It will take many years to complete the inspection and abatement ordered by the court, while homeowners remain in legal limbo. Yet the court’s abatement fund only applies to homes built before 1951. That leaves owners of homes built from 1951 to 1981 to finance inspections and potential abatement out of their own pockets, which is an expensive proposition.
It’s not just single-family homeowners who are in jeopardy, either. Under an existing California law meant to punish slumlords, renters in houses and apartments that have been declared a public nuisance can stop paying rent until all violations are cleared. Now, thanks to the court’s decision, law-abiding landlords who properly maintain their rental proprieties could see their monthly incomes plummet if tenants exercise this right based solely on the year the property was built.
Designating millions of homes a public nuisance is unprecedented in the United States. Lawmakers have only recently awakened to the potential impact and are considering their options. The hastily written legislation we’ve seen so far – which largely died in committee – looks like a symptom of panic. None of the proposed bills address the problems that the court decision imposes on homeowners and the communities they live in. In fact, AB 2803 – introduced by Assemblymember Monique Limon from Santa Barbara – only makes this court ruling worse by applying the public nuisance standard statewide.
The media have a major role to play in all this. Californians deserve to know how the court’s decision impacts them.
Valley homeowners need to hear what our state leaders are doing to fix this looming problem. When property owners and their families go to the polls in November, they won’t be likely to accept excuses or apologies from their public representatives.
Andor Molnar is a former director and past president of the Los Angeles County Boards of Real Estate.