The State of California has adopted the 2013 California Building Code, effective January 1, 2014. All building permit applications submitted after that date must show that the work covered will comply with the 2013 California Buildng Code. There are also 2013 California Electrical, Mechanical and Plumbing codes.
The 2013 California Building Code, hereafter referred to as the State Code, applies to all new construction, all alterations and repairs and any remodels, EXCEPT for projects of very minor scope. These Exceptions are spelled out in the Code.
The 2013 California Building Code is State law, just like the Traffic Code or the Tax Code. Violations of the code carry fines and potentially criminal penalties. Work done without a permit may be removed at the property owners expense or must be brought into conformance with the code under a buildng permit, Some non-conforming work cannot be brought into compliance and must be removed.
The 2013 California Building Code is administered by the local jurisdictions: cities, counties and districts. The enforcement within cities and counties is the responsibility of the Building Official, who is usually an appointed civil servant. The Building Official may also be the Chief Building Inspector and usually has an office staff, including plan checkers and clerical workers plus one or more field inspectors. Thre may be separate electrical and plumbing inspectors, depending upon the size of the department.
Local jurisdictions may pass local ordinances requiring more strict requirements for construction than required by State Code, but they cannot reduce any of the requirments of the State Code.
The 2013 State Code contains greatly changed requirements for designs to resist wind and seismic forces. The result of this change is that many if not most of buildings in California built prior to 2008 are now non-conforming and any work on them may require reinforcement of the structural systems. The 2013 State Code also effectively eliminated the conventional construction provisions for two story wood-framed residential buildngs in most of Northern California, increased the number of projects which will require an architect or engineer of record and increased the number of projects which will require soils reports before a permit can be issued. This is good news for architects and engineers, but bad news for property owners.