San Marino has had a little bit of a ghost problem in the last few years, not the kind that go bump in the night, but the kind that,….well, simply isn’t there.

San Marino has for many years had a very high number of foreign home owners. However in recent years, a larger percentage of those homeowners never occupy the homes, leaving them vacant. Most of these newer absentee owners are from Mainland China. They buy the homes as a safe haven, a good place to hold some money off-shore. They also view the prices of homes as downright inexpensive in comparison to the overinflated prices in their home cities in China.

However local homeowners and the City Council have become increasingly concerned about the number of vacant homes in this very affluent community. Vacant homes can attract squatters and drive down property prices in even the most desirable of neighborhoods, not to mention decreasing vital revenue for local business that would normally thrive in an engaged, vibrant community. As a result, the City just adopted an Ordinance, that look effect in mid-June.

Effective Thursday, June 15, 2017 – Residential properties will be considered uninhabited if no person has lived in the residence on a day-to-day basis for a period of 60 consecutive days or longer. This ordinance was enacted due to safety issues when properties are uninhabited for extended periods of time. Note: Periodic visits to your property by a “third party” will not be considered inhabitation. Property owners are required to register an “authorized party” in the event a public safety issue arises. There is a $50 annual registration fee. To read the press release and obtain information on how to register a property click on the link below:

Police in San Marino have noticed an uptick in calls related to vacant homes and have very wisely begun keeping a log of these empty properties to better safeguard the community. Mayor Dr. Allan Yung was recently quoted as saying “If the ordinance is written, it is not with a punitive sense, but for safety,” underlining the importance of the ordinance to the community.

One incident that underscores the need for such an ordinance was reported in the Outlook newspaper “San Marino police responded to a disturbing incident on the morning of March 8. A man who had gone to check on a supposedly vacant Avondale Road residence on behalf of the homeowner was accosted by a squatter living in the master bedroom. Police, who found that a rear door had been forced open, arrested the 22-year-old transient on suspicion of residential burglary and assault with a deadly weapon”.