Today's Law As Amended


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SB-750 Building standards: water meters: multiunit structures.(2013-2014)



As Amends the Law Today


SECTION 1.

 Chapter 2.5 (commencing with Section 1954.201) is added to Title 5 of Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, to read:

CHAPTER  2.5. Water Service
1954.201.
 It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this chapter to do both of the following:
(a) To encourage the conservation of water in multifamily residential rental buildings through means either within the landlord’s or the tenant’s control.
(b) To ensure that the practices involving the submetering of dwelling units for water service are just and reasonable, and include appropriate safeguards for both tenants and landlords.
1954.202.
 As used in this chapter:
(a) “Billing agent” means a person or entity who contracts to provide submetering services to a landlord, including billing.
(b) “Landlord” includes all agents of the landlord, billing agents, and successors in interest to the real property interests of the landlord. “Landlord” does not include a tenant who rents all or a portion of a dwelling unit to subtenants. “Landlord” does not include a common interest development, as defined in Section 4100 of the Civil Code.
(c) “Property” means real property containing two or more dwelling units that is served by a single meter.
(d) “Rental agreement” includes a fixed-term lease.
(e) “Renting” includes leasing, whether on a periodic or fixed-term basis.
(f) “Submeter” means a device that measures water consumption of an individual rental unit within a multiunit residential structure or mixed-use residential and commercial structure, and which is owned and operated by the landlord.
(g) “Water service” includes any charges for other services, including sewage or storm water services, that are based in whole or in part on the volume of water usage recorded by a water meter or submeter.
(h) “Water purveyor” means a water purveyor as defined in Section 512 of the Water Code.
1954.203.
 (a) A landlord subject to this chapter shall install and operate submeters as follows:
(1) The submeter is inspected, tested, and verified for commercial purposes pursuant to law, including, but not limited to, Section 12500.5 of the Business and Professions Code.
(2) The installation conforms to all laws, including, but not limited to, regulations established pursuant to Section 12107 of the Business and Professions Code. However, the installation need not comply with a requirement that an outside faucet be under the exclusive use of the tenant, provided that the tenant is notified upon commencement of the tenancy that water dispensed from the faucet shall be charged to the tenant. The landlord shall establish reasonable rules to prohibit the use of the faucet by any person other than the tenant.
(3) The submeter for a dwelling unit measures only water that is supplied for the exclusive use of the particular dwelling unit and only to an area within the exclusive possession and control of the tenant of the dwelling unit. However, the installation need not comply with a requirement that an outside faucet be under the exclusive use of the tenant, provided that the tenant is notified upon commencement of the tenancy that water dispensed from the faucet shall be charged to the tenant. The landlord shall establish reasonable rules to prohibit the use of the faucet by any person other than the tenant.
(4) The primary submeter indicator or remote reader may be easily accessed and read by the tenant of the dwelling unit, and read by the owner landlord without entering the dwelling unit.
(5) Each submeter is reinspected and recalibrated within the time limits specified in law or regulation.
(6) All plumbing fixtures and fittings within each dwelling unit conform to all laws regarding habitability of dwellings and water conservation.
(b) This section does not require a water purveyor to assume responsibility for ensuring compliance with any law or regulation governing installation, certification, maintenance, and testing of submeters and associated onsite plumbing.
1954.204.
 Prior to executing a rental agreement, a landlord that intends to charge a tenant separately from rent for water service in a property with submeters shall clearly disclose the following information to the tenant, in writing, in at least 10-point type, which may be incorporated into the rental agreement:
(a) That the tenant will be billed for water service separately from the rent.
(b) An estimate of the monthly bill for water service for units at the property, which may be expressed as a range with up to a 25 percent difference in average or median usage, determined by either of the following:
(1) The average bill for water service for comparative units at the property over three of the past six months.
(2) Using the national average of 3,600 gallons of water used per unit per month as a basis for the bill and including any charges pursuant to paragraphs (2) and (3) of subdivision (a) of Section 1954.205.
(c) The due dates and payment procedures for bills for water service.
(d) If a billing agent is used, the agent’s name, address, email address, a toll-free telephone number or a local number for the tenant to call the agent, and the days and hours the agent is available by phone at either number for the tenant to contact the agent regarding billing questions.
(e) That the monthly bill for water service may only include four charges:
(1) Payment due for the amount of usage as measured by the submeter, charged at the exact same rate or rates as the water purveyor.
(2) Payment of a portion of the fixed fee charged by the water purveyor for water service divided equally among all the units in the property.
(3) A fee for the landlord’s or billing agent’s costs, up to four dollars ($4) per month or 40 percent of the amount billed for the actual amount of water used, whichever is less.
(4) A late fee, with the amounts and times assessed, in compliance with Section 1954.213.
(f) The date the submeter was last inspected, tested, and verified, and the date by which it must be reinspected, tested, and verified under law, if available. If this information is not available, the landlord shall disclose that the information is not available.
(g) The location of the submeter.
(h) A statement that if the tenant believes that the submeter reading is inaccurate or the submeter is malfunctioning, the tenant may contact the local county sealer and request that the submeter be tested. Contact information for the county sealer shall be included in the disclosure to the tenant.
