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Indoor Air Quality in Rental Dwellings:

State Laws Addressing Radon, Mold and Secondhand Smoke



The California State Housing Law establishes minimum standards for residential buildings, including apartments and other dwellings. Ca. Health and Safety Code 17920, 17920.3. In 2015, the law was amended to include mold in the list of conditions that may render a building substandard. Ca. Senate Bill 655 (2015)

Duty to Maintain and Repair. The State Housing Law establishes a variety of housing conditions that render a building “substandard” to the extent that the condition “endangers the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants.” The list includes “dampness of habitable rooms” as one such condition. Ca. H&S Code 17920.3. The 2015 amendment to the law adds to the list the following condition:

"Visible mold growth, as determined by a health officer or a code enforcement officer … excluding the presence of mold that is minor and found on surfaces that can accumulate moisture as part of their properly functioning and intended use."

Remedies/Enforcement. The State Housing Law is enforced by local housing departments or, if there is no such department, by the local health department. Ca. H&S Code 17961. Inspections of buildings to determine compliance may be performed whether or not a complaint has been filed. Ca. H&S Code 17920(e). The law authorizes the local enforcement agency to inspect any building “whenever necessary to secure compliance with, or prevent a violation of" the law. Ca. H&S Code 17970. After providing notice to correct a violation of the housing standards, the enforcement agency “shall …institute any appropriate action or proceeding to prevent, restrain, correct, or abate the violation or nuisance.” Ca. H&S Code 17980.  The enforcement agency may order the property repaired, abate any nuisances, and seek court-ordered monetary penalties or imprisonment. Ca. H&S Code 17970-17995.5


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