BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 1513
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          ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
          AB 1513 (Fox)
          As Amended May 6, 2014
          Majority vote 

           JUDICIARY           9-1         APPROPRIATIONS      16-0        
           
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          |Ayes:|Wieckowski, Wagner,       |Ayes:|Gatto, Bigelow,           |
          |     |Alejo, Chau, Dickinson,   |     |Bocanegra, Bradford, Ian  |
          |     |Garcia, Gorell,           |     |Calderon, Campos, Eggman, |
          |     |Maienschein, Muratsuchi   |     |Gomez, Holden, Jones,     |
          |     |                          |     |Linder, Pan, Quirk,       |
          |     |                          |     |Ridley-Thomas, Wagner,    |
          |     |                          |     |Weber                     |
          |-----+--------------------------+-----+--------------------------|
          |Nays:|Stone                     |     |                          |
          |     |                          |     |                          |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
           SUMMARY  :  Establishes, until 2018, a pilot program to facilitate  
          enforcement of criminal trespassing laws against persons  
          occupying residential property that, pursuant to the program,  
          has been registered with and verified by local law enforcement  
          to be vacant.  Specifically,  this bill  :   

          1)Authorizes the owner of vacant real property, or his agent, to  
            register vacant property with the local police agency using a  
            specified form, signed under penalty of perjury, and attesting  
            that the property is vacant and is not authorized to be  
            occupied by any person.

          2)Requires the registration to be accompanied by a statement  
            providing the name, address and telephone number at which the  
            owner can be contacted within a 24-hour period, and a  
            statement that either the police agency or a licensed private  
            security services company has been retained to comply with  
            specified inspection and reporting provisions, together with a  
            copy of any agreement or contract to perform such services.

          3)Requires the owner or the owner's agent to register the vacant  
            property no later than three days after learning that the  
            property is vacant.

          4)Authorizes the owner or his agent to execute a "Declaration of  








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            Ownership," worded as specified or in substantially similar  
            language, and file it with the district attorney of the  
            jurisdiction in which the property is located.  Further  
            requires the owner to post the declaration on the unoccupied  
            residential property listed in the declaration if he also  
            files it with the district attorney.

          5)Requires the owner or owner's agent, immediately after  
            authorizing a person to occupy the vacant property, to issue a  
            written authorization to the person authorized to occupy the  
            property and notify the police agency where the property is  
            registered and terminate the registration.

          6)Requires a licensed private security services company or  
            police agency retained by the owner or owner's agent pursuant  
            to the pilot program to inspect the vacant property not less  
            than once every three days, and immediately notify the police  
            agency where the property is registered if any unauthorized  
            person is found on the property.

          7)Requires the police agency where the property is registered to  
            respond to the property as soon as practicable after being  
            notified by the licensed security business that an  
            unauthorized person is found on the property.  Further  
            requires the responding officer to do all of the following:

             a)   Verify that the property was inspected at least three  
               days prior and found to be vacant by the licensed security  
               business or police agency.

             b)   Ascertain the identity of any persons found on the  
               property.

             c)   Require the production of written authorization to be on  
               the property.

             d)   Advise any person who does not produce written  
               authorization that the person has 48 hours to obtain  
               written authorization from the owner of the property, or  
               the owner's agent, to be on the property, and that the  
               person will be subject to arrest for trespass if the person  
               is subsequently found on the property without such  
               authorization.









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             e)   Verify with the owner or the owner's agent that the  
               property is vacant.                                          


          8)Provides that any person found on vacant property not less  
            than 48 hours after receiving the above warning notification  
            is guilty of trespass and, upon conviction, is subject to  
            imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a  
            fine not exceeding $1,000, or both.

          9)Provides that the local city council or board of supervisors  
            shall establish fees for registering a vacant property with  
            the local police agency and for the conduct of inspections by  
            the police agency pursuant to this bill.

          10)Limits application of these provisions to residential  
            property consisting of one to four units, located in the  
            Cities of Palmdale and Lancaster, in Los Angeles County.

          11)Establishes a sunset date of January 1, 2018, for these  
            provisions. 

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations  
          Committee, the costs for the two cities in the pilot program to  
          process registrations and to conduct inspections, when so  
          requested by a property owner, should be covered by the fees  
          authorized in the bill.  To establish the program and the  
          registration system, each city might incur some start-up costs,  
          which would be state reimbursable but should be minor.  Finally,  
          both cities will incur non-reimbursable costs for enforcement,  
          offset to some extent by fine revenues.

           COMMENTS  :  This bill, sponsored by the California Association of  
          Realtors, seeks to provide property owners with an additional  
          tool to enforce criminal trespass laws in cities where the  
          so-called practice of "squatting" by unauthorized occupants in  
          residential property poses a problem to the community at large.   
          According to the author, "Unlawful detainer laws are not  
          specifically designed to provide law enforcement officials the  
          tools they need to assist owners of residential real property in  
          their efforts to remove, or prevent occupancy by squatters on  
          vacant properties.  It is clear that under California law it can  
          take a minimum of 30-60 days to evict a sophisticated squatter.   
          This bill will provide a definitive remedy for owners of  








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          residences in California that have been taken over by  
          squatters."
           
