Water Conserving Plumbing Fixtures

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California law requires property owners (for properties built before 1994) to install water-conserving plumbing fixtures by 2017 for single-family properties and by 2019 for other properties ). Additionally, if a property is altered or improved after 2014, then water-conserving plumbing fixtures must be installed as a condition of final permit approval. (Cal. Civ. Code section 1101.4)

Beginning in 2017 a seller of a single-family property will also be required to disclose whether the property is in compliance with the law. This same disclosure requirement will apply to other types of properties beginning in 2019. Even then, the law creates no point of sale requirement. (Cal. Civ. Code section 1101.4 and 1101.5.)

 

Q 1. What is the purpose of the water conserving plumbing fixtures law (“WCP fixtures law”)?

A The legislature thinks that water conservation is a cost effective approach to the challenges created by not having enough water. Those challenges include future economic health; environmental health; growing urban areas; water reliability; waste water treatment; energy and other resource costs; and protecting and restoring aquatic resources. All of these issues were cited as reasons behind this effort to promote water conservation.

Q 2. Does the water conservation law create any point of sale requirements?

A No. There is nothing in the law that requires the installation of water-conserving fixtures as a condition of sale.

Q 3. What is the significance of it NOT creating a point of sale requirement?

A Because the WCP fixtures law does not create a point-of-sale requirement, there is no obligation on either agents or brokers to ensure that sellers or buyers install WCP fixtures. However, as in all transactions, agents should impress upon the seller the necessity of carefully and accurately completing the appropriate disclosure forms.

Q 4. If there are no point of sale requirements, then what is required?

A The law will require owners of real property to install water-conserving fixtures simply because they own the property regardless of whether they are selling it. The requirement for installation is not immediate, but will take effect in later years depending on the type of property or whether improvements are made. For single family properties built before 1994, the installation requirement takes effect on January 1, 2017. For multi-unit residential property and any commercial property, these requirements will apply starting January 1, 2019. See questions 25 and 26 below.

Q 5. I’m a homeowner selling my pre-1994 single-family house. Are there any installation requirements under this law?

A There is nothing in this law that requires installation of WCP fixtures as a condition of sale. However, if you haven’t already installed water conserving plumbing fixtures on your pre-1994 single-family house, then beginning January 1, 2017, as an owner of the home, you will be in violation of the basic requirement of the law to have water conserving plumbing fixtures installed.

Q 6. Under the law WCP fixtures are not required as a point of sale. However, isn’t it possible that lenders may require it as a condition of the loan?

A Yes. It’s possible. Lenders may make their own underwriting decisions regardless of what the law technically does or does not require. If a lender requires the installation of WCP fixtures as a condition of the loan, that is his or her right to do so. At this time, however, we are unaware of any lender requiring it.

Q 7. What does the law require a seller to disclose regarding water conservation plumbing fixtures?

A Presently, the law only requires the seller to check the box on the TDS as to whether there are water conserving plumbing fixtures. Commencing January 1, 2017, for single family pre-1994 houses, the law will require a seller to disclose to the buyer the requirement of water conserving plumbing fixtures and whether the real property has any noncompliant fixtures. This same requirement will come into effect for multi-unit residential and commercial property starting January 1, 2019. See questions 25and 26 below.

Q 8. What is the definition of “water-conserving plumbing fixture”?

A Water-conserving plumbing fixture means any fixture that is in compliance with current building standards applicable to a newly constructed real property. (Cal. Civ. Code section 1101.3.)

Q 9. What is the definition of “noncompliant fixture”?

A The law calls for installation of water-conserving plumbing fixtures only when the existing plumbing fixtures are “non-compliant.” Noncompliant plumbing fixture means (1) any toilet manufactured to use more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush (2) any urinal manufactured to use more than one gallon of water per flush (3) any showerhead manufactured to have a flow capacity of more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute (4) any interior faucet that emits more than 2.2 gallons of water per minute. (Cal. Civ. Code section 1101.3.)

Q 10. Does the water conservation law apply to all types of property?

A No. The law only applies to property built and available for use on or before January 1, 1994. (Cal. Civ. Code section 1101.2.)

Q 11. Why does it only apply to buildings built before January 1, 1994?

A Under federal law, all residential toilets manufactured after January 1, 1994 must use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush. In California ultra-low flush toilets have been required in all new construction since January 1, 1992.

Q 12. When must the water-conserving fixtures be installed?

A It depends on what kind of property you own, and whether you make improvements. The law sets up three categories: “single-family residential real property,” “commercial real property,” and “multifamily residential property.”

Q 13. If I own a single-family residential property, what are the requirements and when do they take effect?

A Beginning January 1, 2017 all single family property owners will be required to replace noncompliant plumbing fixtures with water-conserving fixtures regardless of whether any improvements are made and whether or not the property is being sold.

Beginning January 1, 2017 a seller must disclose in writing to the buyer the requirement of water-conserving fixtures and whether the real property has any noncompliant fixtures.

However, if you do any improvement requiring a permit after January 1, 2014 on a single-family property, the permit will not be issued unless all noncompliant plumbing fixtures have been replaced with water-conserving fixtures. (Cal. Civ. Code section 1101.4.)

Q 14. I own a multifamily residential property or a commercial property, what are the requirements and when do they take effect?

A Beginning January 1, 2019 all noncompliant plumbing fixtures in any multifamily residential real property and any commercial real property shall be replaced with water-conserving plumbing fixtures.

Beginning January 1, 2019 a seller of these types of properties must disclose in writing to the buyer the requirement of water-conserving fixtures and whether the real property has any noncompliant fixtures.

However, after January 1, 2014, if you do any improvement which either costs at least $150,000 or increases total floor area by more than 10, then all nonconforming fixtures must be replaced with water-conserving plumbing fixtures. And replacement of nonconforming fixtures will be a condition of permit approval or certificate of final completion. However, if you only do improvements requiring a permit in a room then you only have to replace nonconforming fixtures in that room. (Cal. Civ. Code section 1101.5.)

Q 15. Are there any exemptions?

A Yes. There are exemptions for historical sites; property where it isn’t technically feasible to install water-conserving fixtures; buildings where the water is permanently disconnected; buildings slated to be demolished; and a special exemption for a city (or county) itself that has an existing retrofit law. (Cal. Civ. Code section 1101.7.)

Q 16. Can I comply with this law by just putting a brick in my toilet?

A No. The law defines as nonconforming any toilet manufactured to use more than 1.6 gallons. Therefore, displacing water in the tank will not put you in compliance with the law, even though you might be saving just as much water.

Q 17. I own a property in city where there is an existing retrofit law for water-conserving fixtures as a point of sale requirement (such as Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco). Are those retrofit laws still in force?

A Yes. Local laws passed before July of 2009 requiring retrofit of plumbing fixtures remain in effect. The state law also allows a locality to pass more restrictive requirements at any time.

Q 18. Can a city or county require greater water savings than the state law? Or have local laws now been superseded by the state law?

A No. A city, county or a retail water supplier has the authority to enact local ordinances or establish policies that will result in a greater amount of water savings than those provided under California’s statewide law on water-conserving plumbing fixtures (Cal. Civ. Code section 1101.8).

 

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