does accomplish the very important goal of protecting landlords from being sued merely for renting to a registered sex offender. Over the next few days, we will prepare amendments requested by the California Association of Realtors and the California Building Industry Association to clarify that the bill protects their members and we will make additional minor clean-up amendments. Once that is done, we will move the bill to the full Senate. We think the chances of passing AB 2712 are very good.
AB 1169 (TORRICO) REAL PROPERTY: RENTALS
This bill attempts to reinstate the sixty day notice when terminating a tenancy. With minor exceptions, it is identical to SB 51 (Kuehl) which we killed on the Assembly floor last year.
The bill is currently on the Senate Floor where its chances of passage are pretty good. It then goes to the Assembly.
AB 2210 (GOLDBERG) TOW TRUCK OPERATORS
This bill attempts to change the way tow trucks operate when removing vehicles. While the issue is not directed at the apartment industry, the solutions have ramifications for the industry. The essence of the bill is to prevent bandit tow truck operators from towing cars without clear authorization. The bill sets up a mechanism to ensure that the tow truck operator gets written authorization from the landlord and that he follows various legal requirements. A major problem for the industry was that the original version of the bill required the landlord or his agent to be physically present when a car is being towed. This would be a nightmare for small to medium size owners who don’t have resident managers. Amendments will be adopted stating apartment owners/managers will not have to be physically present when an illegally parked car is being towed.
The bill is before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Before we sign off, we will take a close look to ensure that the amendments go into the bill.
SB 540 (KEHOE) TENANCY: SIGNS AND FLAGS
This bill would prohibit a landlord from prohibiting a tenant from posting or displaying campaign signs relating to an election for a candidate for public office or to the initiative, referendum, or recall process. While the industry does not like the bill, it will be difficult to defeat it altogether. We have therefore attempted to mitigate the effects of the bill by demanding amendments to control the length of time that a poster can be displayed and the size of the poster.
The bill is before the Assembly
SB 1745 (KUEHL) EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
As introduced, this bill would have declared the intent of the Legislature to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in their homes and to prohibit discrimination against these victims in housing and employment. We supported the goal of protecting victims of domestic violence. However, we opposed the bill because it imposed obligations and potential liabilities on owners who have little or no control over the behavior of their tenants. After substantial industry opposition, the author deleted all references to housing in the bill. It no longer affects landlords. This was a major victory for the industry.
All of the bills can be viewed in their entirety, along with committee analyses at www.leginfo.ca.gov.
Greg McConnell is a rental housing consultant and legislative advocate. He represents and advises apartment associations, property management companies, and individual owners throughout California. For more information please visit www.themcconnellgroup.com.
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