What is California SB 655?

SB 655 is a California bill passed in 2015 that undercuts eviction-delay tactics by tenant attorneys who claim mold as a substandard housing condition.

The bill adds “visible mold” to the list of conditions that can make a property substandard or untenantable and offers property owners a number of protections from claims of mold contamination, including:

  • Visibility: Mold growth must be visible. Tenants and their attorneys Air tests can no longer be used by to delay evictions and avoid paying rent.
  • Confirmation: A health officer or code enforcement officer must determine the mold to rise to a level that endangers the life, limb, health, property safety or welfare of the public or occupants. Last minute tenant self-declarations that mold exists will be accepted.
  • Location: Mold that is minor and found on surfaces that can accumulate moisture as part of their properly functioning and intended use – like bathrooms and showers – are now excluded from the substandard code.
  • Notification: Owners must have received notice that mold exists in order to have any obligations under the law.
  • Responsibility: If the tenant caused the mold by failing to properly clean the unit or failed to use electrical fixtures like bathroom fans to keep mold out, the owner is not financially responsible.
  • Accessibility: By law, the landlord has the right to enter the property to make repairs and clean up any reported mold.

The added protections are intended to stop tenants and their attorneys from citing “nuisance” provisions of the health and safety law for litigation and eviction-delay tactics.

Who Does SB 655 Apply To?

SB 655 applies to hotels, motels, apartment houses and dwellings (including houses and homes) regardless of their construction date. Non-dwellings are excluded from SB 655.

Under SB 655, landlords are required to keep their units safe, habitable and free from violations of the State Housing Law. Landlords’ obligation to safety cannot be waived or bypassed any agreement to the contrary. SB 655 also amends landlord-tenant law so landlords are not required to remediate mold unless hey have notice of the mold or if the tenant is in violation of specific affirmative obligations. Under SB 655, substandard buildings remain subject to code enforcement by local agencies under State Housing Law, which requires enforcement agencies to give notice to owners. Dwellings with unlawful mold may be deemed uninhabitable and may be required to be vacated and/or subject to other remedies including fines and penalties.

What Other Provisions Does SB 655 Provide?

SB 655 provides guidance to local code enforcement and other public officers to determine if mold is a health and safety concern. When it mold endangers the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the building’s occupants, it is considered dangerous. If local code enforcement and other public officers determine the mold to be ‘qualified’, it is then deemed unlawful under State Housing Law. Local agencies are mandated to enforce Sate Housing Law and have the authority to issue notice to property owners to ‘abate qualified mold growth as routine housing code enforcement’.

If you are concerned about mold in your home or building, you should contact Rarefied Air Environmental today for a free quote. Our experts provide mold inspections in San Diego, can identify the source of intrusion and in many cases, provide a same-day comprehensive report for mold remediation specialists.