Of all the water used in urban California each year, half is used outdoors, mostly for landscaping purposes, according to the California Legislature. Given the state’s propensity towards drought, updating rules on landscape irrigation is important to limit water waste.

California law requires a home inspector’s written report to clearly identify and describe the inspected systems, structures or components of a dwelling, including any material defects and recommendations. [See RPI Form 130]

California Assembly Bill (AB) 2371 now also encourages a home inspection report of a residential property containing an in-ground landscape irrigation system under exclusive operation by the homeowner (in contrast to homeowners’ association (HOA)-operated irrigation systems, which do not fall under the new rule) to include certain facts regarding the system’s operation. This report may be prepared by a regular home inspector or a certified landscape irrigation auditor. [Calif. Business & Professions Code §7195.5(a)]

This report is to include information regarding the system’s:

  • controller;
  • individual zones or circuits;
  • irrigation valves;
  • visible piping; and
  • sprinkler heads and stems. [Bus & P C 7195.5(a)(1); (2)]

The report is to detail if, during the inspection, the inspector noticed:

  • any spray landing on hardscape;
  • any water leaving the irrigated area as runoff;
  • ponding of water; and
  • whether the landscape irrigation system inspection was hindered due to snow, ice or other impeding conditions. [Bus & P C 7195.5(a)(3)]

The home inspector is encouraged to also provide information on water-efficient landscaping in the inspection report. [Bus & P C §7195.5(c)]

Of note: home inspectors are encouraged to inspect the irrigation system as part of their regular home inspection and not required by the new law. The bill’s initial draft required home inspectors to inspect irrigation systems, but this was met with backlash from California home inspector groups. This slight wording change makes a world of difference, and whether or not a home inspector ultimately includes an evaluation of the property’s irrigation system in their report will greatly depend on the client’s level of persistence.

The Department of Water Resources will gather whatever pertinent information that becomes available from home inspection reports, including information on in-ground landscape irrigation systems, to help make updates to the California Water Plan. [Bus & P C §7195.5(d); Calif. Government Code §65596(n)]

This bill also requires the Director of Water Resources to convene a working group to gather and evaluate certain landscaping and water-use practices by no later than January 1, 2020. By this date and every three years following, the department will need to consider and propose changes to these practices as needed. [Gov Code §65596.5(b)]

As changes are made to landscaping and water-use practices, landscaping contractor education will need to adjust. Thus, the Contractors’ State License Board — a part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs — will be required to review new information to decide whether any updates or changes are needed to the landscaping contractor examination to reflect new water-efficiency practices in landscape irrigation. [Bus & P C §7065.06(a)]

These new rules and recommendations take effect beginning January 1, 2019.