NEW LAW AFFECTING ALL CALIF. HOMEOWNERS AS OF 1/1/2017
Requires Water-Conserving Plumbing Fixtures
There is a new law rushing at us that takes effect January 1, 2017 which requires all homeowners in California to have water conserving plumbing fixtures. Did you catch that? All homeowners. Not just when you sell your home (i.e. “point of sale”), but simply if you own property as of 1/1/17.
If you own a single family residence in CA as of Jan 1st, you will be outside of the law if you have any of these non-compliant plumbing fixtures:
- Any toilet manufactured to use more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush.
- Any urinal manufactured to use more than one gallon of water per flush.
- Any showerhead manufactured to have a flow capacity of more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute.
- Any interior faucet that emits more than 2.2 gallons of water per minute.
Once I heard this, I rushed to my toilets and saw that they all use 1.6 gallons per flush…phew. And I don’t know how many homes have urinals, but I have yet to hold a bucket under my showerhead with a stopwatch to calculate the gpm.
However, if you own a home that was built after 1/1/1992, your toilets are probably okay since California has required low-flow toilets for new construction since this date. And the law actually only applies to homes built before 1/1/1994, so homes that are less than 23 years old are okay!
And get this…condos are exempt! The law reads “single family residential property” and condominiums are not SFR’s! Will the law be expanded to include condos? I predict that they will. In Mammoth Lakes, I count about 4,540 condominium units built before 1992…that’s a lot of toilets. As an aside, the law states that multifamily and commercial properties do not need to comply until 1/1/19.
Policing: How will this law be policed? I find it hard to believe that a state agency will be going door to door to measure your fixture flow rates. Real Estate law currently requires that when you sell your home, you must disclose the presence of any water conserving plumbing fixtures. (Realtors love it when they do this…effectively making us the police.) The Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement form (“TDS”), which all sellers must fill out and provide to buyers during escrow, currently has a box to check if you have “Water-Conserving Plumbing Fixtures.”
An attorney from the California Association of Realtors believes that the Seller Property Questionnaire (SPQ) form will be revised by the end of 2016 to include a question that may be stated this way: “Are you (Seller) aware of any noncompliant plumbing fixtures?” And if a Seller checks “Yes,” they are required to explain further. So, if you remodeled a few of your bathrooms but still have one old bathroom with a high-flow toilet, you must disclose that it is non-compliant.
Then what? Is the Seller required to upgrade the fixture(s) before the close of escrow? Not necessarily. The TDS pg 2 says, “Installation of a listed appliance, device, or amenity is not a precondition of sale or transfer of the dwelling.” So, it will probably be left up to the Buyer and Seller to negotiate this. If it is realized early, it can be built into the list price and disclosed in the listing that “Buyer shall be responsible for compliance with water-conserving plumbing fixture state law.” Or, it could be asked for by Buyers after the home inspection – which brings up the question about how or even if home inspectors will test these fixtures.
The current corollary to this law is the requirement for all property owners to have carbon monoxide detectors in their dwelling. If a property does not have them, Buyers or their lenders will often request that the Seller install them before close of escrow. Sellers do not usually mind because these devices are not too expensive (sometimes we agents end up taking care of it out of our pockets).
If Buyers do ask for Seller to bring noncompliant fixtures into compliance before close of escrow, this is a much bigger ticket item, and even if a Seller did agree, the Seller will most likely install the cheapest fixtures available. I predict that Buyers are going to ask for a credit so that they can upgrade the appliance to their liking after the close of escrow (and many Buyers may just pocket the money and not even make the modifications).
I called the Mammoth Community Water District to ask about enforcement and they do not currently have an enforcement program in place, nor do they know if they will even be responsible for enforcement. They have called both the state and the Town of Mammoth Lakes but have not gotten any concrete info. Sounds like this law is not on many people’s radar yet.
However, the MCWD does have a generous rebate program in place to help incentivize us to upgrade our toilets and showerheads (http://www.mcwd.dst.ca.us/rebates.html).
So for now, just be aware this law is coming at us quickly, but is not clear how it will be enforced. It will be interesting to see how the real estate market reacts/adjusts to the latest ordinance affecting our largest asset(s).
– By Dennis Cox