Fire Chief Philip White’s View On Unwarranted Home Inspections

By · November 5, 2012
Last week there was meeting with Chief White and Fire Marshall Luis Da Silva to discuss alternatives to Point of Sale (POS) inspections that has been a huge contention with the citizens and homeowners of South San Francisco. Steve Blanton, CEO of SAMCAR(San Mateo County Association of Realtors), Annie Oliva, President of the SAMCAR Board of Realtors along with 4 other Realtors and myself were there to discuss other possibilities. You see, the reason for the meeting was because we were all ordered by the City Council to meet and possibly find a compromise or an alternative to the POS inspection the night of the October 17th Study Session.  That Study Session was so vastly attended by many, many citizens that received my flyers and emails as well as other Realtors who tried to get the word out on such a short notice.  City Council had not seen so many attendees in a very long time so they knew this was an important issue. I was surprised to find that Chief was very amicable.   He joked with us during the hour we were there and worked very hard to get us to understand his point of view.  He only wants, so he says, is for the citizens to be safe and to rid the city of unsafe conditions.  White had in front of him a huge binder of information that he had hoped would sway us into believing that he had the right and obligation to have these inspections to protect the citizens.  He kept reading about State Law that  ties to their City  municipal codes., but us Realtors were not having any of it.  White thinks that while the State of California accepts self-certification, he does not and will not.  He wants to be sure that the smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, strapping of water heaters, etc. are in compliance at close of escrow.  He wants to be sure there is no unpermitted constructions or any, what he calls "unsafe" conditions that exist at the property when it transfers title to the new buyer. Now, I am all for clean yards, and a safe envirnoment, but to legislate against our rights is just wrong! The South San Francisco Fire Department works very hard to protect us in the event of a fire and to educate the community on how to stay safe.    I very much respect the fire department for all it does with regards to their duties, but they have gone too far. Now in case you are not aware, California is one of the most stringent states when it comes to disclosure laws.  The Realtors must be sure that the seller complies with the law and signs a document stating such.   This is called self-certification.  There are so many, many disclosure forms that a seller fills out that we don't understand his thought process.  Or maybe we do and that is why we are so against it.  Also, in many cases, there is a termite and/or home inspector who can certify that these items are in compliance.  In these inspection reports, items are noted that are not up to code and/or are unsafe.  The buyer chooses to buy the property with these defects or not.  Besides, if the buyer wants to gut or remodel, why would you repair it now.  If the buyer takes on the repair work, then it must be completed in a short period of time.  When you want to remodel, it takes time to decide what you want, and a few months is not enough time to get it all done the way you want it. We tried to explain to him that what is doing is considered illegal per the SAMCAR attorney, and  the case Camara vs. Municipal Court of City and County of San Francisco but he tried to convince us that it was all in the name of health and safety.  He was just trying to protect the citizens from unsafe conditions and that he has the right and obligation to do so as it has been done before him.  He believes it is his duty to inspect properties to be sure they are not violating the fire codes and that it is safe to inside.  As misguided as his thought process is, it is also against the Fourth Amendment as it was stated in the Camara case. He doesn't trust that we as Realtors will do our job.  What is interesting, is that he is missing sales that is not handled by a Realtor.  State law has no exemption from these same disclousre laws whether or not a Realtor is involved as the laws apply to all sellers of real property  So, if the State is ok, why does the City feel they need an extra step into the seller's home by way of an inspection. A man's home is his castle in the eyes of the law.  When SAMCAR told him this practice is abusive, he said one might see it that way, but his goal was health and safety. Oh, and by the way, the City is exempt when they are a party to a sale.  How convenient.  If it is truly about Health and Safety, then they especially should not be exempt.  Are you not tired of politicians, government officials/employees who are exempt from the same laws that you and I  must abide by?  What ever happend to ""All Men Are Created Equal".   Same thing with insider trading that politicians are exempt from - I was shocked that they were exempt when Obama asked the politicians to repeal that little benefit !!      
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