SACRAMENTO — High housing costs and a tight rental market are two well-known obstacles for Californians looking for a place to live. But the jolt of higher than expected energy bills caused by inefficient appliances or poor insulation can also add to the financial burden facing renters.
A bill by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) seeks to eliminate any big surprises on an energy bill by giving renters a baseline of information on the energy efficiency of a rental unit before they sign a lease. SB 1026 was approved today in the Assembly Utility and Energy Committee. It now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bill has already passed the state Senate.
“No one likes being caught off guard and being forced to dig deeper into their wallet because of unanticipated expenses,” said Wieckowski, a member of the Senate Housing Committee. “This bill gives prospective renters a better understanding of how energy efficient a unit is before they sign a lease. It is based on a similar law that has been in effect for years in Maine. It provides basic information about insulation, heating systems, appliances and other items. If it becomes law, it will also spur more landlords into updating their units and appliances, knowing that a would-be tenant is going to review this disclosure form.”
With consumers paying the energy bills, landlords do not have strong incentives to make energy and money-saving efficiency upgrades, while tenants have no incentive to upgrade windows or appliances they cannot take with them when they move.
SB 1026 directs the California Energy Commission to create a rating or labeling system by which consumers could know if the rental unit meets, exceeds, or fails basic tenets of modern energy efficiency.
“We believe giving renters information on the energy efficiency of a potential unit helps them make better decisions on where to live and how much to budget for their expenses,” said Daniel Barad, Sierra Club California’s senior policy advocate. “We hope it also encourages landlords to upgrade these units when appliances need to be replaced.”
California law already mandates several disclosures at the time of signing a lease for rental housing. Depending on the type and age of the buildings, these include information on: bedbugs; lead-based paint; smoking; demolition permits applied to the property; death on the property in past three years; drug contamination; presence of toxic mold; pest control notices; location near former military training grounds with explosives; and presence in a potential flooding area.
In addition to Sierra Club California, SB 1026 is also supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council, California Efficiency + Demand Management Council, American Council For An Energy Efficient Economy, Silicon Valley Clean Energy, SPUR, US Green Building Council – LA, California Democratic Party Renters Council and the Alameda County Democratic Party.
Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th District, which includes southern Alameda County and parts of Santa Clara County.