BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 1513
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          CONCURRENCE IN SENATE AMENDMENTS
          AB 1513 (Fox)
          As Amended August 21, 2014
          Majority vote 
           
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          |ASSEMBLY:  |68-3 |(May 19, 2014)  |SENATE: |36-0 |(August 27,    |
          |           |     |                |        |     |2014)          |
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           Original Committee Reference:    PUB. S.  

           SUMMARY  :  Establishes, until 2018, a pilot program to facilitate  
          removal of persons unlawfully 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  
            Ownership," worded as specified or in substantially similar  
            language, and file it with the appropriate local law  
            enforcement agency where 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 local law enforcement.

          5)Requires the owner or owner's agent, immediately after  








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            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, and requires the  
            responding officer to take a number of actions, including  
            ascertaining the identity of any persons found on the  
            property, and notifying any person who does not produce  
            written authorization or other evidence demonstrating the  
            person's right to possession that the owner may obtain a  
            temporary restraining order, and that he or she may be subject  
            to arrest for trespass if the person is subsequently found on  
            the property in violation of that court order.

          8)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, including all  
            activities conducted by the law enforcement agency in  
            responding to unauthorized persons on the property, as  
            described above.

          9)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.

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

           The Senate amendments  :  

          1)Require the owner or the owner's agent, immediately upon the  
            sale of the vacant property, to notify local law enforcement  
            that the property has been sold, and to terminate the  








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            registration of property previously registered pursuant to the  
            program.

          2)Clarify that a person found on the property by responding law  
            enforcement shall be required to produce written authorization  
            to be on the property or other evidence demonstrating the  
            person's right to possession.

          3)Provide that a property owner who files a Declaration of  
            Ownership under this bill that includes false information  
            regarding the right to possess the property is liable to any  
            person who, as a result of the Declaration, is caused to  
            vacate the property, for reasonable attorney's fees, special  
            damages not to exceed $2,000, and all damages resulting from  
            the person having to vacate the property.

          4)Authorize the owner to file an action for a temporary  
            restraining order (TRO) and injunctive relief against any  
            person found on the vacant property not less than 48 hours  
            after that person has been notified by local law enforcement  
            to produce written authorization to be on the property or  
            other evidence demonstrating right to possession, or face  
            arrest.

          5)Specify all of the following:  a) the method of service of the  
            summons and complaint for an action seeking a TRO; b) the  
            authority of the court to order a hearing on the TRO and  
            require its enforcement in not less than 48 hours; and c) the  
            disposition of personal property on the premises belonging to  
            a person subject to the TRO.

          6)Authorize the City of Ukiah in Mendocino County to participate  
            in the pilot program.
           
          FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Senate Appropriations  
          Committee:

          1)Non-reimbursable local enforcement costs, offset to a degree  
            by fine revenue for misdemeanor violations of the provisions  
            of this bill.

          2)Ongoing non-reimbursable local law enforcement agency costs to  
            process registrations, conduct inspections, and perform other  
            duties upon notification of trespassing on a property, to be  
            offset by the authority to establish fees for all activities.








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          3)Likely minor one-time state-reimbursable costs (General Fund)  
            for pilot project cities to set up the program and  
            registration system.

           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  
          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 obtain a TRO against any person not authorized  
          to be on the property.  The pilot program established by this  
          bill applies to residential property of one to four units, with  
          the Cities of Palmdale, Lancaster, and Ukiah named as the  
          initial cities to participate in the program.

          According to the intent language of the bill, the program is  
          intended to provide a means to prevent squatting in vacant  
          residential property and to provide a timely and orderly  
          procedure 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.

          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  








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          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  
          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 the person that he or she must  
          produce written authorization from the owner to be on the  
          property or other evidence demonstrating right to possession, or  
          the owner may seek to obtain a TRO and the person is subject to  
          arrest for trespass if subsequently found on the property in  
          violation of that order.  According to the sponsor, this  
          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.  

          The bill allows an owner of vacant real property to file an  
          action for a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief  
          against any person who is found on the property not less than 48  
          hours after that person has been notified by local law  
          enforcement to produce written authorization from the owner to  








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          be on the property or other evidence demonstrating right to  
          possession.  Without either being produced, that person  
          subsequently may face arrest for trespass, pursuant to Penal  
          Code Section 602.5, for failing to vacate the property pursuant  
          to the TRO.  Penal Code Section 602.5 currently provides for a  
          criminal penalty of imprisonment in the county jail for up to  
          one year and a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
           

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


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