Articles Posted in Government Regulation

Legal News GavelAuthor: Staff

Buying real estate is a risky venture for investors, with buyers betting on the property increasing in value or producing a revenue stream through rental. Buyers also take various chances regarding unknown defects in the property’s title, or defects in the property itself. Researching potential defects is a critical part of any California real estate investment. California law requires sellers of certain types of real estate to make a variety of disclosures to buyers, in the interest of giving prospective buyers as much relevant information as possible. Most of these disclosure rules apply to residential real property. Some investment properties, such as rental houses, are subject to residential real estate disclosure requirements. The sale of an apartment building with more than four dwelling units, however, is not necessarily subject to those rules. It is, however, subject to other disclosure requirements, including known defects or hazards, particularly environmental hazards. California also requires disclosure of certain earthquake risks.

Residential vs. Commercial Property

Residential properties, defined as properties with one to four dwelling units, are subject to a substantial number of disclosure requirements in California. Residential rental properties can appear to fall into both categories, since they are residential for tenants, but commercial for owners. Rental houses, duplexes, and other small structures generally fall under the “residential” category. Sellers must follow the residential disclosure guidelines, even if the buyer is another investor. Larger apartment buildings, on the other hand, are not necessarily subject to those requirements.

Common Law Disclosure Requirements

A 1963 decision by a California appellate court, Lingsch v. Savage, establishes that sellers of commercial property have a duty to disclose any facts known to them that “materially affect[] the value or desirability of the property.” Failure to do so with the intention of inducing someone to purchase a property can result in civil liability for fraud.
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Legal News GavelAuthor: Staff

California’s coastline is one of the state’s greatest assets. It offers some of the best scenery in the world, draws countless tourists, and boasts some of the highest property values in the state. Coastal property offers many opportunities for California real estate investors, but a unique set of rules may apply. The California Coastal Act (CCA) regulates an area known as the Coastal Zone. Back in the 1970’s, the state created the California Coastal Commission (CCC) to enforce the CCA. An issue that has caused controversy recently in cities and towns up and down the coast involves vacation rental homes, commonly known as short-term rentals (STRs). The CCC must approve municipal regulations affecting coastal STRs. It recently rejected an ordinance in Del Mar that would have limited the duration of time STRs could be rented to the public.

A voter initiative in 1972 first established the CCC, and it became a permanent part of the state government when the California Legislature enacted the CCA in 1976. It has jurisdiction over the Coastal Zone, and a significant part of its purpose is to preserve access to the coastline and public beaches. According to state law, the Coastal Zone extends from the U.S.-Mexico border to the California-Oregon state line. It begins at the “state’s outer limit of jurisdiction” in the Pacific Ocean, and extends inland “generally 1,000 yards from the mean high tide line of the sea.” The inland extent may be less than one thousand yards in urban areas, and more in undeveloped areas. Beachfront properties almost everywhere in the state are located within the Coastal Zone. Continue reading

Legal News GavelAuthor: Staff

House flipping,” which is the process of purchasing a residential property, making improvements to it, and selling it, has been particularly popular in recent years among real estate investors in California and around the country. It often involves purchasing distressed properties, such as those that are already in, or at imminent risk of, foreclosure. Investors can therefore purchase a property well below its market value, and with a bit of work—new coats of paint, new appliances, and such—sell it for a considerably greater amount. House flipping can be subject to legal restrictions, however, including local land use ordinances and lending regulations. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), among other functions, insures many home mortgage loans. It also sets restrictions on residential properties when its mortgages are involved. These restrictions can affect house flippers who intend to sell to a buyer who needs an FHA-insured loan.

What Is the FHA?

Legal News GavelAuthor: Staff

Investing in San Diego real estate offers many great opportunities for returns, but it also poses many potential risks for losses and liabilities. Planning an investment requires researching and investigating risks associated with a particular property. This includes the property’s zoning designation and associated land use restrictions. The Land Development Code (LDC), located in Chapters 11 through 14 of the San Diego Municipal Code, sets forth the zoning regulations and procedures for properties located within the city. Zoning regulations allow certain types of construction and prohibit other types, but it is sometimes possible to get approval from the city to make an exception to the regulations, known as a variance. As a general rule, a variance cannot grant approval to a land use that has already been found to be in violation of the city code. This is why careful research on existing permits affecting a property is so important.

Zones and Regulations in San Diego

Legal News GavelAuthor: Staff

Zoning is an important part of land use planning in nearly every major city in the United States. Local governments usually have jurisdiction over land use issues. Both the City of San Diego and San Diego County have zoning ordinances and procedures for permitting construction and development in different zones. California real estate investors need to be familiar with local zoning ordinances, as well as the restrictions of land use that go along with them, before committing to an investment. While investors should always keep in mind the adage that “you can’t fight City Hall,” it is possible to challenge or change a zoning designation. In San Diego, this can happen in several ways involving the Planning Commission or the City Council. Litigation may also be a means of modifying zoning designations, although it is rarely a first resort.

The Zoning and Rezoning Processes

San Diego BayAuthor: Staff

San Diego real estate investors need to be aware of land use restrictions, such as restrictive covenants included in a deed, or zoning and other restrictions under city or county laws. Both the City of San Diego and San Diego County have zoning laws that restrict the use of land within their jurisdiction. We will focus on zoning within the City of San Diego.

What Is Zoning?

San Diego SkylineAuthor: Staff

Many California real estate projects involve common interest developments (CIDs), in which property owners have rights to various common areas in addition to the premises they own outright. In order to provide for the maintenance of common areas, owners of units in a CID are required to be members of a homeowner association (HOA). The HOA has considerable power to regulate the properties within the CID and to collect fees and assessments from members. In California, the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act (“Davis-Stirling”) governs HOAs. San Diego real estate investors are likely to encounter HOAs. New developments will require the creation of a new HOA, while investors who buy existing properties might be bound by HOA rules.

Common Interest Development

California coastAuthor: Staff

California offers more than 1,100 miles of coastline, greater than the distance over land between San Diego and Seattle. Owning beachfront property is a dream for countless people, and it can be an excellent investment. Owning coastal property in California comes with obligations, however, including restrictions on development and, in some areas, public beach access. The California Coastal Commission (CCC) regulates the development and use of coastal property. San Diego real estate investors looking at beachfront property anywhere in the state should consider how CCC rules may affect them.

The California Coastal Commission