(i) A statement that this disclosure is only a summary of information that a landlord must provide to a tenant if the landlord intends to charge a tenant separately from rent for water service in a property with submeters.
1954.205.
 (a) As part of the monthly bill for water service, a landlord shall only bill a tenant for the following:
(1) Volumetric usage of water service pursuant to subdivision (b).
(2) Any recurring fixed charge for water service billed to the property by the water purveyor that, at the landlord’s discretion, shall be calculated by either of the following:
(A) The proportion of the tenant’s volumetric water use, as shown on the submeter, in relation to the water use of the entire property, as shown on the property’s water meter.
(B) Dividing the total fixed charge equally among the total number of residential units and non-residential units served by a single meter operated by a water purveyor.
(3) A billing, administrative, or other fee for the landlord’s and billing agent’s costs, not to exceed 40 percent of the amount billed under paragraph (1) or four dollars ($4), whichever is less. Beginning January 1, 2018, the fee imposed pursuant to this paragraph may be adjusted annually by the landlord commensurate with an increase in the Consumer Price Index.
(4) A late charge as assessed pursuant to Section 1954.213.
(b) The amount of the volumetric portion of the bill shall be calculated by multiplying the volume of water used, as determined by the submeter for the billing period in question, by the rate or rates for volumetric usage established by the water purveyor for water service for the property.
(c) If the rate or rates established by the water purveyor change, the bill shall be prorated to reflect the time each rate was in effect. The landlord may assess charges for the entire billing period based on the lower rate.
(d) If a submeter reading for the beginning or end of a billing period is, in good faith, not available, the landlord shall bill the tenant according to Section 1954.210.
(e) This section shall apply to leases first entered into or renewed on or after January 1, 2014. For leases first entered into or renewed prior to January 1, 2014, this section shall apply but the landlord may additionally bill the tenant for other charges as provided in the lease, including, but not limited to, beginning and ending water service.
1954.206.
 (a) Submeters shall be read within three days of the same point in each billing cycle.
(b) Payments shall be due at the same point in each billing cycle. However, payments shall be due no earlier than 10 days after mailing, if mailed, or five days after personal delivery. A tenant may agree in writing to receive a bill electronically, in which case payments are due five days after electronic delivery. A tenant may rescind authorization for electronic delivery of bills at any time. A tenant shall not be required to pay bills electronically.
(c) Bills shall include and separately set forth the following information:
(1) The submeter readings for the beginning date and ending date of the billing cycle, the dates read, and the indicated consumption as determined by subtracting the amount of the beginning date submeter reading from the amount of the ending date submeter reading.
(2) The amounts billed pursuant to paragraphs (1) to (4), inclusive, of subdivision (a) of Section 1954.205.
(3) The rate or rates charged for the volumetric charge per unit of measure.
(4) The amount, if any, still owing from the previous month’s bill.
(5) The amount, if any, still owing from bills prior to the previous month’s bill.
(6) The late fee, if any, imposed on amounts specified in paragraph (4) or (5).
(7) The total amount due.
(8) The due date for the payment.
(9) A statement of when the late fees would apply.
(10) The mailing address, email address, telephone number, and the regular telephone hours during which the tenant may contact the billing agent with questions or concerns regarding the bill. The landlord or billing agent shall have in place procedures to make any necessary adjustments to the bill upon contact by the tenant. If a billing agent is used, the name of the entity shall also be disclosed and the telephone number of the billing agent shall be either a toll free or a local number for the tenant to contact the billing agent.
(11) A statement that the biller is not the water purveyor that includes the name of the local water purveyor providing the water service to the master meter.
1954.207.
 (a) At the beginning of a tenancy, a submeter shall be read after the tenant takes possession. If a regular monthly reading occurs less than five days prior to the tenant taking possession, that reading may be substituted to establish usage.
(b) For a water-service bill at the end of a tenancy, the submeter shall be read within five days, if possible. If the submeter cannot be read within five days at the end of a tenancy, the bill amount for the final month shall be based on the bill amount for the previous month. Tenancies that end within five days of a regular monthly reading may be billed according to that reading. At the end of a tenancy, payment shall be due no earlier than 10 days after mailing of the bill, if mailed, or five days after personal delivery, or five days after electronic delivery.
1954.208.
 (a) A landlord shall not charge or recover, or allow to be charged or
recovered fees billed to the landlord by the water purveyor, billing agent, or any other person for any deposit, disconnection, reconnection, late payment, or any other penalty.
(b) This section does not prohibit a landlord from recovering any costs listed in subdivision (a) that are incorporated into the rent for a dwelling unit, if the rent is a fixed amount per rental period, the charges are not listed separately, and the rental charges are otherwise lawful.
1954.209.
 The landlord shall maintain and make available in writing, at the tenant’s written or electronic request, within seven days after the request, the following:
(a) The date the submeter was last inspected, tested, and verified for use, to the extent this information is available.
(b) The data used to calculate the tenant’s bill, as follows:
(1) The most recent water bill for the property’s master water meter showing the recurring fixed charge for water service billed to the property by the water purveyor, and the usage charges for the property, including any tiered amounts.
