There are new laws governing real estate — from emotional support animals to appraisal discrimination — that took effect at the start of this month and could make a big difference for renters and housing in general.
Many of 2022’s new rules are focused on landlord-tenant relationships and efforts aimed at building more housing across the state. Gov Hutchinson, assistant general counsel for the California Association of Realtors, broke down the new laws Thursday at an event in La Jolla for local real estate agents.
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Hutchinson appeared over video screen because he said the statewide Realtor group has a policy against traveling during the COVID-19 surge. He spoke to roughly 250 members of the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors at the event in the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines.
Appraisal discrimination (AB 948)
When an appraiser comes to a house to figure out its worth, there are a lot of things to consider — but skin color is not supposed to be one of them.
This new law is aimed at stopping discrimination over race, or bias, among appraisers. One highly publicized case in the San Francisco Bay Area has a Black family suing an appraiser after they felt they were given a lower appraisal value. Their evidence? They asked a White friend to pretend to be the homeowner for a second appraisal and saw their home’s value increase by more than $500,000.
In addition to that case in Marin City, there has been a push by many academics to shine a light on bias in real estate. A recent book by Brookings senior fellow Andre Perry, “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property In America’s Black Cities,” argues that undervaluing Black communities for decades has meant far-reaching negative economic and social effects for those communities.
“We all have biases we aren’t aware of,” Hutchinson said.
The new law takes a small step by giving homeowners the option of easily filing a complaint if they believe the appraisal was low because of some type of bias — such as race, religion, gender, national origin — that will be reviewed by the Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers.
Homeowner Association emails (SB 392)
If it seems like you get a lot of mail from your homeowner association, you probably aren’t alone.
This state senate bill requires an HOA to send materials by email if that is preferred by an individual member. They can still get everything by snail mail if they want, and if you don’t tell your HOA, the default will stay snail mail.
Emotional support animals (AB 468)
It is pretty easy to get around a no pets policy if you are renting in San Diego: Just say that the dog, cat, duck or whatever is an emotional support animal. Next thing you know, that furry friend is snuggled up next to you on the couch.
This assembly bill aims to make it a little harder to do that but doesn’t outlaw the practice — just maybe makes it harder to fill out a form online the night before you move in somewhere.
AB 468 says an applicant has to get an emotional support designation for a pet from a health care practitioner who has a valid license and has been seeing the patient for at least 30 days before signing off on it.
The law was co-sponsored by Guide Dogs for the Blind and Canine Companions, who felt accommodations for service pets should be reserved for people who really need it.
There are still a host of rules aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, and reducing its financial impact, that affect landlords, agents and renters.
Hutchinson reminded agents that statewide rules say everyone must wear a mask in indoor public spaces until Feb. 15. That means open houses will require the agent and people viewing the property to be masked.
Renters struggling with payments have through March to avoid being evicted, because of a federal ban recently extended by the Biden administration. Hutchinson noted that landlords looking to evict after that must pay close attention to local eviction laws that might pop up in its place.
The biggest real estate law of the year was arguably Senate Bill 9, which allows a property owner to split a single-family property in two and put up three additional homes.
The cost for an individual owner to do this — along with a requirement they live on the property for three years — makes some experts who study housing strongly doubt the state Senate bill will have as big an impact as people think. The Terner Center at UC Berkeley said it would only be feasible for 54,500 lots to be split across San Diego County.
Hutchinson said concern about the law has already meant some communities are drafting laws to get around SB 9 by creating strict design standards for lot splits, but he suspected they would be challenged in court. Also, he has seen proposals of communities to expand historic districts — which are exempt from the law.
For instance, all of South Park has been declared a historic district by San Diego, in theory making this law ineffective there. However, Hutchinson said cities can declare under SB 9 that they wish for it to apply to historic districts. So, a San Diego community rushing to get the community declared historic might not do much.
This is an optional framework for California communities to streamline housing developments with up to 10 units in areas near transit on lots that used to be for single-family homes.
The basic gist of the effort is it would allow developers to circumvent the California Environmental Quality Act to stop environmental reviews that could delay projects by years.
A big difference between this law and SB 9 is that SB 10 is optional for cities to adopt — not a state mandate.
San Diego is one of the few cities that have publicly stated they would opt into the law. Mayor Todd Gloria announced Wednesday at his State of the City speech that the law is needed for more housing.
“(Senate Bill 10) will make it far easier to build apartments close to mass transit,” he said.