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The Next Big One: New Retrofit Laws

Is the next big one coming? Well for California and Los Angeles residents and businesses we are talking about the next big earthquake, as that can impact on our daily lives. Many of us remember the 1994 Northridge earthquake that damaged many buildings around the regions. And while I would much rather live in earthquake territory (than let's say a tornado coming through and taking away my entire house), it doesn't hurt to be prepared. The City of Los Angeles has been doing just that - getting prepared. The Department of Building and Safety issued a new retrofit law effective February 2016 that will be affecting over 13,500 soft-story buildings and 1,500 non-ductile reinforced masonry buildings. So what does this mean for tenants and owners?

Property Types That Can Be Affected:

Residential/ Multi-Family (4+ units)

Condos and Town-homes

Mixed-Use Commercial

Don't panic. There is a timetable and action plan in-place.

1. Pre-1980 soft-story buildings: 7 - year horizon +/- 13,500 buildings

- 2016-2017: owners have 1 year to determine retrofit status

- 2017-2018: owners have 1 additional year to get retrofit permits (if determined required)

- 2018-2022: owners have an additional 5 years to perform the work

Here is what a soft-story may look like

Hopefully, not like this

2. Pre-1980 non-ductile: 25 year horizon +/- 1,500 buildings

- going to be much more intensive and very costly (estimated $8-$25 per square foot)

- 2016-2019: owners have 3 years to begin assessment

- 2019-2029: owners have 10 additional years to determine status

- 2029-2041: owners have an additional 12 years to perform the work.

Here is what a non-ductile may look like

Recommended courses of action steps:

Step 1: Notices are being sent out by the City of Los Angeles in batches of around 100-200 notices per week of those believed to be identified. If an owner doesn't receive a notice, the burden is still on the owner to assess retrofit requirements.

Step 2: If you have received a notice, ensure all occupants are made aware. That means notifying all tenants, subtenants, occupants, or anyone entitled to occupying the property that you have received the notice from the City (and check with your attorney on the exact notice and wording, but it is probably a good idea to provide a copy of the notice). This includes residential and non-residential folks.

Step 3: Hire a structural engineer firm to assess the property, condition and requirements. Who knows the City could be wrong... or work may need to be done. It is also a good idea to get a sense of the costs involved.

Step 4: Perform the work per the action plan.

Recommended sources for more information:

You can also check online records here: LADBS Online Services

Also, don't forget that while this is for the City of Los Angeles, other cities have adopted and are adopting similar policies like West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and more. Be sure to always check the appropriate governmental agencies for compliance, and consult with appropriate professionals regarding the nature of the property.

If you have received a notice, or would like more information on how this could affect the value of your property, please be sure to

We also have many resources at our disposal and can even provide recommendations on engineering firms.

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