Starting in about 2009, California’s Local and State laws require property owners to retrofit their property when they sell. If you purchased your property within the last 5 – 10 years, chances are the property was already retrofitted once before you bought it. In that case, the only thing you would need to do is obtain a new certificate of compliance (cost ~$100 – $150) to show you are still in compliance. If the property hasn’t sold in the past decade – you will probably have to do some retrofit work prior to selling. Retrofit expenses are part of the seller side closing cost.
The only exceptions for the retrofit requirements are if the property is historic, or it would be economically unfeasible to do so.
Licensed Plumbers/General Contractors/or Retrofit Companies are the people you hire to retrofit and fill out the Retrofit Certificate of Compliance for escrow. I usually recommend using a Retrofit Company rather than a General Contractor (job is probably too small to interest them) or a Plumber (may not be timely to deliver documents to escrow), because Retrofit Companies specialize in it.
Every city in California has it’s own laws so make sure to check with your local municipality. Escrow Retro has an excellent page that explains the different city requirements for surrounding Los Angeles neighborhoods: http://www.escrowretro.com/city-code-requirements/
The Los Angeles Building Department has another great article explaining retrofit requirements for the City of LA on their website: http://ladbs.org/services/getting-started/requirements-when-selling.
There are 4 main components to the Retrofit requirements:
-Water Conserving Plumbing Fixtures
-Earthquake Seismic Upgrades
-Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Water Conserving Plumbing Fixtures
Water Conserving Plumbing Fixtures are required by state law (Senate Bill 407, passed 2009). The bill was intended to conserve water and reduce wastewater flow to the sewage system.
We live in an arid area where drinking water is a valuable resource. For years LA residents have literally been flushing good water down the drain. The older toilets used to be 7 Gallons, 5 Gallons, or 3.5 Gallons per flush. Nowadays they are required to be 1.6 Gallons per flush. This translates into 10,000 of thousands of gallons of water savings per year per toilet.
How do I tell if my toilet is Low Flow?
You can check to see if your toilet is low flow, by looking for a label on the bowl or by taking off the tank lid and looking underneath.
Ultra Low Flow toilets are 1.28 Gallons per flush. These are not required. I usually recommend to stick with 1.6 Gallon toilets as I’ve heard complaints that ultra low flow toilets that they need to be flushed twice sometimes, so they really aren’t saving any water.
The cost to replace an old toilet with a new low flow is ~$300-$400.
Carbon monoxide detectors/smoke detectors
- Smoke Detectors
- Smoke detectors, shall be mounted on the ceiling or wall of each existing room used for sleeping purposes and at a point centrally located on the wall or ceiling of the existing corridor or area giving access to these rooms. Where a dwelling unit has more than one story or where a dwelling unit has a basement, a detector shall be installed on each story or basement. Smoke detectors may be battery operated in Single Family Dwellings only. Smoke detectors in Three Unit or More Dwellings, Condominiums and Apartments shall be hard wired and be equipped with a battery backup (Hard wired detectors installed prior to May 11, 1999 DO NOT require battery backup). Please refer to the actual code section listed below and all manufactures requirements for location and type of smoke detectors required. (Section 91.8603 L.A.M.C. – Effective Aug 1, 1980)
- Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- An owner of a dwelling or a sleeping units intended for human occupancy shall install a carbon monoxide device, approved by the State Fire Marshal and listed to UL2034 by a recognized testing agency, in each such existing unit having a fossil fuel burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or an attached garage, within the earliest applicable time period as follows: (1) For all existing single-family dwelling units intended for human occupancy on or before July 1, 2011. (2) For all other existing dwelling units intended for human occupancy on or before January 1, 2013. (Section 91.4184.108.40.206 L.A.M.C.)
Law requires that all homes have smoke detectors in sleeping areas (defined as a room with a closet) and all areas giving access to those sleeping areas (Hallways). Single-family homes may install battery-operated smoke detectors.
cost ~$80 each
Multifamily dwellings and condominiums must have hard-wired smoke detectors with battery backups.
Have you ever heard an annoying beep in a house every 10 seconds and wonder what it is? That is a low battery beep on a battery operated smoke detector. All you need to do to make it stop is replace the 9V batteries.
Seismic Gas Shutoff Valves
Los Angeles has active earthquake faults. Seismic Gas Shutoff Valves shut off the flow of natural gas during a major earthquake to prevent fire or explosion. The valve will automatically shut off gas service during an earthquake of 5.4+ magnitude. About one in four fires after an earthquake is related to natural gas leaks. Los Angeles requires automatic gas shutoff devices to be present or installed at the time of sale or during significant renovations.
Automatic gas shutoff valves are installed on buildings’ gas house line (the pipe between the gas meter and the building). Make sure you get your EQ Seismic Shutoff Valve installation permitted, for a Retrofit Companies to give you credit for having an existing seismic valve installed correctly, they need to be able to find a permit for it.
Multifamily Seismic Shutoff Valves. If you have multiple gas meters run from the same gas line, which is common in multifamily apartment buildings, sometimes you only need to install one seismic meter if they are arranged in an array. This can be significant savings, however, there is a big downside.
For EQ Seismic Meters, if they are not accessible, you should not run into this issue, but if they are hit or bumped hard, they will trigger and turn off the gas. A lot of homeowners don’t know that this is one of the most common reasons for problems with the gas not working. Consumers usually call the landlord, property management company, or Gas Company to have them turned on, when it is relatively easy to reset a tripped seismic shutoff valve yourself. All you need is a small screw driver, and to know where the meter is.
Cost $300-$400 per valve.
Water Heating Bracing
Waterheaters can tip over during an earthquake and cause fire. The strapping or bracing requirement is designed to prevent this. It is strongly recommended to have flexible connectors to the water heater. There should be two straps, one on top and one below, and they should be fastened tightly.
2 straps cost $100
Big living room windows require window glazing to prevent them from shattering during an earthquake.
Los Angeles Retrofit Companies: