Contributed by San Mateo County Association of Realtors:
On Wednesday, Jan. 16, the South Francisco City Council will hold a second study session on the city’s current practice of mandating a sewer lateral as well as home inspection before the sale of a private residence is allowed to close. The meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m., will be held in the City Council Chambers, located in the Municipal Services Building at 33 Arroyo Dr.
“As realtors, we have serious practical and legal concerns with South San Francisco invading the privacy of its citizens with warrantless inspections, and interfering with a citizen’s right to buy or sell their home,” said Steve Blanton, Executive Officer for the San Mateo County Association of Realtors (SAMCAR). “At the first study session last October, the city council gave specific direction to the fire department to meet with the real estate industry and come back with alternatives to these costly-time-of sale mandates."
In the course of researching the issue, SAMCAR found that some homeowners had been fined in excess of $80,000.
“The meetings have occurred; the alternatives have not. South San Francisco Citizens are mostly unaware about the city’s ability to stop the sale of their residence and assess outlandish fines in the process. These point of sale inspections are more about public finance than public safety,” Blanton said.
Councilmember Kevin Mullin stated in October that, “we don’t want to stop the sales of homes in South San Francisco, but we do want adequate safety assurances.”
SAMCAR agrees, but notes South San Francisco is the only municipality in San Mateo County that mandates home inspections for matters already covered by state law. Property disclosure requirements are required for such items as operating smoke detectors and earthquake-safe water heater strapping — the very items the city says it needs to inspect.
“That same state law also provides for sellers to comply using self-certification,” Blanton said. “The truth is these inspections are not required under state law and to top it off, the city’s ordinance expired years ago — the one they claimed gave them the authority to conduct the inspections.”
Blanton went on to explain, “even the Fire Department – who performs the home inspections — admitted there is no legally enforceable ordinance. But that does not stop them from continuing to require the inspections. Residents are protected under the 4th amendment of the Constitution from warrantless searches. The city claims this is a public safety and health issue, which would make it citywide in scope and not just limited to those who buy or sell property. The inspections are a ruse to gain access to citizens homes and to assess fines.”
How do you feel about these extra home inspections? Is the city over-stepping its boundaries or are they appropriate? Tell us in the comments!