Assembly Bill 38 established that, as of July 1, 2021, changes and additions to the California Civil Code require a seller of real property located in a High or Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone to provide the buyer with documentation stating the property is in compliance with defensible space (and home hardening) requirements set by either the state or local ordinance.
The law allows, that if documentation demonstrating compliance cannot be obtained by the close of escrow, the seller and buyer can enter into a written agreement showing that the buyer agrees to obtain documentation of compliance from the state or local jurisdiction within one year of the close of escrow.
The law also earmarks money to help property owners, whole communities and local governments retrofit existing housing, commercial, and public properties in wildfire hazard areas
Additional Reading: "It's Fire Season: Protect Your Home from Wildfires"
While most of California is subject to some degree of fire hazard, there are specific features that make some areas more hazardous. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is required by law to map areas of significant fire hazards based on fuels, terrain, local weather, and other relevant factors. These designations referred to as Fire Hazard Severity Zones (FHSZ), mandate how people construct buildings and protect property to reduce the risk associated with wildland fires.
The Fire Hazard Severity Zone maps denote lands of similar hazards where the state has financial responsibility for wildland fire protection, known as State Responsibility Area or SRA. By law, only lands zoned as Very High Fire Hazard Severity are identified within areas of California where local governments have financial responsibility for wildland fire protection, known as Local Responsibility Area or LRA.
You can locate your property on the map and determine which zone your home is in.
Defensible space, coupled with home hardening, is essential to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. Defensible space is the buffer you create between your house and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it. This space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire.
Here are ways you can harden your home and make it more fire-resistant. Ways to Begin Retrofits to Your Home
The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home. Homes with wood or shingle roofs are at high risk of being destroyed during a wildfire.
Vents on homes create openings for flying embers.
Eaves should be boxed in (soffit-eave design) and protected with ignition-resistant* or noncombustible materials.
The heat from a wildfire can cause windows to break even before the home is on fire. This allows burning embers to enter and start fires inside. Single-paned and large windows are particularly vulnerable.
Wood products, such as boards, panels, or shingles, are common siding materials. However, they are flammable and not good choices for fire-prone areas.
Surfaces within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant*, non-combustible, or other approved materials.
Keep rain gutters clear or enclose rain gutters to prevent the accumulation of plant debris.
Use the same ignition-resistant* materials for patio coverings as a roof.
Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-flammable screen. Use metal screen material with openings no smaller than 3/8-inch and no larger than 1/2-inch to prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire.
Have a fire extinguisher and tools such as a shovel, rake, bucket, and hose available for fire emergencies.
The best practice is to separate your fence from your house or upgrade the last 5-feet of the fence to a non-combustible material to reduce the chance of the fence bringing fire to your home.
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