Earlier this week Mr. Phil McNeely, MPP for Ottawa Orléans, introduced a Private Members’ Notice of Motion that would require mandatory home energy audits of new and existing houses at the time-of sale.
Mandatory home energy audits first came up in the context of the Green Energy Act in 2009. At the time, REALTORS® expressed their opposition to the proposal, favouring instead the government’s Energy Audit Rebate Program that encouraged homeowners to voluntarily assess the energy efficiency of their home. Like many Ontarians, REALTORS® would like to see greener and healthier communities, and we understand that energy efficiency and conservation plays a role in the legacy we leave for future generations. However, Ontario REALTORS® maintain mandatory home energy audits produce many unintended consequences that disproportionately affect home owners, and make homeownership seem less attainable.
For instance, when faced with less than ideal energy ratings on their home, home owners may face pressure to make costly retrofits or lower their listing price. Many Ontarians simply cannot afford to make these improvements and many Ontarians, especially seniors, simply cannot afford to lose their hard earned equity.
Proponents of mandatory, time-of-sale, home energy audits argue that they are an important piece of information that every home buyer has a right to receive. What proponents will not tell you, however, is that home buyers already have access to home energy information in the form of utility bills. Utility bills give home buyers a much more understandable (dollars and cents) explanation of the energy efficiency of a home. This information is vital not only to informing their buying decision but also in informing whether or not they can afford the property.
Ontario REALTORS® would point to the development of the home inspection industry as an example of how a voluntary service provided during the course of a real estate transaction has become widely accepted by consumers. We are confident that as energy prices increase and the energy auditing industry matures, more consumers will voluntarily use the services of an energy auditor.
We understand the principal of MPP McNeely’s private members bill; however, we respectfully disagree that an audit alone will incentivize homeowners to improve their energy efficiency. OREA feels that homeowners need added incentives to make investments in energy efficient retrofits, such as the former Energy Audit Rebate Program.
While we cannot support the proposed motion, Ontario REALTORS® are eager to work with the Mr. McNeely and the government to find other ways of promoting voluntary initiatives that encourage home energy conservation.