The second bill, SB 120, sponsored by Alan Lowenthal, protects tenants in foreclosed or soon-to-be-foreclosed properties against utility shutoffs when the landlord or lender fails to pay utility bills. In particular, tenants in single-family homes now have the same protection as tenants in multi-family units. Utility companies (gas, electric, water, heat) are now required to give tenants notice that the utility is to be cut off for nonpayment, and to provide a procedure for the tenant or tenants to establish a payment account without having to pay the former landlord's arrearages. Tenants in single-family homes in outlying communities were often forced to pay the former landlord's water bill to keep the water on. (Sacramento Suburban Water was notorious for this.) No longer.
It also allows tenants who pay the bills, when these costs have been included in the rent, to either deduct the cost from their rent payments or sue the landlord for the cost of establishing service or paying the bills. And it prohibits utility companies from requiring large deposits if the tenant can show that she pays her rent on time. (Utility companies were frequently requiring both payment of the arrearages and a large deposit to keep utility service.) Utility services are required to establish and publicize procedures for tenants to deal with these situations; notice of those procedures should be delivered along with any shutoff notice. We would hope that they also publicize them in their newsletters and on their websites as well.
You can read SB 290 here and SB 120 here. And you can read more at the Tenants Together blog.