Once a year, I conduct a safety inspection of my Berkeley rentals and fill out a form, Schedule A, as required by the city of Berkeley. Below is an article that I recently wrote for the Berkeley landlord association newsletter regarding this form:

When I fill out the Berkeley Rental Housing Safety Inspection Program Schedule A, I would like to answer several questions with: “I don’t know. In order to answer this question, I would need the ability to see through walls, and I can’t do that.” There are a number of questions on Schedule A like that. For example, one question asks landlords if the wiring inside the walls of an apartment is greater (thicker) than 14 gauge. Well, undersized wiring is dangerous, but without the ability to see through walls, I have no way of knowing if there are undersized wires inside the walls of my rentals. I have good vision, but I can’t through walls. There are several other questions on this form like that. There is a question in the plumbing section that asks landlords if there are any vent pipes that terminate inside the walls of an apartment. Well, vent pipes that terminate inside walls is quite common in older buildings, and it can be dangerous, but without the ability to see through walls, I have no way of knowing for sure where the vent pipes go. I could guess, but the city isn’t asking me for my best guess. This form gives landlords only 2 ways of answering questions. A landlord can answer the questions with either ‘verified’ or ‘not applicable.’ There is no place on this form for landlords to answer questions with ‘don’t know’ or ‘unable to determine.’ Now before you laugh at this, remember – we landlords have to answer these questions and sign this form under penalty of perjury! I attended the meetings at which this form was originally put together, and I raised this issue then, but I was ignored. I keep hoping that someday the city of Berkeley will revise this form and eliminate questions that require landlords to have x-ray vision in order to answer them, but that never happens. It never seems to occur to the people who run this program that landlords cannot see through walls like Superman.