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Your Legal Corner - Client Alert Blog

California Tenants Have New Protections Against Rats and Bed Bugs

Written By: Melissa C. Marsh, Esq., California Attorney, October 2013 Add to Favorites
Under existing law, a building or portion thereof including any dwelling unit, room or suite of rooms, or the premises on which these are located, is deemed to be ""substandard"" if specified conditions exist to an extent that endangers the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants.

Under newly enacted legislation, the California legislature has declared that exposure to pests (including roaches and rats) in one’s home has clear health impacts. According to the legislature, cockroaches are known to produce allergens that trigger asthma, especially in children, mouse and rat allergen sensitization and exposure are deemed to contribute to asthma exacerbations, and bedbugs infestations have been linked to severe mental stress.

The California Health and Safety Code also deems infestations of pests and vermin (e.g. roaches and rats) substandard housing. However, existing state law limits the authority to cite for such infestations to the county health officers. As a result, there are many jurisdictions (cities) that do not have a government agency with the legal authority to enforce the law, and this has left many tenants with unresponsive landlords in housing with pests and vermin problems with no recourse to ensure their housing is safe and habitable.

Effective January 1, 2014, SB 488 amends Section 17920.3 of the Health and Safety Code to specify that:

(a) Inadequate sanitation shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

(1) Lack of, or improper water closet, lavatory, or bathtub or shower in a dwelling unit.

(2) Lack of, or improper water closets, lavatories, and bathtubs or showers per number of guests in a hotel.

(3) Lack of, or improper kitchen sink.

(4) Lack of hot and cold running water to plumbing fixtures in a hotel.

(5) Lack of hot and cold running water to plumbing fixtures in a dwelling unit.

(6) Lack of adequate heating.

(7) Lack of, or improper operation of required ventilating equipment.

(8) Lack of minimum amounts of natural light and ventilation required by this code.

(9) Room and space dimensions less than required by this code.

(10) Lack of required electrical lighting.

(11) Dampness of habitable rooms.

(12) Infestation of insects, vermin, or rodents as determined by a health officer or, if an agreement does not exist with an agency that has a health officer, the infestation can be determined by a code enforcement officer, as defined in Section 829.5 of the Penal Code, upon successful completion of a course of study in the appropriate subject matter as determined by the local jurisdiction.

(13) General dilapidation or improper maintenance.

(14) Lack of connection to required sewage disposal system.

(15) Lack of adequate garbage and rubbish storage and removal facilities, as determined by a health officer or, if an agreement does not exist with an agency that has a health officer, the lack of adequate garbage and rubbish removal facilities can be determined by a code enforcement officer as defined in Section 829.5 of the Penal Code.

(b) Structural hazards shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

(1) Deteriorated or inadequate foundations.

(2) Defective or deteriorated flooring or floor supports.

(3) Flooring or floor supports of insufficient size to carry imposed loads with safety.

(4) Members of walls, partitions, or other vertical supports that split, lean, list, or buckle due to defective material or deterioration.

(5) Members of walls, partitions, or other vertical supports that are of insufficient size to carry imposed loads with safety.

(6) Members of ceilings, roofs, ceiling and roof supports, or other horizontal members which sag, split, or buckle due to defective material or deterioration.

(7) Members of ceilings, roofs, ceiling and roof supports, or other horizontal members that are of insufficient size to carry imposed loads with safety.

(8) Fireplaces or chimneys which list, bulge, or settle due to defective material or deterioration.

(9) Fireplaces or chimneys which are of insufficient size or strength to carry imposed loads with safety.

(c) Any nuisance.

(d) All wiring, except that which conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation if it is currently in good and safe condition and working properly.

(e) All plumbing, except plumbing that conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation and has been maintained in good condition, or that may not have conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation but is currently in good and safe condition and working properly, and that is free of cross connections and siphonage between fixtures.

