Montpelier passes home energy ordinance; voluntary now, it becomes mandatory in 2022

Vermont

If you live in Montpelier, there’s a new city ordinance you’ll need to know about. It has to do with the energy costs of homes, and it’s being phased in over the next 14 months.

On Wednesday night, the Montpelier City Council passed a home energy ordinance that will require homeowners who want to sell their property to obtain a free-of-charge home energy profile. The profile will disclose the house’s annual energy costs to real estate agents and prospective buyers.

The ordinance is aimed at helping the city reach its goal of net-zero energy — deriving all its energy needs from its own renewable sources — by 2050.

“We’ve committed to net-zero as a city — I’m proud of that, living here,” Johanna Miller, Vermont Natural Resources Council energy and climate program director, said. “I think it’s fundamentally important, especially at the point of sale, to give people an assessment so that they can make informed decisions about what they’re entering into in terms of the cost of the home.”

Opposition from some residents of Vermont’s capital city led to changes in the ordinance from what it originally proposed. Some of that opposition came from Peter Tucker, a Montpelier resident who is advocacy and public policy director for the Vermont Association of Realtors.

“Buyers are going to use (the home energy profile) as a negotiating tool to get a lower price on a property from a seller who may not be able to either make those improvements or be able to afford that loss of equity in their property,” Tucker said.

Resident Peter Kelman agreed, saying the ordinance would push up prices throughout the city and would benefit sellers who can afford to get a higher home energy score by paying for solar panels, new windows and extra insulation.

“If we are serious about wanting buildings to be greener, how about the commercial buildings?” Kelman said. “Why is this only for residents?”

However, the city does have statutory authority to include commercial buildings. Councilor Jack McCullough noted that it may very well do so eventually after starting with residential buildings.

“Hopefully, as we implement this ordinance and we show that it’s successful, that will give us ammunition to argue for expansion to commercial business sales,” McCullough said.

The council members amended the ordinance to make it effective immediately on a voluntary basis, instead of the original date of July 1. They also made the home energy profiles mandatory starting on July 1, 2022, with the penalty for non-compliance capped at a maximum of $500. Until Wednesday’s meeting, the penalty would have kicked in on New Year’s Day and it would have been capped at $1,000.

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