In this month’s column, we focus on a City of Los Angeles ordinance that may impact many property owners in San Pedro.
As a landlord or property owner, it is your responsibility to be aware of the latest compliance regulations in the City of L.A. As a renter or tenant, it is important to know if the building you reside in meets certain safety requirements. With this in mind, the L. A. City Department of Building and Safety passed Ordinance 183893 & 184081, which officially created the Soft-Story Retrofit Program. The intent of this program is to bring structures, meeting the following criteria, up to current building standards:
- Consist of 2 or more stories of wood frame construction
- Built under building code standards enacted before January 1, 1978
- Contains ground floor parking or similar open space under living units (soft story)
Some may view this as another opportunity for the City of L.A. to collect fees on permits and inspections. However, it is important to consider the potential consequences of living in an outdated structure. We live in a region where the risk of high-level earthquakes is real, with the possibility of causing devastating damage to commercial and residential properties that are not properly reinforced. This may also result in severe bodily injury or death. Take a few minutes to search online for images of structures that do not meet certain building requirements and the amount of damage caused during and after an earthquake. It’s pretty scary.
How do you find out if your property meets the City of L.A.’s Soft-Story Retrofit criteria? The Department of Building and Safety has created a convenient website that allows property owners to plug in their address to see if their property falls under the requirements of this program. Simply head to ladbs.org, search “Soft-Story Retrofit,” and type in the property address into the search field. If your property has been identified as one falling into this program, it will be listed on this site. Property owners will also be sent an order to comply from the City of L.A. Please note that the Soft-Story Retrofit Program does not apply to properties with three or less units.
What if your property has been identified as one that meets the criteria for the Soft-Story Retrofit Program? These are the steps required to bring your property into compliance:
- The property owner must hire an engineer or architect licensed in the state of California to evaluate the strength of the building. The engineer or architect must then develop plans for the building’s seismic strengthening in compliance with this program. The owner must notify tenants in writing per HCIDLA regulations.
- Submit proof of previous retrofit, plans to retrofit, or plans to demolish to the Department of Building and Safety. Plans and calculations will be checked for compliance with the retrofit ordinance. LADBS will provide guidance for all necessary steps to obtain the retrofit permit, which includes obtaining clearances from all pertinent agencies.
- Begin construction and request inspections online using L.A. City Building Online Services.
Deadlines to follow upon receipt of the order to comply from L.A. City:
- 2 years: Submit proof of previous retrofit, or plans to retrofit or demolish
- 3.5 years: Obtain all permits to start construction or demolition
- 7 years: Complete construction/demolition and finalize permits
How much can this potentially cost a property owner? The costs can vary depending on requirements, but it is quite conceivable that it may cost a property owner thousands of dollars, depending on size, condition, etc. As a property owner, you have important options that you will need to consider. Are you financially prepared to cover the cost of compliance and are you willing to complete the work? This is certainly one option that may be viable depending on your short and long-term goals with the property. There is also the option to sell the property without meeting the retrofit standards. Should you do this, it would need to be disclosed to any potential buyer so that they may complete their due diligence before proceeding with the sale.
As a property owner, you may always choose to not complete the required retrofitting work. Opting to not do the required work may be negotiated as part of the sale and could impact your sales price. We recommend that you gather as much information as possible so that you are informed, know your options, and can make decisions that are best for you as a property owner.
Mike Harper & Peter Hazdovac are both licensed local realtors with Keller Williams.