Low flow toilets will be required soon

As of January 1, 2017, all single-family homes in California built before 1994 will be required to have only low flow toilets and certain other water saving fixtures installed.

Homeowners are required to replace older commodes with low flow toilets as of Jan 1 2017

What constitutes a low flow toilet?

Low flow toilets will be designed to use no more than 1.6 gallons on average per flush. Some water conserving commodes will have dual flushes, with one for solids that uses more than 1.6 gallons, and one for liquids which will utilize fewer than 1.6 gallons.

What must be replaced?

Most of the attention has been around Low flow toilets, but they aren’t the only objects of the new law. What fixtures won’t pass the standards of the upcoming law?

  • Toilets manufactured to use more than 1.6 gallons per flush on average
  • Urinals manufactured to use more than one gallon of water per flush
  • Showerheads manufactured to use more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute
  • Interior faucets emitting more than 2.2 gallons of water per minute

You might have anticipated the answer if you’ve been watching Santa Clara County’s water saving efforts during the drought. Showerheads and faucet filters have been offered for free in many instances and there was the HET toilet rebate program, too.

Take note that the law requires the replacement of units manufactured for a high level of water use, so displacing water in your toilet tank with a brick, bottle, or by other means does not make the fixture pass law.

What changes will this effect in real estate transactions?

This is not a point-of-sale law. So what does that mean? Owners must install WCP fixtures (Water-Conserving Plumbing fixtures), including low flow toilets, whether they are selling or not. If you own a home you must comply. If a homeowner does not comply, however, it will not affect a property transaction. Either way the seller is required to disclose.

What should be disclosed when selling a home regarding these devices?

  1. The legal requirements in writing.
  2. Any and all compliant and/or noncompliant fixtures, if any, on the property in writing.
  3. “Seller’s affirmation,” meaning the seller’s confirmation that the disclosures provided are in fact the sellers and not the agents, that they are not part of the contract, nor a warranty, and do not substitute a buyer’s inspection. Mandatory when a TDS is used.

Both the TDS (Transfer Disclosure Statement) and the ESD (Exempt Seller Disclosure) will be (or have been) modified to include the legal language explaining the regulations as required by the new law, which takes care of disclosure #1.

The second disclosure requirement, disclosing compliance and/or noncompliance, will also be covered in the ESD forms. The TDS provides check boxes to disclose compliant fixtures. The law is still being fine-tuned, so it is yet unclear whether an unchecked box on the TDS disclosing replaced fixtures is enough of a disclosure for noncomplying fixtures.

The third provision is only required with a TDS and will be part of the Seller Property Questionnaire (form SPQ) update in December.

However…

Many local laws do have point-of-sale WCP fixture requirements, which this law will grandfather in so long as they were in effect before July 1st, 2009. Even if the requirements are less severe, such as allowing a higher gallon limiter, these local laws will continue to apply.

Newer local ordinances, those established any time after July 1st, 2009 or in the future, are allowed to establish or promote stricter regulation and will not be supplanted by the state law.

In conclusion

Plan to update old fixtures, but check local law before you do for more or less stringent laws. Homeowners, plan to invest in thsee updates between now and the new year (plumbers might be busier than usual for a while). And look for freebies and rebates which are becoming less frequently available.

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