CA Homeowner Bill of Rights


Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law the Homeowner Bill of Rights to help struggling Californians keep their homes. This law’s objective is to avoid foreclosure whenever possible and prevent other negative effects of foreclosures on families, communities and the economy. This law will generally come into effect on January 1, 2013 and only pertains to first trust deeds secured by owner-occupied properties with one-to-four residential units, unless otherwise indicated. Some of the requirements of this law do not apply to smaller banks that, during the preceding annual reporting period, foreclosed on 175 or fewer properties with one-to-four residential units (CC2924.18(b)).


The full text of this law, also known as Assembly Bill 278 and Senate Bill 900, is available at


In summary, the new law prohibits lenders from engaging in dual tracking, requires a single point of contact for borrowers seeking foreclosure prevention alternatives, and provides borrowers with the right to sue lenders for material violations of this law.  


A few highlights:

–          Cancelling a Pending Trustee’s Sale: A mortgage servicer must rescind or cancel any pending trustee’s sale if a short sale has been approved by all parties and proof of funds/financing  has been provided;

–          No Late Fees/Application Fees: A mortgage servicer cannot collect any late fees while a complete first lien loan modification application is under consideration, a denial is being appealed, the borrower is making timely modification payments, or a foreclosure prevention alternative is being evaluated or exercised;

–          Binding if Loan is Transferred: Any written approval for a foreclosure prevention alternative shall be honored by a subsequent mortgage servicer in the event the borrower’s loan is transferred or sold.


Please visit. to view the full text of the new law.


Q. How large of a security deposit can a landlord require from a tenant?

A. If the unit is furnished, the landlord can require up to three times the monthly rent. If the unit is unfurnished, the landlord can require up to two times the monthly rent.


Q. When can I expect to get my security deposit back?

A. Within 21 days, a landlord is required to (a) return the security deposit to the tenant, (b) provide an itemized statement that explains how the deposit was spent, or (c) a combination of (a) and (b).  (Civil Code Section 1950.5)


Q. What types of charges may a landlord deduct from a security deposit?

A. A landlord may charge the tenant for the following reasons: cleaning, unpaid rent, and damage to the rental unit (beyond normal wear and tear).


Q: Can a landlord increase the rent?

A. If the lease is for more than 30 days, the rent cannot increase during the term of the lease (unless the lease provides for rent increases). If the lease is month-to-month, the landlord may increase rent if they provide you with proper notice in writing. A landlord must give at least 30 days’ notice if the rent is increasing by 10% (or less). A landlord must give at least 60 days’ notice if the rent is increasing by more than 10%. (Civil Code Section 8.27)


Q. For what reasons may a landlord enter an occupied rental unit?

A. California law provides for five different reasons a landlord may legally enter a rental unit:

1) In an emergency

2) When a tenant has abandoned the unit or moved out

3) To make necessary/agreed-upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or other improvements

4) To show the unit to prospective tenants/buyers/lenders or provide entry to contractors or workers who are to make repairs on the unit

5) If the landlord has a court order permitting entry


In all situations except the first two listed, the landlord must give the tenant 24-hour written notice before entering the unit.


Q. What makes a rental unit legally “uninhabitable?”

A. If a rental unit substantially lacks any of the following, it is considered uninhabitable:

1) Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls

2) Plumbing system in good working order that is connected to a sewage system (includes hot/cold running water)

3) Gas facilities in good working order

4) Heating facilities in good working order

5) Electric system in good working order

6) Clean/sanitary buildings and grounds free from debris, garbage and pests

7) Trash receptacles in good working order

8) Floors, stairways, and railings in good working order

9) Contains lead hazards without containment


Q. What can I do if my unit is uninhabitable?

A. A tenant has five options if the unit is uninhabitable. Notice to the landlord regarding the problems must be given before exercising any of these options. It is suggested to provide notice in writing and wait at least 30 days for a landlord to remedy the problems.

1) Move out

2) Call attention to the problem by notifying local city code enforcement inspectors, health department inspectors, etc.

