SB 712: Tenants May Keep a ‘Micromobility’ Device At Home

Landlords can be arbitrary when it comes to ‘house rules.’ We know landlords that don’t allow the storage of bicycles in common areas or even leased premises like the balcony. Yet few apartment houses provide bicycle parking. That is also the problem with personal mobility devices like scooters and e-bikes: where to store and charge them? On January 1st Senate Bill 712 took effect. The new law allows a bicycle, e-bike or other micromobility device to be stored inside an apartment. But some conditions apply so let’s look at the details!

What is ‘Micromobility’?

The Federal Highway Administration defines a micromobility as “low-speed, human-powered or electric-powered transportation” using a bicycle, scooter, electric bicycles or “small, lightweight, wheeled conveyance” like a hoverboard. These relatively inexpensive transportation options get us around town and bridge the proverbial ‘last mile’ between home, mass transit and work.

Micromobility will be the future of personal transportation in Beverly Hills and beyond because tomorrow’s residents won’t all have the option of driving. The California legislature has passed bills recently to allow residential developers to build near transit without providing any parking at all. Every multifamily area in Beverly Hills is considered to be near transit. Building parking is very expensive and to discourage auto use legislators have also allowed developers to unbundle the cost of parking from rent.

The bottom line is that micromobility will become more attractive than driving when off-street parking is in short supply and the parking capacity that is available is priced accordingly. In the future most of us will be reaching for a scooter, e-bike, hoverboard or other inexpensive and convenient means of personal mobility. Read more about micromobility in the US DOT Shared Micromobility and Equity Primer.

The problem with battery-powered devices is where to charge them and where to store them. After a spate of unregulated, imported devices with Lithium-ion batteries caught fire, state fire marshals sounded the alarm and landlords sought to ban such devices from residential units and common areas.

Senate Bill 712 is the legislature’s effort to prohibit landlords from prohibiting micromobility devices just the way state law prohibits landlords from prohibiting on the premises electric vehicle chargers and clotheslines under certain circumstances.

What Does Senate Bill 712 Say?

According to the Senate Bill 712 bill summary:

This bill would prohibit a landlord from prohibiting a tenant from owning personal micromobility devices or from storing and recharging up to one personal micromobility device in their dwelling unit for each person occupying the unit, subject to certain conditions and exceptions. The bill would define ‘personal micromobility device’ for those purposes to mean a device that is powered by the physical exertion of the rider or an electric motor and is designed to transport one individual or one adult accompanied by up to 3 minors.

The new in January added a new section to the Civil Code concerning the hiring of real property (i.e., tenancy law), specifically section 1940.41, which reads in part:

(b) A landlord shall not prohibit a tenant from either of the following:
(1) Owning personal micromobility devices.
(2) (A) Storing and recharging up to one personal micromobility device in their dwelling unit for each person occupying the unit if the personal micromobility device meets ONE of the following: (i) Is not powered by an electric motor. (ii) Complies with safety standards. (iii) Is insured by the tenant under an insurance policy covering storage of the device within the tenant’s dwelling unit.

The safety standards referenced in the second condition (ii) are United States Consumer Product Safety Commission standard UL 2849 for e-bikes and UL 2272 for e-scooters. (These regulations will presumably reduce the incidence of spontaneous combustion during charging.) The landlord can require a tenant to store their micromobility device in compliance with guidance from state fire marshal. In January the Office of the State Fire Marshal updated its micromobility device safety. Read more: Information Bulletin 24–001.

The insurance requirement referenced in the third condition (iii) is fallback protection in case the micromobility device does not comply with the specified safety standards. A tenant who keeps such a device in the apartment will need to secure renters insurance with the appropriate rider.

The Landlord’s Option: Secure, Long-Term Parking or Storage

SB 712 allows the landlord to prohibit storage of micromobility devices, as defined, if the landlord can provide secure, long-term storage or parking free of charge.

Practically speaking this will not be an option available to most Beverly Hills landlords for a few reasons. First, most multifamily properties are already ‘under-parked.’ They don’t have enough off-street parking to meet demand as it is. Second, most properties don’t have secure parking. Carports and aging alley garages can hardly be called ‘secure.’ Third, whatever space might be available for micromobility device parking or storage is more valuable when repurposed for housing in accord with the economic incentives provided by the legislature.

New developments generally have secured parking areas and might be able to convert a portion of that area for storage of micromobility devices or bicycle parking. Going forward we will see that as an amenity. The city (or the legislature) might even require it. Indeed the precedent has already been established: state law requires new residential developments to provide ‘pre-wired’ electric vehicle charging spaces (if not provide the actual chargers) with certain conditions.

Our Take

Micromobility is the future because it has to be. Looking ahead a decade, we can imagine many new residential developments rising in Beverly Hills that will not include parking as they did in the past because they don’t have to do so. Parking is expensive to provide. When that cost is broken out of the rent and added on top it will discourage more residents to get around by means other than the automobile.

At the same time, existing multifamily properties which today can’t meet the demand of off-street parking will add more dwelling units by converting common areas and garages into housing. These new dwellings will not come with parking because state law relieves the landlord of having to provide it.

All to say that in the future our roads will not be able to accommodate all new residents who want to park on the street. Nor will our roads be able to provide the capacity to accommodate many more drivers. We will be looking for another way to get around town.

Thankfully the legislature has stepped in as a buffer of sorts between tenants who would like to early-embrace micromobility and their landlords that otherwise have no incentive to change house rules in order to accommodate the storage and charging of these devices.

One other note: while the landlord must allow a device in the apartment pursuant to SB 712 with certain conditions, the landlord can prohibit the repair or maintenance of the micromobility device there or perhaps in a dedicated storage or parking space. It’s still the landlord’s property, after all.

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