(f) All mechanical equipment, including vents, except equipment that conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation and that has been maintained in good and safe condition, or that may not have conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation but is currently in good and safe condition and working properly.

(g) Faulty weather protection, which shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

(1) Deteriorated, crumbling, or loose plaster.

(2) Deteriorated or ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls, roofs, foundations, or floors, including broken windows or doors.

(3) Defective or lack of weather protection for exterior wall coverings, including lack of paint, or weathering due to lack of paint or other approved protective covering.

(4) Broken, rotted, split, or buckled exterior wall coverings or roof coverings.

(h) Any building or portion thereof, device, apparatus, equipment, combustible waste, or vegetation that, in the opinion of the chief of the fire department or his deputy, is in such a condition as to cause a fire or explosion or provide a ready fuel to augment the spread and intensity of fire or explosion arising from any cause.

(i) All materials of construction, except those that are specifically allowed or approved by this code, and that have been adequately maintained in good and safe condition.

(j) Those premises on which an accumulation of weeds, vegetation, junk, dead organic matter, debris, garbage, offal, rodent harborages, stagnant water, combustible materials, and similar materials or conditions constitute fire, health, or safety hazards.

(k) Any building or portion thereof that is determined to be an unsafe building due to inadequate maintenance, in accordance with the latest edition of the Uniform Building Code.

(l) All buildings or portions thereof not provided with adequate exit facilities as required by this code, except those buildings or portions thereof whose exit facilities conformed with all applicable laws at the time of their construction and that have been adequately maintained and increased in relation to any increase in occupant load, alteration or addition, or any change in occupancy. When an unsafe condition exists through lack of, or improper location of, exits, additional exits may be required to be installed.

(m) All buildings or portions thereof that are not provided with the fire-resistive construction or fire-extinguishing systems or equipment required by this code, except those buildings or portions thereof that conformed with all applicable laws at the time of their construction and whose fire-resistive integrity and fire-extinguishing systems or equipment have been adequately maintained and improved in relation to any increase in occupant load, alteration or addition, or any change in occupancy.

(n) All buildings or portions thereof occupied for living, sleeping, cooking, or dining purposes that were not designed or intended to be used for those occupancies.

(o) Inadequate structural resistance to horizontal forces.

SB 488 further amends Section 17961 of the Health and Safety Code to provide local code enforcement officers the legal authority to identify and abate substandard conditions of apartment houses, hotels, or dwellings including an infestation of pests and vermin (e.g. rats) when a local health officer is not available. The local code enforcement officer. however, must first successfully complete a course of study in the appropriate subject matter as determined by the city before being authorized to provide such citations.


Tags: bed bugs
Posted In: Real Estate Reporter 


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Disclaimer: The information presented on this web site was prepared by Melissa C. Marsh for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information provided in my articles and alerts should not be relied upon, or used as a substitute for professional legal advice from an attorney you retain to advise or represent you. Your use of this Internet site does not create an attorney- client relationship. Transmission of this article is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. All uses of the contents of this site, other than personal uses, are prohibited. You may print or email a copy of any information posted on this web site for your own personal, non-commercial, use, but you may not publish any of the articles or posts on this web site without the Express Written Permission of Melissa C. Marsh.


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Located in Los Angeles, California, the Law Office of Melissa C. Marsh handles business law and corporation law matters as a lawyer for clients throughout Los Angeles including Burbank, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Valley Village, North Hollywood, Woodland Hills, Hollywood, West LA as well as Riverside County, San Fernando, Ventura County, and Santa Clarita. Attorney Melissa C. Marsh has considerable experience handling business matters both nationally and internationally. We routinely assist our clients with incorporation, forming a California corporation, forming a California llc, partnership, annual minutes, shareholder meetings, director meetings, getting a taxpayer ID number (EIN), buying a business, selling a business, commercial lease review, employee disputes, independent contractors, construction, and personal matters such as preparing a will, living trust, power of attorney, health care directive, and more.