(2) Any other bills for water service, as defined in subdivision (g) of Section 1954.202, for the property.
(3) The number of units in the property.
(4) If not shown on the bill for the property, the per unit charges for volumetric water usage, including any tiered amounts.
(5) The formula used to calculate the charge for the tenant’s volumetric water usage.
1954.210.
 (a) If a tenant notifies the landlord, or the landlord otherwise becomes aware, of a condition that indicates that water is being distributed to the tenant not at his or her direction, including, but not limited to, a leak, a drip, a running toilet, or a submeter reading indicating constant or abnormal water usage, the landlord shall investigate, and if warranted, rectify the condition.
(b) If the condition is rectified more than 10 days after the initial investigation, the tenant’s volumetric usage for any month or months that include the period between 10 days after the initial investigation and the repair shall be deemed to be fifteen dollars ($15) or actual usage, whichever is less. At the landlord’s option, if submeter readings are available to determine the usage at a point prior to investigation and a point following repair, usage shall be deemed to be fifty cents ($0.50) per day for those days between the two submeter readings or actual usage, whichever is less.
(c) If the condition remains unrectified for six months after investigation, no further volumetric usage charges may be imposed until the condition is repaired.
1954.211.
 (a) The landlord may enter the unit for the purpose of installing, repairing, testing, and maintaining a submeter or for the purpose of repairing or testing any water fixture suspected by the landlord or reported by the tenant to be in need of repair, provided the requirements of Section 1954 are met.
(b) The landlord may also enter a unit to read a submeter, provided the requirements of this chapter and Section 1954 are met.
1954.212.
 (a) If a monthly submeter reading necessary to measure volumetric usage is unavailable, the landlord may bill the tenant 75 percent of the average amount billed for volumetric usage for the last three months for which complete billing information is available. The landlord shall disclose the adjustment on the bill.
(b) If no complete billing information is available for the prior three months, the volumetric usage charge shall be deemed to be 50 cents ($0.50) per day that the data is not available.
(c) If monthly submeter readings remain unavailable for more than six months, the volumetric usage charge shall be deemed to be zero for any subsequent month that the data is not available.
1954.213.
 (a) A landlord may impose a late fee for any water service bill not paid within 20 days of its due date. If the 20th day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, the late fee shall not be imposed until the day after the first business day following the 20th day.
(b) A late fee of up to seven dollars ($7) may be imposed if any amount of a bill remains unpaid after the time described in subdivision (a). A late fee of up to ten dollars ($10) may be imposed if any amount remains unpaid after 50 days, as calculated in the same manner as described in subdivision (a). If any partial payments are made, they shall be credited against the bill that has been outstanding the longest.
(c) (1) Notwithstanding Section 1950.5, if a water service bill remains unpaid after the time described in subdivision (a) expires, the landlord may, in lieu of a late fee, deduct the amount due from the tenant’s security deposit. The landlord may require an additional deposit of security following a deduction, if the deposit would be otherwise lawful under Sections 827 and 1950.5.
(2) The landlord may also deduct an unpaid water service bill from the security deposit upon the ending of a tenancy, provided that the last water service bill showing the amount due is attached to the documentation required by Section 1950.5, and all the other requirements of that section are met.
(d) If a water service bill remains unpaid for 30 days after its due date, the nonpayment shall constitute a curable breach of a material lease obligation. The landlord may commence an action to remedy the breach, as provided by law.
(e) Water service charges under this chapter shall not constitute rent.
(f) A landlord shall not shut off the water or otherwise interfere with the provision of water service to a dwelling unit for any reason, including nonpayment of a bill assessed pursuant to this chapter.
1954.214.
 In addition to actual damages sustained by a tenant for a violation of this chapter, the tenant may recover from the landlord three times the amount of actual damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs. The landlord may also be liable for a civil penalty of up to one month’s rent, unless the landlord shows that the violation was made in good faith and not part of a pattern and practice of violations of this chapter.
1954.215.
 (a) A city, county, city and county, or district may enforce this chapter.
(b) This chapter does not preclude or preempt an ordinance that regulates the approval of submeter types or the installation, maintenance, reading, billing, or testing of submeters and associated onsite plumbing if the
ordinance was adopted prior to January 1, 2013.
1954.216.
 The rights or obligations established under this chapter shall not be waived. Any purported waiver is void.
1954.217.
 (a) This chapter shall apply to both of the following:
(1) All dwelling units offered for rent or rented in a building where submeters were installed pursuant to Article 5 (commencing with Section 537) of Chapter 8 of Division 1 of the Water Code.
(2) All other dwelling units where a landlord has previously installed and uses or voluntarily installs and uses a submeter to charge a tenant separately for water service.
(b) Nothing in this chapter shall do the following:
(1) Apply to any building without submeters installed and in use.
(2) Be construed to enlarge or diminish the rights or obligations with respect to charges or allocation methods to determine water service costs to tenants in a building without submeters installed and in use.
1954.218.
 A submeter system that measures only a portion of a dwelling unit’s water usage, including, but not limited to, a system that measures only hot water usage, shall not be subject to this chapter, if the system is first put in service before January 1, 2014.
1954.219.
 This chapter shall become operative on January 1, 2015.