3) Repair the problem and deduct cost from rent (provide a copy of the bill with the rent)

4) Withhold rent (this is risky however and could result in eviction if the problem is not seen as serious enough or was tenant caused)

5) Sue for damages


If you believe that your dwelling unit is uninhabitable, please contact the SBCBA Lawyer Referral Service BEFORE using any of the above options. Speaking with an attorney will help insure protection of yourself and as well as your tenancy. (805) 569-9400.


Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Workers’ Compensation

Q. What is workers’ compensation?

A. Workers’ compensation is benefits that your employer is required by law to pay for if you have a work-related injury or illness. There are two main types of injuries:

1. One accident/event at work. This could include hurting your back in a fall or burning yourself while on the job.

2. Repeated exposures at work. This could include losing hearing due to perpetual loud noise or hurting your elbow from repeated motions.


Q. What should I do if I hurt myself while on the job?

A. First, report the injury to your employer immediately. If this injury has occurred due to repeated exposure, report it to your employer as soon as you learn/suspect if was caused by your job. Prompt reporting helps avoid frustrating delays in receiving benefits.

NOTE: If your employee is not notified within 30 days of the injury, this hinders your employer’s ability to fully investigate the claim and could result in lost rights to receive workers’ compensation benefits.


Second, if emergency treatment is required, get it! Be sure to tell your health care provider that this is a work related injury or illness.


Third, fill out a claim form (DWC 1) and give it to your employer. Your employer is required to give you this form within one working day after being notified of the injury or illness. This form opens your workers’ compensation case and is used to request workers’ compensation benefits.


Q. What types of benefits am I entitled to?

A. There are five basic benefits that workers’ compensation provides:

1. Medical care: Paid for by employer to help your recover from job-related injury or illness

2. Temporary disability benefits: Payments for lost wages if you are unable to do your usual job while recovering

3. Permanent disability benefits: Payments in you are unable to recover completely

4. Supplemental job displacement benefits: Vouchers to assist in payment for skill enhancement or retraining if you are unable to recover completely and don’t return to work for your employer.

5. Death benefits: Payments given to spouse, children or other dependants if you die due to a work related injury or illness


Q. My employer is asking to take part of my check to pay for workers’ compensation insurance? Can they do this?

A. No! An employer cannot request that you help pay the insurance premium. All employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. It is a portion of the price of doing business.


Q. Can my employer fire me because of my injury?

A. It is illegal for an employer to fire your or punish you in any way for having a work related injury or illness. It is also illegal for an employer to penalize you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.


The laws that govern the workers’ compensation system can be confusing. Retaining an experienced attorney who knows and works with the laws on a regular basis can result in a much less stressful experience.


If you have a work-related accident or illness and would like to discuss your case with a competent workers’ compensation attorney, please call the SBCBA Lawyer Referral Service at (805) 569-9400.



Q. What is a “Personal Injury Case”?

A. Personal injury claims stem from physical or mental injury to a person due to the negligence or harmful act of another party.  There are a variety of different types of injuries that may be addressed in personal injury cases. Below, I have listed a few of the more common examples:

a. Broken bones

b. Disc injuries in neck and spine

c. Amputations and lost fingers/toes

d. Total or partial blindness

e. Head or brain injuries

f. Loss of hearing/taste/smell

g. Burns and scaring

h. Chronic pain


Q. How long do I have, from the time of the accident, to file a lawsuit?

A. In California, the statute of limitations for an adult personal injury case is two years from the date of the injury. Injured minors (younger than 18 years old) have until their 20th birthday to file a lawsuit or settle the case. If the defendant is a California government entity, you have six months to file a claim for damages.


Q. After I suffer a personal injury, what type of financial compensation is available?

A. Victims of personal injury are able to recover monetary damages for all losses and expenses that result from the accident. Examples of these damages are listed below:

                a. Lost wages

                b. Medical bills

                c. Property damage

                d. Pain & Suffering/Emotional distress

                e. All out-of-pocket expenses

                f. Mental anguish

                g. Embarrassment

                h. Loss of love & affection


Q.  If I am partly responsible for the accident, can I still collect for my injuries?

A. Yes! California has comparative negligence. This means that the fault of all parties involved is compared. The amount of damages given to the plaintiff will be reduced by the percentage of fault that the court assigns to the plaintiff. For example, if you were 40% responsible for an accident, you may still collect 60% of the value of the case.


