San Francisco recently revised its entire Fire Code to impose significant new requirements on residential property owners in the City. Cities in California must enforce the California Fire Code and they may enact their own codes that are at least as strict as California’s. The adoption of a completely new code is therefore actually somewhat ministerial. Of course, while these changes were not prompted by Oakland’s recent “Ghost Ship” warehouse fire, fire safety (and lawful residential use of unpermitted/unregulated property) has been under increasing public scrutiny lately.
Among other things, Ordinance 234-16 has added Section 409, which creates documentation, posting and disclosure requirements for residential buildings. Key features include:
- Section 409 applies to all residential properties with at least three dwelling units, whether or not they are rentals.
- Property owners must create floor plans for each floor, posted in common areas on each floor, showing the location of fire extinguishers, fire escapes, emergency exits and a contact at the Fire Department to report violations.
- Property owners must also create floor plans for individual units, showing the location of fire and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Property owners must provide this information to tenants in advance of their tenancy and once a year thereafter, before January 31st.
- Property owners must document their compliance by providing a Resident’s Statement to the tenants, along with the notifications and a list of tenant’s rights organizations.
- If tenants do not return an executed Resident’s Statement within 20 business days, a landlord must execute and serve an “Owner’s Statement” within 5 days. (A landlord should be vigilant about unauthorized subsequent occupants appearing on the Resident’s Statement form, policing rent increase rights accordingly. A tenant’s refusal to comply is not a just cause for eviction.)