Think that sidewalk in front of your property is the city’s responsibility to maintain? Think again. While it may officially be city property, many municipalities—including Oakland—have been looking for ways to move the cost of maintenance as well as any potential liabilities arising from sidewalk injuries onto property owners.
While existing state law does put responsibility for sidewalk repairs on the property owners, the city argues that there hasn’t been enough incentive for those repairs to be made since the liability for injuries arising from improperly maintained sidewalks has ultimately been falling on the city, as it is officially their property.
In an audacious move to formally push both the repair costs and liabilities for their sidewalks onto property owners, the Oakland City Council voted last night to pass two new ordinances, one putting this injury liability on the property owner, and a second requiring that sidewalks must now be brought up to compliance at the owner’s expense before property exchanges hands in a real estate transaction (known as a point-of-sale or POS ordinance).
Similar to the current requirements for sewer lateral compliance, current or future Oakland property owners and their real estate brokers or agents should now add this to their checklist during the transaction process. Unlike the sewer lateral process, however, the city is at least allowing for “self-certification” on sidewalk compliance by licensed contractors as long as proper permits have been pulled. Random inspections by the city will be be used to spot check these self-certified projects. This important change, which should help avoid unnecessary delays, came about in part due to our suggestions at the Oakland/Berkeley Association of Realtor’s Local Government Relations Committee meeting where this issue was being discussed.
To encourage property owners to act now, the city is offering to waive the permit fees for sidewalk repairs until September 20, 2019. The city will also provide a program for free repairs for certain homeowners who meet a low-income threshold. Sidewalks damaged by city-owned trees will remain the responsibility of the city to repair.
Read the full language here:
If you own property in Oakland, now is a very important time to make sure you have adequate insurance to cover you in case of an injury sustained on your sidewalk. If your sidewalk is showing any signs of damage, you should consider taking advantage of the waived permit fees until mid-September to handle those repairs ASAP.