Due to ongoing tenant complaints of substandard building conditions, California’s legislature has passed a new law to ensure local governments are responding more quickly and thoroughly towards building hazards.

Beginning July 1, 2022, Assembly Bill (AB) 838 will require local governments that receive complaints of lead hazards or other substandard building conditions from any person involved with the building to respond to those complaints through an inspection. Types of conditions that make a building “substandard” include:

  • the presence of pests;
  • lack of heat;
  • lack of access to safe drinking water;
  • structural problems;
  • fire hazards; and
  • insufficient exits. [Calif. Health & Safety Code 17920.3]

Following the inspection, the local government will need to inform the landlord of each violation found and advise them of actions required to fix the violations. The government will schedule a follow-up inspection to ensure the landlord becomes compliant.

Local governments will also need to give free copies of inspection reports to anyone who requests the forms or anyone impacted by hazard complaints.

Local governments cannot collect costs for inspection of a property, unless the findings of the inspection process produce violations.

This new law is meant to fill the gap between tenants identifying substandard conditions and landlords being made to address these issues. Prior to this new law, tenants were not always able to order building inspections, as they are not owners and in turn face additional obstacles to ordering inspections. Further, without the inspection, the landlord may not be cited. Now, local governments are required to respond to tenant complaints, holding their health and safety above bureaucracy.

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