Real estate industry advocates warn that rental housing landlords could find themselves unduly embarrassed if energy and water consumption data is disclosed to the general public. This caution from the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Greater Toronto comes in sync with proposed legislation to mandate reporting of energy and water consumption in privately owned buildings in Ontario.
BOMA Toronto stresses that gross consumption data must be assessed in the context of building uses, occupancy densities and differing climatic conditions across Ontario’s vast breadth. “Without an industry accepted method to normalize energy use for multi-unit residential buildings, it will be very disruptive to publicly disclose performance that creates apples-to-pears-to-oranges comparisons,” it submits.
Bill 135, the Energy Statute Law Amendment Act, which was introduced in late October, sets out the Ontario government’s broad authority to ask for the information, ensure its veracity and make it publicly available. The actual details of the new requirements will be left for a regulation, which will first be posted on the provincial Environmental Registry for public review. BOMA Toronto’s recently released policy document makes recommendations in advance of the draft regulation, based on consultations with the provincial government, the City of Toronto and its own membership.
As an early and active proponent of conservation and demand management, BOMA Toronto strongly supports the philosophy of energy reporting and benchmarking, but stresses that it must be premised on a fair comparison of properties that encourages continuous improvement rather than shaming weaker performers. Its policy document outlines several points of required clarification related to the rental housing sector.
Notably, tenants’ role in subverting efforts to conserve is not something that landlords can easily control. Some buildings have recorded as much as 30 per cent reductions in energy consumption when units are sub-metered for electricity, but Ontario’s residential tenancy law requires that landlords obtain a majority of sitting tenants’ consent before sub-meters can be installed. Landlords must also seek approval from the provincial Landlord and Tenant Board to pass the capital costs of energy efficiency improvements through to tenants’ rents.
“The Ontario Residential Tenancies Act makes implementing energy retrofits more challenging than in other asset classes,” the policy document states. “It is concerning to have mandatory provincial public energy performance disclosure when there is a provincial Act that makes implementing energy efficiency measures in this building type more challenging.”
BOMA Toronto recommends that disclosure of energy and water consumption in the multi-residential sector be restricted to the parties of sales transactions. “While monitoring and tracking of energy use and benchmarking buildings are low-cost ways to identify buildings that are good candidates for energy audits and retrofits, and are shown to improve building performance over time, there has been no empirical evidence to suggest that publicly disclosing energy performance leads to the same outcome,” the policy document reasons.