Earthquake Retrofit Information

A law you can't ignore.

When you receive an earthquake retrofit notice in the mail, there’s a specific series of steps that must be taken, but first, let’s go over what everything specifically entails.

What is the soft-story program?

The purpose of this program is to reduce the risk of injury or loss of life that may result from the effects of earthquakes on wood frame soft-story buildings. In the devestating 1994 Northridge Earthquake, many wood frame soft-story buildings caused loss of life, injury, and property damage. This program creates a guide for property owners to strengthen their buildings to improve performance during an earthquake.

LADBS has determined that your building meets all the following criteria:

  • Two or more stories wood frame construction
  • Built under building code standards enacted before January 1, 1978
  • Contains ground floor parking or other similar open floor space that causes soft, weak or open wall lines. Exception: The program does not apply to residential buildings with 3 or less units.

The property owner must hire an engineer or architect licensed in the state of California to evaluate the strength of the building. The engineer or architect must then develop plans for the building’s seismic strengthening in compliance with this program. The owner must notify tenants in writing per HCIDLA regulations. Click here for that form. Click for the Tenant Notification Form.

Submit proof of previous retrofit, plans to retrofit, or plans to demolish to the Department of Building and Safety. Plans and calculations will be checked for compliance with the retrofit ordinance. LADBS will provide guidance for all necessary steps to obtain the retrofit permit, which includes obtaining clearances from all pertinent agencies.

The documents required for submittal are:

  • Structural analysis/calculation package
  • Architectural plans
  • Structural plans

What should I do if I think my building is exempt from the program? The owner of the building can appeal within 60 days of the service date of the Order to Comply by submitting a written request to the Board of Building and Safety Commissioners. The request should include supporting documents such as building permits for original construction or a retrofit that complies with the ordinance.

How long do you have to comply?

After you receive a receipt of the order to comply, you have:

  • Two years to submit proof of previous retrofit
  • Three and half years to obtain permit to start construction or demolition
  • Seven years to complete construction

These are the dates when the city started sending out these orders:

3 story and above: May 2, 2016

2 story: July 22, 2016

With less than 16 units: Oct 17, 2016

With 9-15 units: Jan 30, 2017

With 7-8 units: May 29, 2017

With 4-6 units: Aug 14, 2017

Condos/Commercial: Oct 30, 2017

Seismic Retrofit Cost Recovery Program

The Seismic Retrofit Work Cost Recovery Program became effective February 12, 2016. It allows for a temporary rent surcharge to tenants. Applications MUST be submitted within 12 months of completing the retrofit work. The following items will be required with the application:

  • A copy of the THP
  • Documentation that supports the costs, e.g. contracts, invoices, proof of payment, etc.
  • Rent roll that includes tenants’ move-in dates and current rents

How the program works:

  • Up to 50% of total seismic retrofit costs may be passed through to tenants, if approved by HCIDLA.
  • The maximum rent increase is $38 per month for 120 months. The recovery period may be extended until the full approved amount is collected.
  • Seismic retrofit costs are divided among all the units.

What is a Tenant Habitability Plan (THP)?

It is a plan that describes what kind of work the landlord is going to do, how the work will affect the tenant, and how long the work will take. The landlord must submit this plan to the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) before any work may begin.

If the tenant objects to the Plan, the tenant may appeal it. The tenant has fifteen (15) days from the receipt of the 60-day Notice of Primary Work to file an appeal of the Plan with HCIDLA. An appeal form should be attached to the Notice of Primary Renovation Work.

It is a sixty (60) day notice to the tenant that primary work will be done. It should be written in the language that the rental agreement was originally negotiated in. It notifies the tenant as to when the work will start and end, what type of work will be done, how the work will affect you, the details of temporary relocation, if necessary, and a summary of the Tenant Habitability Plan.

The work may begin no sooner than sixty (60) days after the landlord has served the tenant with: (1) a copy of the Plan; (2) a Notice of Primary Renovation Work; (3) a summary of the provisions of the Tenant Habitability Plan; and (4) a permanent relocation form if the work will last thirty (30) days or more.

Yes, if the work will not make the home uninhabitable outside construction hours and will not expose the tenant at any time to toxic or hazardous materials. The landlord is permitted to do construction work from Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM. The landlord must restore all housing services such as your utilities by 5 PM. The Plan should describe the safe work practices your Landlord plans to use. For example, lead safe practices must be used to minimize the spread of lead dust, paint chips, soil, and debris during construction.

Let us guide you during this process.

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