           The bill outlines a pilot project to allow property owners to  
          declare property to be vacant, register it with local law  
          enforcement, and gain greater certainty that any subsequent  
          trespasser upon the property will be subject to arrest for  
          trespassing, so long as regular inspection of the property at  
          three day intervals has confirmed it to be vacant since the date  
          of registration.

          According to the intent language of the bill, the program is  
          intended to provide a means to deter squatting at an early stage  
          and to provide a second chance for squatters to vacate the  
          premises in lieu of arrest, and is not intended to be an  
          abridgment of other statutes relating to trespass or civil  
          eviction proceedings.  It is believed that the threat of arrest  
          for trespassing on a property registered under this program (and  
          so noticed on the property itself) will serve as a deterrent to  
          those persons who the author and sponsor believe to be  
          sophisticated squatters targeting vacant properties in many  
          California cities.  

          The property owner registering the property under this program  
          must provide a phone number he can be reached at within a  
          24-hour period, which is intended to enable law enforcement to  
          quickly contact the owner should unauthorized occupants ever be  
          discovered on the property during one of the regular inspections  
          required under the program.  In addition, the owner must retain  
          either law enforcement or a private security service to  
          regularly inspect the vacant property, and provide a copy of the  
          contract or agreement to perform those services at the time of  
          registration.  The security company or law enforcement agent  
          must then inspect the vacant property at least every three days  
          to ensure it is vacant. 

          According to the author, this key requirement is intended to  
          ensure that the properties registered with this program truly  
          are vacant properties from the first day of registration, and  
          are not occupied by holdover tenants or any other persons with  
          legitimate claim to possess the property.  It is thought that  
          the regular inspection of the property at least once every three  
          days will reveal quickly whether the property is a foreclosure  
          property with a holdover tenant, or a vacant property as  








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          declared to be by the owner under penalty of perjury.  If the  
          property is established to be vacant as a condition of  
          registration, then subsequent discovery of an occupant on the  
          property would indicate that the person indeed fits the  
          description of a "squatter," and is not a holdover tenant who  
          had been living openly in the property, never having any idea  
          that the owner had sworn the property to be vacant despite the  
          occupant's presence.

          Under the program, law enforcement is required to respond soon  
          after being notified that an unauthorized person has been found  
          on the property.  The bill provides that law enforcement  
          responding to a first call shall not arrest the person for  
          trespass, but instead advise him or her that written  
          authorization from the owner must be acquired within 48 hours,  
          or the person is subject to arrest upon the officer's next  
          inspection of the property.  According to the sponsor, this  
          simple allowance provides a second chance for any unauthorized  
          occupant to vacate the premises in lieu of arrest, and  
          demonstrates the author's commitment to avoid arrest of people  
          who might otherwise be persuaded to move along after a single  
          visit from law enforcement.  For those who are arrested and  
          convicted of trespass under this bill, the criminal penalty is  
          imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year and a fine of  
          up to $1,000, or both.

          The pilot program established by this bill applies to  
          residential property of one to four units, with the Cities of  
          Palmdale and Lancaster named as the initial cities to  
          participate in the program.  The author anticipates that several  
          more cities will voluntarily seek to be included as the bill  
          moves forward, given the reported prevalence of squatting in  
          certain areas of California where vacant homes are common as a  
          result of the recent foreclosure crisis.  Recent author  
          amendments attempt to address workability problems with the  
          proposed pilot program, and signal the author's continued  
          willingness to work with opponents and other stakeholders as the  
          bill moves forward.

          This bill is opposed by a number of tenant advocate groups, who  
          contend that the bill compromises established due process  
          protections for occupants of property who may be legitimately  
          entitled to possession of the premises.  They state, "This bill  
          would substantially change landlord-tenant law, bypassing the  








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          most basic due process requirement of an opportunity to be heard  
          in court.  Proponents have made no showing that existing laws  
          governing trespass and eviction are insufficient to sort out  
          occupancy by unauthorized persons.  For years, post-foreclosure  
          owners blatantly violated tenants' rights by improperly treating  
          tenants as unknown occupants, utilizing a loophole in state law  
          that was recently addressed by the tenant protections in the  
          Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR).  HBOR allows any tenant in the  
          property unnamed in an unlawful detainer action to file a claim  
          of right to possession at any time to get a hearing to determine  
          whether the tenant can become a party to the eviction action.   
          By allowing owners to circumvent the entire court eviction  
          process when the right to occupy is disputed, the current  
          proposal would undermine the very protections the legislature  
          just adopted in HBOR."
          

          Analysis Prepared by  :   Anthony Lew / JUD. / (916) 319-2334 


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