Columbia City Council discusses rental energy efficiency policy

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COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia discussed and examined the energy efficiency requirement policy for rental houses at Monday's meeting. The Environment and Energy Commission issued the report "to increase energy efficiency in homes used by students, low-income, and elderly citizens...this small change will significantly improve the quality of housing available for the groups mentioned about. It's a long-term commitment to energy efficiency."

The report did not include a cost estimate for rental inspections. 

"In general, we have a cost recovery system where we do inspections where we charge for those roughly how much it costs to perform that duty, but the cost for inspections is how much it costs the city to deliver them," Michael Trapp, Ward 2 Council Member, said. "So without a funding mechanism, it will be placed upon the landlord to cover that."

Trapp said the benefit of this policy is it would allow renters to be able to look and know how much heating and electric cost before renting a place.

"If the inspections encourage enough energy efficiency changes where you make back the cost of inspections and they work to improve, out of reducing electricity and heating cost, that might be a good idea," Trapp said.

However, he also said he would like to see some more analysis on the policy and hear more opinions from others.

"It may benefit the ultimate tenant because the cost of inspection may encourage enough changes to where they would make that. Because landlords are going to pass their increase cost on its rent- they are not going to absorb those cost. So ultimately people who rent an apartment will be paying for these kinds of inspections." 

Jim Meyer, managing broker of MeyerWorks, LLC, said he believes this would be an unnecessary interference because both landlords and tenants have property rights.

"If the regulations are relatively ineffective, meaning they don't require much- adding some insulation that's economical to do, most landlords would do that anyway. It might not have any big impacts," Meyer said. "But if they are very strict about energy compliance, depending what standards they are adopt, it could be very expensive to comply and that means people will, who are tenants, will pay a lot more money in rent."