Another year, another set of new or revised laws. There are hundreds of new or revised laws this year for California, a number of which impact the real estate community. This is the third in our series of three articles highlighting what we consider to be the most significant of these laws.
These new laws cover a wide range of topics of interest, including disclosure requirements, licensing, adjoining land owners, landlord-tenant issues, subdivisions, land use, employment, and more.
Part 3 of this series will cover laws impacting employers, contractors, and issues regarding land use.
Minimum Wage Increased to $10 Per Hour
Minimum wage in California has been increased from $8 per hour to $10 per hour. A one-dollar increment from $8 per hour to $9 per hour will come into effect on July 1, 2014, and another one-dollar increment from $9 per hour to $10 per hour will come into effect on January 1, 2016. The minimum wage has been $8 per hour since January 1, 2008. Assembly Bill 10.
We must note that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee recently commented that San Francisco is considering raising the minimum wage for the City, and that the City would evaluate the impact of a raise of the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Various Other Safeguards for Employees
The Legislature enacted a significant number of new laws this year aimed at protecting employees. A brief description of 12 of these employment laws is provided here.
The new laws protect employees engaged in the following conduct: (1) claiming unpaid wages (Assembly Bill 263 and Senate Bill 666); (2) not working during meal or rest periods (non-exempt employees) (Senate Bill 435); (3) updating personal information (Senate Bill 263); (4) disclosing information reasonably believed to be a violation of law (Senate Bill 496); (5) voluntarily providing CPR or other emergency medical services (Senate 633); (6) being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking (Senate Bill 400); (7) taking off from work to appear in a court proceeding involving the employee as a victim of certain offenses (Senate Bill 288); and (8) not disclosing a criminal conviction that has been judicially dismissed or ordered sealed as specified (Senate Bill 530).
Additional new employment laws do the following: (1) protect an employee against unfair immigration-related practices (Assembly Bill 263); (2) include military or veterans as a protected class of people who cannot be discriminated against in employment (Assembly Bill 556); (3) protect an employee against liability for a prevailing party’s attorney fees if the employee sues in good faith (Senate Bill 462); and (4) entitle an employee to liquidated damages for receiving less than minimum wage (Senate Bill 422).
City May Allow Small-Scale Urban Farms
Beginning on January 1, 2014, the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Act has been enacted to promote small-scale sustainable urban farm enterprises. This new law authorizes a city or county and a landowner to enter into a contract for at least 5 years to restrict the use of vacant, unimproved, or otherwise blighted lands for small-scale production of agricultural crops and animal husbandry. The property must be at least 0.10 acres in size. The county assessor must value property restricted for crops and animal husbandry at a rate based on the average per-acre value of irrigated cropland in California, adjusted proportionately to reflect the acreage of the property as specified. This law expires on January 1, 2019. Assembly Bill 551.
24 Month Extension for Approved Tentative Subdivision Maps
The existing time frame that an approved tentative map or vesting tentative map for subdivided parcels of land under the Subdivision Map Act has been extended by 24 months. Under existing law, an approved tentative map or vesting tentative map generally expires within 24 to 36 months, depending on local ordinance. This new law is being enacted to allow cities and counties to preserve development applications not currently being processed due to adverse economic conditions in the construction industry.
The new law, effective July 11, 2013, automatically allows an additional 24 months for any map approved on or after January 1, 2000 if the map was not expired as of July 11, 2013. A tentative map or vesting tentative map approved on or before December 31, 1999 can also be extended by 24 months if the subdivider applies for an extension at least 90 days before the expiration of the map, and the map is determined to be consistent with applicable zoning and general plan requirements. Assembly Bill 116.
Industrial Hemp Farming Allowed Subject to Federal Law
The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act has been enacted, but will not become operative unless authorized under federal law as determined by the California Attorney General. This act authorizes the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp by excluding it from the definition of “marijuana”. Industrial hemp is defined as a fiber or oilseed crop of the nonpsychoactive types of cannabis, and the seed produced therefrom, having no more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops. Industrial hemp must be cultivated and processed exclusively for certain purposes, such as producing the mature stalks, fiber, or oilseed. This law imposes various requirements on industrial hemp growers, including registration with the county agricultural commissioner. Senate Bill 566 (codified as Cal. Food and Ag. Code §§ 81000, et seq.).
CONSTRUCTION LAW ISSUES
Several new laws related to licensing for contractors are being enacted.
AB 433 – Existing law provides that the installation of fire protection systems may only be performed by contractors with a C-16 fire protection license or by owner-builders of owner-occupied, single-family dwellings. The new law will in addition authorize contractors with a C-36 plumbing license to install fire protection systems for one- or two-family dwelling units until January 1, 2017.
AB 1236 – Existing law requires contractors formed as limited liability companies to obtain and maintain insurance written by an insurer or insurers licensed by the State of California. The new law, in addition to insurers licensed by the State of California, permits such policies to be written by eligible surplus line insurers.
SB 261 – Authorizes the California Contractors State License Board (“CSLB”) to take disciplinary action against any person who uses a canceled, revoked, suspended, or altered contractor’s license, uses a forged contractor’s license, or uses or allows another to use a contractor’s license not issued to them.
SB 262 – Authorizes the CSLB to take disciplinary action against a qualifier and the licensee they are qualifying if the qualifier is not actively involved in the construction activities of the licensee. In addition to administrative penalties, the qualifier is subject to misdemeanor criminal charges including imprisonment in the county jail up to six months, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
SB 822 – Provides that licensees who submit an incomplete renewal application on or before expiration of their license will have 30 days to correct and resubmit their renewal application and not be required to pay a renewal delinquency fee.
California Labor Commissioner Given Additional Powers
The California Labor Commissioner was given the following additional powers:
AB 1336 – Existing law requires the California Labor Commissioner to issue a civil wage and assessment penalty against a contractor or a joint labor management committee to bring an action against a contractor no later than 180 days after the filing of a valid notice of completion or 180 days after acceptance of a public project, whichever occurs later. The new law permits the Labor Commissioner to issue a civil wage and assessment penalty against a contractor and a joint labor management committee to bring an action against a contractor up to 18 months after the filing of a valid notice of completion or 18 months after acceptance of a public works project, whichever occurs later. The new law also requires that contractors, when providing payroll records to a joint labor committee, disclose the names of workers and in certain cases the last 4 digits of their social security number.
AB 1386 – Existing law allows the California Labor Commissioner to obtain a judgment against a contractor with the superior court once an order, decision or award by the Labor Commissioner becomes final. The new law will in addition authorize the Labor Commissioner to record a certificate of lien on property owned by a contractor once an order, decision or award becomes final.
If you or a friend is seeking real estate legal counsel regarding a California based property, don’t hesitate to contact our law firm at (650) 327-2900 or to learn more about our firm and read attorney bios, visit us on the web at www.BrewerFirm.com.