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California Expands the Use of Defibrillators in Buildings

Effective January 1, 2020, California Senate Bill 1397 will require certain buildings constructed prior to January 1, 2017, must have a defibrillator under certain circumstances.

California building owners and operators should take note of the new requirements affecting office, industrial, and retail buildings, as well as certain residential buildings such as hotels and motels. Apartment buildings and condominiums, however, are excluded from these requirements.

Landlords should carefully review their leases to determine how the responsibility for compliance with new laws is allocated in connection with any improvements to the property. Depending on the provisions in the tenant's lease, the tenant may be responsible for any costs associated with the defibrillator requirement.


The new requirements apply to all of the following occupied buildings (Covered Buildings):

  1. Buildings with an occupancy of 200 or more that are used for business (e.g., professional offices, banks, laboratories, etc.), educational, factory, institutional (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, etc.), and retail purposes.

  2. Residential buildings with an occupancy of 200 or more, such as hotels and motels, but excluding single-family and multi-family dwelling units such as apartments and condominiums.

  3. Assembly buildings with an occupancy of more than 300 (e.g., restaurants, theaters, concert halls, indoor athletic facilities, libraries, museums, places of religious worship, arenas, etc.).

The defibrillator requirements do not apply to government buildings, licensed hospitals and nursing facilities, or vacant buildings.

Under the new law, Covered Buildings which were constructed prior to January 1, 2017, are required to have a defibrillator on the premises if one of the following occurs:

  1. The building undergoes tenant improvements costing $100,000 or more in a calendar year.

  2. The building undergoes renovations costing $100,000 or more in a calendar year.

  3. The building is used as a place of assembly and is subject to any tenant improvement.


Any person or entity that places a defibrillator in a building is required to comply with the provisions of California Health and Safety Code §1797.196, which includes maintenance and testing of the defibrillator, and periodic training for its use.


Although the statute does not specify what penalties, if any, would be assessed upon noncompliance with the provisions of these new requirements, a property owner's failure to comply with the statute would expose the owner to significant liability in the event a defibrillator could have been used in an emergency situation but was not located in the building. 

In addition, it is likely that local municipalities would condition building permit approvals upon the applicant's compliance with this statute, and establish other local regulations deemed necessary to promote compliance.

© 2010-2020 Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP National Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 310


About this Author

Paul Nash Real Estate Lawyer Allen Matkins

Paul Nash has a highly diverse real estate practice, allowing him to work on acquisitions, dispositions, financing, and leasing matters for different clients, often all in the same day. He uses a business-oriented approach to his transactional work representing buyers, sellers, borrowers, lenders, and landlords in all facets of commercial property acquisition, financing, development, leasing and management.

His background as a title officer, escrow officer, and mortgage broker prior to becoming an attorney gives Paul particular insight into his clients’ needs, making him a savvy...

Andrew Demirchyan, Allen Matkins Law Firm, San Francisco, Real Estate Law Attorney

Andrew Demirchyan is an associate in the Real Estate group in San Francisco. Andrew represents developers, owners and financial institutions in a broad range of complex commercial real estate transactions, including secured lending, commercial leasing, acquisitions and dispositions.

Prior to joining Allen Matkins, Andrew was the Deputy White House Liaison for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, an appointed position by the White House where he was Senior Advisor to Secretary Julián Castro for presidential personnel and appointments. As liaison, Andrew supported both the president's and secretary's leadership of HUD, and guided HUD's political leadership through political and legal aspects of transitioning to a new administration.

While in law school, Andrew was a Vetting Legal Intern at the White House, where he assisted with vetting President Obama's Executive Branch nominees/appointees, with a focus on national security agencies. Andrew prepared recommendations to the president on presidential appointments and personnel actions, as well as federal clemency petitions. He also assisted with drafting Obama Administration transition documents.