SEC. 2.

 Section 517 is added to the Water Code, to read:

517.
 “Submeter” means a device that measures water consumption of an individual unit within a multiunit residential structure or mixed-use residential and commercial structure, and is read by the owner of the structure or the owner’s agent.

SEC. 3.

 Article 5 (commencing with Section 537) is added to Chapter 8 of Division 1 of the Water Code, to read:

Article  5. Multiunit Structures
537.
 (a) Structures in all of the following categories shall be exempt from this chapter:
(1) Low-income housing. For purposes of this paragraph, “low-income housing” means a residential building financed with low-income housing tax credits, tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds, general obligation bonds, or local, state, or federal loans or grants, for which the rents of the occupants in lower income households, as defined in Section 50079.5 of the Health and Safety Code, do not exceed rents prescribed by deed restrictions or regulatory agreements pursuant to the terms of the financing or financial assistance, and for which not less than 25 percent of the dwelling units within the building are designated for occupancy by lower income households, as defined in Section 50079.5 of the Health and Safety Code.
(2) Student dormitories.
(3) Long-term health care facilities, as defined in Section 1418 of the Health and Safety Code.
(4) Time-share property, as defined in subdivision (aa) of Section 11212 of the Business and Professions Code.
(5) Residential care facilities, as defined in subdivision (k) of Section 1569.2 of the Health and Safety Code.
(b) A submeter used to measure water supplied to an individual residential unit that is required to be installed by a water purveyor pursuant to this chapter shall be of a type approved pursuant to Section 12500.5 of the Business and Professions Code and shall be installed and operated in compliance with regulations established pursuant to Section 12107 of the Business and Professions Code.
538.
 (a) Each water purveyor that sells, leases, rents, furnishes, or delivers water service to a newly constructed multiunit residential structure or newly constructed mixed-use residential and commercial structure for which an application for a water connection, or more than one connection, is submitted after January 1, 2015, shall require a measurement of the quantity of water supplied to each individual dwelling unit as a condition of new water service. The measurement may be by individual water meters or submeters. Applicants shall provide appropriate documentation to the water purveyor that identifies the location of the water meters or submeters.
(b) (1) If the water purveyor requires installation of submeters pursuant to subdivision (a), the owner of the structure shall ensure that each submeter installed complies with all laws and regulations governing the approval of submeter types or the installation, maintenance, reading, billing, and testing of submeters, including, but not limited to, the California Plumbing Code.
(2) This subdivision does not require a water purveyor to fund or assume responsibility for ensuring compliance with any law or regulation governing the approval of submeter types or the installation, maintenance, reading, billing, and testing of submeters and associated onsite plumbing.
(c) A water purveyor shall not impose an additional capacity or connection fee or charge for a submeter that is installed by the owner, or his or her agent.
538.5.
 (a) This article does not preclude or preempt an ordinance that regulates the approval of submeter types or the installation, maintenance, reading, billing, or testing of submeters and associated onsite plumbing if the ordinance was adopted prior to January 1, 2013.
(b) This article does not restrict the authority of a water purveyor, city, county, city and county, or other local agency to adopt and implement a program to promote water conservation that includes the installation of water meters and submeters, as required pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 538 if the program is at least as stringent as the requirements of this article.
539.
 It is the intent of the Legislature that this article should not be construed to impose costs on any local government agency, except to the extent that the local government agency is a water purveyor.
539.5.
 This article shall become operative on January 1, 2015.