Owners of pre-1994 multifamily properties have a short window of opportunity to comply with the water-conservation requirements of Senate Bill 407 or risk getting a knock on the door from the toilet police this New Year.

If your rental property still has the original toilets, showerheads, or faucets, it’s time to get off the pot and replace these water-wasting fixtures. The law was passed in 2009 but has been rolled out in stages. The mandate for water-efficient plumbing fixtures is the last piece of the legislation to be enforced, with a January 1, 2019 deadline.

Compliance flows for plumbing fixtures are as follows:

Showerheads: The flow rate must be 2.5 gallons per minute or less.
Aerators: 2 gallons per minute or less.
Toilets: They must use 1.6 gallons or less.

How, exactly, does a landlord ascertain if his or her devices are compliant?

The flow rate is sometimes listed on showerheads and aerators, but the numbers may have faded like an Egyptian scroll depending on their age.

According to our friends at the California Apartment Association, a low-tech solution is to use a flow bag. That is, you can hold the bag under the aerator or showerhead, turn on the water and wait five seconds. After running for five seconds, it will reveal the gallons flowed. Local water utilities often provide the bags or they can be found online.

Toilets can be a little trickier. If you can stomach the ickiness, they typically have a date stamped inside the tank that can be found to discover whether it is an uncompliant 3.5 or 5-gallon toilet or if uses 1.6 gallons or less. Another creative way to flush out whether the toilet passes the new standards is to open the tank lid is to measure from the bottom of the water line and the full flush water line. The difference between the pre-flush water line and the full flush water line will be a number of inches. If the drop is four inches or more, you have an older 3.5 or 5-gallon toilet. If its 3 inches or less, then you have 1.6 gallon or less toilet.

The CAA’s trusted vendors contained in its Industry Directory can assist landlords in this thankless process.

Is there really toilet police?

No actual police force, but if there were, the officer might look like this guy, who you’ve likely seen in your bathroom before.

In all seriousness, heavy fines can be levied on owners when upon inspection, plumbing fixtures are not up to specs, and so we admonish all landlords to take the law seriously. California lawmakers have declared adequate water supply reliability is critical to the state and is committed to protecting aquatic resources, and so the Senate Bill is not a water-saving tip – it’s the law, with consequences for not following it.

As always, you are always welcome to contact our offices with any questions on this law and any other landlord-tenant concerns.

Bornstein Law