Sellers of real property must disclose known defects and deficiencies in the property—including earthquake weaknesses and hazards—to prospective buyers in accordance with Civil Code, Section 1102. The California Seismic Safety Commission has developed the following 2 earthquake guides:
- Homeowner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety and
- Commercial Property Owner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety
The guides include information on geologic and seismic hazards, explanations of related structural and nonstructural hazards, and recommendations for mitigating earthquake damage. However, safety cannot be guaranteed with respect to a major earthquake and available precautions can only reduce the risk of various types of damage (not eliminate it entirely). These guides are available at www.seismic.ca.gov.
Should you decide to purchase rental property in California, have a certified licensed building contractor, architect, civil or structural engineer inspect the property and give you an opinion regarding existing earthquake weaknesses (as well as an estimated cost for strengthening such weaknesses) before making a final purchase offer on the property.
Regardless of the perceived earthquake strengths or weaknesses of the building you own, you should develop an emergency plan for your renters before an earthquake occurs. In addition:
- Install a flexible gas supply line will reduce the risk of a fire or explosion from a gas leak after an earthquake.
- Make sure that your property manager has an emergency kit of food, water, and supplies (including a flashlight, portable battery-operated radio, batteries, medicines, first-aid kit, and cash) on-hand at all times, and that all supplies are replaced regularly to ensure their usability. In addition, make sure your manager knows how to shut off gas, water, and electricity, if necessary due to earthquake damage.
- Allow NO ONE living on your property to relight the gas pilot; instead, the utility company should be contacted to come to your address relight the pilot.
- Secure your water heater and major appliances to the wall.
For a more complete list of what to do for earthquake preparedness, see http://www.calema.ca.gov/NewsandMedia/Pages/Current%20News%20and%20Events/Earthquake-Preparedness.aspx.