RBR Program Policies & Practices

Since the 1970’s, the City of San Rafael has been administering and enforcing a residential building resale (RBR) inspection program. The RBR program requires that prior to the sale or exchange of any residential building in San Rafael, we must conduct an inspection, along with a records search of City permits issued for the subject property. The RBR report is issued to the property owner. The provisions of and process for the RBR program are set forth in San Rafael Municipal Code Title 12 (Building Regulations), Chapter 12.36 (Report of Residential Building Record).

In an effort to improve the administration and process of the RBR program, the City of San Rafael, in coordination and consultation with the Marin Association of Realtors (MAR), has developed a list of policies and practices. In addition to the information, FAQs, and checklists already provided on the web page, the purpose of these policies and practices is to: a) ensure that there is a clearer understanding on how the City administers the RBR program and what is expected with the inspection process; and b) encourage the real estate professionals and their clients to participate in the process so as to minimize delays and potential issues.

What the City will do:

  • City building inspector will verbally inform listing real estate agent and/or seller at site (during or following inspection) if there are violations that the City has encountered, which need to be corrected/permitted.
  • City will not require permits for the following, unpermitted improvements/work if installed/constructed more than 25 years ago and determined by the City building inspector to be properly constructed: Kitchen or bathroom remodel, if not resulting in any new habitable square footage and if in compliance with zoning requirements (The unpermitted improvement will be photographed and noted in the RBR file)
  • City will acknowledge unpermitted work/improvements completed prior to the date which the City permit requirement was established (e.g., prior to 2006, no building permits were required for installing new windows). See Table 1 (below), which outlines key milestone dates when permit requirements were initiated or imposed.
  • City will waive permit fees and penalties for unpermitted work or improvements that were completed prior the current owner’s (seller’s) purchase of the property if the corrective items were not noted on the prior City-issued RBR. Necessary permits will still need to be obtained, and the work inspected and approved.
  • City has updated the RBR form/template to clearly indicate which corrective items require a reinspection and which do not require a re-inspection. The updated RBR form/template has divided former Section B (Violations Requiring Permits, Inspection and Approval, which has an upper and lower checklist) into two new sections. New Section B lists minor un-permitted workand the new Section C lists major un-permitted work and/or potential violations that have been identified. The updated RBR form/template can be accessed at: RBR Sample Report
  • Updated RBR form/template includes contact information for the appropriate City staff to discuss potential violations or un-permitted work. Updated RBR form/template encourages seller to: a) compare City permit records with their personal records to reconcile any discrepancies in the RBR; and b) produce any/all plans, missing permits and documentation, and/or privately-commissioned contractors report to correct and/or dismiss the potential violations listed in the RBR
  • Notice & Order document and process will be used to seek compliance when major, unpermitted work in new Section C on the RBR form has been identified.
  • Notice & Order will not be initially used for minor un-permitted work listed in the new Section B on the RBR form (e.g., retroactive permit for window installation or closing-out an expired building permit). For this minor work, the RBR form will note a 15-day grace period for the property owner to secure retroactive permits. In addition, the RBR form will note that failure to rectify the minor un-permitted work during the 15-day grace period will result in the issuance of a Notice & Order.
  • City has revised the format and content of Notice & Order document so that it is simpler and concise in content, identifying the potential violation(s), deadline for response and City staff contact information. When administered, the Notice & Order will be mailed to the property owner via first class US Mail Service, not certified mail.
  • City has committed to periodically schedule and conduct a “Coffee & Codes” to present RBR process, procedures, ground rules, as well as policies and principles to MAR members/realtors.

What MAR will do:

  • MAR will continue to encourage the realtors to file the RBR request early in the sales process (e.g., prior to property listing). The early completion of the RBR will avoid last-minute scramble (e.g., during escrow) and would disclose potential violations earlier (more time to negotiate resolution or correct).
  • MAR will advise realtors to encourage their clients to complete a records search of City (and County) permits and tax assessments before listing the property. This might assist in flagging issues (by seller and listing agent) before an RBR request is filed with the City.
  • Realtors will encourage sellers to produce/submit old plans and/or missing permits, other documentation to confirm dates when improvements were made. Supplemental documentation could support the dismissal of violations or could augment City permit records

 

Key Milestone Dates Initiating City Permit Requirements

ActivityMilestone Date (e.g., Permit Requirement Initiated by City)
Building

Window installation/replacement 
Egress window sill height requirements 
Minimum floor-to ceiling height requirement 

 

2006
1976
1946

Zoning

Off-street parking (two spaces/dwelling) 
Covered off-street parking requirement (two spaces/dwelling) 

 

1973
1992

 

 

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