What is Home Hardening? The New CA Disclosure Requirement AB 38

Parts of California are particularly vulnerable to wildfire, and the devastating toll over the last few years has made that clear. The concept of home hardening — i.e. using resistant materials during construction or retrofits to make a home more resistant to fire — builds on the state’s stringent fire-resilient building codes for homes and structures built since 2008. If you’re living in or planning a move to a wildfire area, it’s something with which you’ll need to become very familiar. Here’s what California sellers need to know about home hardening and the new disclosure law.

AB 38 (2019)

Effective as of January 1, 2021, the disclosure law applies to residential 1-4 unit properties, including condos and manufactured homes, built before 2010 and located in high or very high fire zones. A handful of exemptions, including probate, REOs (aka bank owned properties), foreclosures, bankruptcies and some kinds of trusts do apply. Sellers of homes situated in areas outside known fire zones, but in mountainous, forest, brush or grass-covered land, may also want to provide the form for full disclosure.

The disclosure itself must include a few specifics. First, there needs to be a required general notice about home hardening which your real estate agent can help you with. The seller must answer questions specifying which home hardening features a home lacks that makes the home vulnerable to wildfire and flying embers. This disclosure is based on the seller’s actual knowledge and a specific form must be used.

Common Home Hardening Steps

There’s a lengthy list of steps that homeowners take to improve fire resiliency. These include:

  • Replacing wood or asphalt shingle roofing
  • Covering vents with metal mesh
  • Using non-combustible materials on eaves
  • Removing combustible landscaping materials
  • Installed dual-paned, tempered glass Windows
  • Using resistant materials for walls in lieu of boards or shingles
  • Using fire resistant materials for decks and patio covers
  • Screening or enclosing rain gutters to prevent the build up of debris
  • Adding metal screening to chimney outlets
  • Fixing loose or missing bird stops/eave closures

As a seller, it’s now your responsibility to disclose which of these home hardening steps haven’t been taken so that buyers understand the home’s potential vulnerabilities. If you’re interested in doing some work preemptively, here is a great list of low or no cost home hardening tips that comes from the Ready for Wildfire.

Questions about the home hardening disclosure law and what it means for you? Happy to help!

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