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This article was originally published in the December 19, 2000 issue, Guest Column, Page 2, of the REALTOR® REPORT, an official publication of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors®, serving the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valley.

For reprints and/or other information, they may be contacted at their main office:

Southland Regional Association of Realtors®

7232 Balboa Boulevard • Van Nuys • CA 91406

Tel: (818) 786-2110 • Fax: (818) 786-4541 • Email:

On Replacing Toilets
There is much confusion about what a Seller is required to do to comply with both the L.A. City ordinance and the terms of the C.A.R. Residential Purchase Agreement when it comes to replacing existing toilets with the required low-flow toilets. I hope this article helps clear up this question.

Frequently, disputes arise over this matter when the existing toilets are of a higher quality and expense than the standard replacements. The pre-printed portion of the Purchase Agreement is very clear about what is required of the Seller:
Page 2; Paragraph 4F, states "Seller shall pay the cost of compliance with any other minimum mandatory government retrofit standards... if required as a condition of closing escrow under any law."

Page 4; Paragraph 10, states "...Repairs shall be performed in a skillful manner with materials of quality and appearance comparable to existing materials."

Page 7; Paragraph 26H, states "'Repairs' means any repairs, alterations, replacements, modifications and retrofitting of the property provided for under this agreement."
Based on the above clauses, if a house contains four deluxe toilets that do not comply with the "Low-Flow" Ordinance, and the replacement cost of "like quality" toilets would be $400.00 each, then the Seller would be responsible for bearing that entire expense. While a Seller could comply with the law by installing inexpensive toilets, they would not be in compliance with the Purchase Agreement.

Agents should be careful to discuss this issue with their clients long before the retrofit is done. If a Seller wants to avoid the expense of replacing deluxe toilets, then a counter offer should be prepared to limit that expense. Buyer's agents should also consider raising the issue in advance in order to avoid a dispute later on.

While a Buyer and Seller cannot agree to break the law regarding retrofitting, they can negotiate about who pays for what, and the limits of those expenses, provided the required retrofits are completed prior to the close of escrow.
Editors Notes:
Herb Lambert is a REALTOR-ASSOCIATE® serving on the Board of Directors in 2001. He is a mediator, and has extensive experience with the SRAR Professional Standards Committees. The opinions expressed are those of the author and should not be considered association recommendations or policy.

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