Notices of Violation may be on file with the local jurisdiction (City or County) without being recorded on title. There may be a complaint filed that has yet to be investigated, or a Notice issued that wasn't recorded on title. So, one must always check with the jurisdiction, prior to purchase or sale, to see if there is any 'current' or 'pending' action. Title companies do not usually call the jurisdiction, they look at what comes up in their abstract, which only shows what is 'recorded'.
Further, we, the Alliance for Change, believe the County of Santa Cruz, doesn't have the right to record Notices of Violation without 'due process' because it is an encumbrance on title which is a 'taking' without an appeal hearing by an independent hearing officer (not a County employee), prior to clouding title, which currently is not in their procedure. There are lawsuits on file regarding this, for more information and assistance, you can go to: http://www.straighttalknews.org.
Many buyers have found, after their purchase, that there was some pending or current action they were unaware of. Do not trust your realtor to do this inquiry for you, unless they are very experienced. They only have to disclose defects they are 'aware' of, and many do not want to be fully 'aware'. Reputable realtors will do a full search. You can do it yourself by inquiring at the public General Information Desk, of the Planning Department, by parcel number, whether there 'is now' or 'ever has been' any record of violation on a given parcel. You have a right to see the 'investigation' file, for any 'resolved, current or pending' complaint, which should be available in the Records Room at the County Planning Department. They may have to order it out of Archives, if it is very old. They will remove any 'confidential' information, ie. Assessor's records, by law.
Also, I recommend a complete review of the Assessor's records available in the Assessor's office. You must have a form signed by the owner to allow you to see it. The Assessor's office staff can help you read the record. It will give you information regarding the date of construction of the improvements on the parcel, type and size of improvements, and/or when they were first assessed. This information must be carefully compared to the actual improvements on the property, to determine if there is more construction than the County may be aware of. Also, the date of construction can tell you about the operative laws at the time.. for example, structures built prior to 1956 in Santa Cruz County, did not require a building permit at the time of construction...and there likely will not be much information, except the Assessor's records, unless other permits have been obtained in the interim time. In other words, there may be violations present that the jurisdiction may not be aware of yet, that you could be responsible for in the future, should a complaint arise and enforcement action is taken.