Q. How do attorney fees work in personal injury cases?

A. Generally, personal injury attorneys accept cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that instead of paying an hourly fee, your attorney will be entitled to a percentage of the entire monetary recovery for the personal injury portion of the case. Standard fees usually hover around 33-40% of the gross recovery (this can vary greatly). However, it is typically the client’s responsibility to pay the upfront costs of pursuing their case.


If you feel that you have a personal injury claim and would like to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer, call the SBCBA Lawyer Referral Service today! (805) 569-9400

Dying Without a Will or Trust – Do You Know the Consequences?

If a resident of California dies without a will or trust, this means that they die "intestate." Because the person did not leave instructions regarding how they wished their property to be divided, the laws of intestate succession determine who will inherit the estate.


The rules regarding intestacy laws are generally as follows:

1) If there is a surviving spouse and no children –> surviving spouse takes the entire estate

2) If there are children but no surviving spouse –> children take entire estate

3) If there are children and a surviving spouse –> surviving spouse takes one half of the estate, children split the second half of the estate

4) If there is no surviving spouse and no children –> parents take the estate

5) If there are no parents –> siblings and their children take the estate

6) If there are no siblings or their descendants –> grandparents and their children take the estate

7) If there are no grandparents or their descendants –> next of kin takes the estate

8) If there is no next of kin –> deceased spouses parents and their descendants take the estate

9) Lastly, if no heirs can be found, your estate will escheat. This means that the estate passes to the CA government!


The rules of intestacy are not perfect and many times they do not reflect the wishes of the deceased. These rules, among other things, ignore strained family relationships and prohibit long-term domestic partners from inheritance.


The only way to make sure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes, to the people you love, is to create a will or trust!


To be referred to an experienced estate planning attorney, and begin the process of making a will or trust, call the SBCBA Lawyer Referral Service! (805) 569-9400.

Govenor Brown Issues Revised 2012-13 Budget – Devastating Cuts to Courts

Govenor Brown released a revised state budget that, again, negatively targets the judiciary. Below is an excerpt from the proposed state budget:

Funding Courts Budgets From Alternative Sources

This year's budget restructures trial court funding, reducing General Fund support by $300 million on a one-time basis and requiring each trial court to use their available reserve. It delays court construction for a savings of $240 million and increases retirement contributions for state court employees. Altogether, these will result in $125 million in ongoing savings.


The Open Courts Coalition released the following statement:

Courts have already absorbed punishing budget cuts and this new round of cuts has called into question whether California courtrooms can perform their basic functions. The Open Courts Coalition and its over 200 participating legal associations remain committed to defending the branch from this financial assault and will continue to work as a unified voice for a statewide solution to the crisis.

Do you qualify for the Traffic Amnesty Program?

Check out the attached flyer to see if you qualify for a 50% reduction of the amount owed in traffic tickets! This program is run through the Santa Barbara Courthouse and will be available through June 30, 2012.


If you, or someone you know, needs legal assistance with a traffic matter, call the SBCBA Lawyer Referral Service today! We will help find a qualified attorney in Santa Barbara County to protect your interests. (805) 569-9400 or visit

Membership Page – TEST (Internal Use Only)

Welcome to the SBCBA's membership page. The SBCBA is where the legal community connects, and we invite you to join us. Through the SBCBA, you can enhance your professional life in the law through our CLE, networking opportunities and community service activities. Members receive:
  • Exclusive member pricing on continuing legal education programs (CLE);
  • The monthly Santa Barbara Lawyer magazine, which includes association, community legal, and court news;
  • An e-mail bulletin of news and events;
  • Access to the members-only portal of the SBCBA Website; and
  • Opportunities to network, socialize at SBCBA events, and engage in community service activities with other local attorneys and legal professionals
The regular membership year runs January-December.

The SBCBA provides members with important opportunities for professional education and development, as well as valuable member benefits. The SBCBA and its Sections present regular, affordable and convenient educational programs offering MCLE credits featuring distinguished speakers on issues of interest and concern to legal professionals. Additionally, the SBCBA presents events that promote networking opportunities for members to meet and work with other lawyers and judicial officers on issues of common concern.

To join the Santa Barbara County Bar Association please fill out the membership application below.