As many of you are aware, the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors has been working with the City of Santa Barbara for the last four years trying to find a way to make the city Zoning Information Reports (ZIR) more effective in their original intent, more reliable for buyers and less onerous for sellers.
ZIRs were originally voluntary and did not include enforcement. We have sellers who relied on the city's information when they purchased their home and they are now being penalized for the city's errors. We have asked the city to allow for modifications to the reports when the error was actually the city inspector's, but once a violation is on paper it cannot be changed, according to the city.
Although the city has made a few small modifications to the ZIR process, they are not enough to keep people from losing time, money and property value during a real estate transaction. We understand that there will also be a few bad seeds out there that will take advantage of the system, but they will do this with or without ZIRs.
By the city's own admission, they are far more likely to be able to enforce a zoning violation if it was submitted by neighbor complaint. In addition, they are delaying or derailing sales with their lag in performing inspections (currently it is taking a month to even get an inspection) and issuing reports in a timely manner for a real estate contract.
If ZIRs become voluntary, the buyer and seller can request a ZIR from the city should they want it, but the buyer and seller can also go to permit planners or home inspectors for the same service.
By making ZIRs voluntary, the consumer will have more choices for a report that helps them during their transaction instead of the stress of having a mandated unreliable report by the city.
This issue will be coming forward to the Santa Barbara City Council at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13 at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St. We would like to urge you to contact your local Realtor to sign a petition, provide a story about your experience with ZIRs, join us at the City Council or get more information about this issue.
Click here for more information and to sign the petition and send a letter to the City Council. Please join us in asking the Santa Barbara City Council to make ZIRs voluntary during a real estate transaction.
— Laurel Abbott is a real estate agent with Prudential California Realty and president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805.879.8050. The opinions expressed are her own.