Self-Certification of Inspections for Pasadena Home Sales About to Go into Effect

Published : Friday, March 22, 2019 | 5:14 AM

After a protracted, years-long effort the City of Pasadena launches its Presale Self-Certification program for real estate transactions on April 1.

The overhaul addresses the role of the City in inspections during the home sales buying and selling process, and cuts back on the City’s role in the sale. City officials said the newly configured program enables the City’s assets to be redirected to address illegal additions, and health and safety.

“The City still feels there’s an opportunity to address some major violations through that program but at the same time streamline so it’s easier for buyers, sellers and Realtors,” said Israel Del Toro, code compliance manager for the City of Pasadena.

“What council directed staff to do was to prepare an ordinance for a quick and easy self-certification program,” Del Toro said. “In late 2017 we started [working] and it wasn’t until 2018 we went to council. Ultimately city council provided direction to prepare an ordinance for the last alternative proposed. That’s how we got here.”

There is a self-certification program for eligible properties. Ineligible properties will still be subject to a city inspection, but the scope of the inspection has significantly been reduced, Del Toro said.

On January 28, 2019, the City Council approved an ordinance that would replace the current Occupancy Inspection Program with the Presale Self-Certification Program.

This is how it works, according to the City’s related website.

“Prior to the close of escrow for the sale of a single family residential home or duplex, the owner is responsible for obtaining a Presale Certificate of Completion or a Presale Certificate of Inspection,” according to the City’s website. “Properties meeting eligibility requirements for a Presale Certificate of Completion (City inspection not required) are eligible for self-certification. Properties not eligible for a Presale Certificate of Completion require a Presale Certificate of Inspection (City inspection required).

Under the previous law, which Realtors say was not updated since 1973, the Occupancy Inspection Program involved the city-mandated inspection of homes as they are being sold to ensure compliance with building codes. The process resulted in the issuance of a Certificate of Inspection, without which the sale could not be completed.

The inconsistent process caused additional anxiety and frustration, agents say, in that with each different city inspector would come a different standard. In some cases a home sale could proceed with City approval, but two years later a different inspector would make the buyer-turned-seller upgrade in order for him to complete a sale.

In other words, rather than holding up a sale because of unpermitted patio covers and chips in the concrete or peeling paint, the City’s role is to pay attention to health and safety and building permitting issues.

Todd Hays, local Realtor and former president of the Pasadena-Foothills Association of Realtors, addressed the uncertainty of the City’s previous program.

“There was no consistency from inspection to inspection. In many ways, you had no idea to know what to expect. Sometimes they inspected solely for health and safety issues; sometimes they called out peeling paint and cracked brick on the side of the building, which has no bearing whatsoever to health and safety,” Hays said.

“The other thing that was happening, since it was a required point of sale inspection, you had buyers who relied on this inspection because they were given a clean bill of health and they went to sell the house a few years later having done nothing to it, and a different inspector found a whole slew of things wrong before they could sell it.”

But now, “we have alleviated most of the need for a City inspector to come out,” Hays said. He said there is also an affidavit that the seller and buyer sign, certifying that both seller and buyer concur the information is accurate.

Hays credited agents Armen Sarkissian, Laura Olhasso and Crystal Narramore for pushing over the years for change.

Now the City stands to be able to perform more thorough inspections of multi-unit dwellings, Del Toro said. With the inspectors’ time limited to focusing only on illegal and unpermitted building, health, and safety issues as related to home sales, the department can reassign personnel to where they’re needed. He said there are approximately 2,000 single family homes and duplexes that are sold annually and subject to the Occupancy Inspection Program, and effective April 1st will be subject to the Presale Self-Certification Program. There are approximately 24,000 rental units subject to the Quadrennial Inspection Program.

The City’s voluntary Residential Occupancy Inspection program had been designed to help realtors, homeowners and buyers with the transfer of home ownership but is outdated and had earlier been criticized by the California State Auditor for flaws and inconsistencies.

“The idea of having to self-certify to the City is the objection sellers and realtors are having,” said Brad Keyes of Keyes Real Estate, who is also a real estate attorney and real estate broker. “It’s not just ‘Hey I need a point of sale report,’ it’s ‘Hey I have to tell on myself for everything that’s wrong with my property.’ “

“But the truth is, a Seller will have to disclose known deficient conditions anyway pursuant to the transfer disclosure statement, and the seller property questionnaire, so this self-certification will help protect people from buying properties with issues,” Keyes said.

“And if people are willing to accept the condition of the property, like for example, a teardown home or unpermitted addition, then a transfer of responsibility from that can be filled out for the next buyer to remedy any and all issues.”

Irina Netchaev from Pasadena Views said: “Streamlining the process helps to eliminate the heartache on both the buyer’s and the seller’s side, and this way the transaction can move forward.”

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