This measure increases the maximum permissible fine amounts for violations or infractions of local ordinances and local building and safety codes, and offers additional tools to recover costs associated with ongoing nuisances.
Local ordinances and building and safety codes reflect policies adopted by communities to establish standards, resolve issues, maintain public and private property and protect public health and safety. There must be adequate enforcement mechanisms for these laws to be effective. Appropriate fines need to be high enough to encourage compliance, while avoiding being overly burdensome or disproportionate for the unaware or first offenders. More severe penalties should be reserved for those that violate repeatedly. The updated maximum fines in AB 345 strike this balance.
Inadequate penalties can erode respect for the law. If the consequences for violation are minimal some community members will ignore the law and create inequities in its application. For example, if an ordinance requires dry brush to be cleared for fire protection but a property owner chooses not to do so, they could be placing the neighboring homes and properties at risk. If one property owner allows trash and junk to build up on their property, it could attract vermin and devalue adjacent properties.
Despite hearings and findings of owners being in violation of local ordinances, some property owners continue to ignore the imposition of fines by the city. AB 345 will allow cities to recover fines through a lien against the property on which the nuisance is present. This change will decrease the burden to both property owners and cities in the process of fine and cost recovery.
AB 345 takes a measured approach. Property owners will continue to be afforded due process such as notification and opportunities to be heard and challenge evidence. Additionally, cities that impose higher penalties will develop a hardship waiver to reduce the amount of the fine if the fine would impose an undue financial burden. With these provisions in place, cities can work to ensure the fines encourage compliance while avoiding undue burdens for individual property owners.
AB 345 is awaiting a vote on the Senate Floor. Cities are encouraged to review and support this measure. A sample support letter, along with the League’s letter and bill language can be found at www.cacities.org/billsearch
by plugging AB 345 into the search function.