Over the past ten years, RAMP and key partners have worked together to advance legislation to fix gaps in the state’s housing code, including closing loopholes related to pest infestations, ensuring tenants are notified when pesticides are used on a property, and adding visible mold as an enforceable substandard housing condition. With many key issues related to the state code fixed, we have turned our attention to how those standards are enforced. We are proud to announce that we will be sponsoring two bills this year seeking to improve and support local code enforcement.
First, along with our partners in the California Healthy Housing Coalition, we are concerned that the vast majority of jurisdictions in the state rely on tenant complaints to identify substandard housing conditions. The reality is that most unhealthy conditions go unreported because tenants often don’t know they can file a complaint, nor do they know the process. When they do know, they are often reluctant for fear of rent increases or eviction. In many cases, problems have to become severe before a tenant will be willing to contact code enforcement.
With these shortcomings in mind, we are sponsoring AB 548 with Assemblymember Boerner-Horvath. Based off of an approach developed in Fremont, CA, this bill will introduce a proactive element to complaint-based code enforcement by requiring code enforcement officers to inspect additional units at a multi-family property if they find severe violations in one unit that they reasonably expect could be found in other units (e.g., plumbing problems, mold, pests, lead hazards, etc.). This will help uncover building-wide problems with just one tenant complaint. For more details, see this fact sheet.
Another key challenge is that code enforcement is chronically under-resourced across the state. When resources don’t meet the demands for code enforcement services, code enforcement agencies are limited in their ability to test new ideas and strategies. In partnership with the California Association of Code Enforcement Officers, we are co-sponsoring SB 356 by Senator Archuleta. This bill will restore funding to and modernize the Code Enforcement Incentive Grant Program. These grants can provide seed funding to allow local code enforcement to innovate by investing in new technologies, improving training, expanding community partnerships, and/or trying new strategies to be more proactive or targeted in their enforcement of housing codes. For more details, see this fact sheet.
If your organization would like to be listed as a supporter for one or both of these bills, please contact RAMP’s Senior Policy Associate, Brandon Kitagawa. We will provide updates as these bills move through the legislature, including when and how you can submit letters of support.