Point-of-sale ordinances – what are they and why are they wrong?
At our recent mid-winter business meetings, point-of-sale ordinances were debated in several committees. Why? Because this year we are likely to face more point-of-sale ordinances at the state level than we have in the past decade. During his 20+ years as our Chief Lobbyist, Alex Creel has met and defeated more than 20 point of sale ordinances that would have resulted in thousands of dollars of increased cost to homeowners and resulted in even less affordable housing across the state. He’s expecting an onslaught of this type of bill this session.
In spite of the fact that there is currently a dearth of legislation on the table (see CAR Update Post), we already know of several bills waiting in the wings that will have point of sale provisions. Among these:
- ACWA (Association of California Water Agencies) is circulating a point of sale water conservation (toilet) retrofit.
- The CEC (California Energy Commission) may re-introduce AB2678 with point of sale energy audits (a bill we successfully fought last year).
- The PLC (Planning and Conservation League purportedly has a similar bill it is waiting to introduce.
- The ARB (Air Resources Board) will approve an implementation plan that includes point of sale as a trigger for retrofits.
- Water agencies & county governments are rumored to have at least two different bills requiring sewer/septic inspections and retrofits.
- Local governments continue to push point of sale as a trigger event for fireplace, water use and energy retrofits.
- There are additional calls for more ‘safety’ mandates for items like the carbon monoxide alarm bill narrowly defeated last session as well as for the next iteration of pool safety barriers.
Why all these and why now? Well, you may notice that most of those proposals have one thing in common – they deal with conservation issues and right now GREEN is in. Our new President is GREEN. Our lame-duck Governor can’t get a budget in place but if something is GREEN, he’s all over it. Our liberal legislators are increasingly GREEN. Want to make money off some lame product or get some lame bill passed? Make them GREEN.
And if CAR stands up in opposition to these worthless and costly mandates – well, as one member put it, we stand to become a red smear on the GREEN road.
There is an excellent series of briefing papers available at CAR.org dealing with how to address point-of-sale retrofit bills. And it’s not an easy battle because many of the bills are actually for a good cause. Even if you’re not GREEN it’s hard to argue with water conservation, especially in Southern California, or pool safety or energy efficiency. If you can save time, energy, water and money, it’s gotta be good, right?
But the bottom line is that point-of-sale mandates are about the LEAST effective way to accomplish something. First of all it transfers the cost of compliance to only those parties involved in a transaction and not to ALL homes. It even does that inefficiently since studies show that within a 25 year time span, less than 22% of homes will be impacted by the measure. The impact us further diluted since those same studies show that newer homes, those already most in compliance with energy saving features, change hands most frequently while pre-1979 homes, those most likely to offend, change hands much less frequently.
What CAR has been very successful at doing is pointing out those dismal penetration results. We suggest that if their widget or gizmo is of such universal benefit, then it should be applied to ALL homes to achieve the promised benefit, not just burden 5 or 10 or even 25% of homeowners with the ‘tax’. We are also supportive of a time-certain feature. We have employed this very successfully when the situation called for it by specifying that the measure apply to ALL homes, that compliance be mandated within a specified time period and, when possible, the utility or agency provide some incentive for compliance paid for out of the up-front savings that agency will enjoy from the retrofit. Water heater strapping, smoke detectors and pool barriers are examples of this and are now standard issue on every home and subject to disclosure by the Seller on the TDS or WHSD forms.
Keep your eyes open for local municipalities attempting to implement these measures as they look for ways to ‘enhance revenue’ and/or reduce consumption. We have successfully avoided the imposition of these items in several local cities in the past few years and will work with them to augment the program in such a way as to ensure it’s maximum efficiency with minimum impact to home owners and Realtors. If you hear of any city or commission thinking about any point-of-sale retrofit mandates, please contact [email protected] right away.
After all, the easiest way to do something isn’t always the right way and the right way is seldom easy. Point-of-sale mandates are certainly easy but that doesn’t make them right.