Water rebate request backfires on
Published: January 25, 2013
WHEN DAVID Fockler found out the
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District was offering a $100
rebate for customers who install high-efficiency tankless water
heaters, he jumped on the chance to cash in.
“I thought, ‘100 bucks, that will buy dinner,’” Fockler told The Pine Cone.
So Fockler purchased a new $1,600 water heater for a rental
unit, filled out the paperwork and mailed it to the water
district for the rebate. But the response he got wasn’t what he
had hoped for. There was no check — only a request by the
district for money.
“We received a letter stating that the MPWMD believes the house
is not in water-conservation compliance,” Fockler said, “and
therefore needs to be inspected by them for a fee of $255 before
they could process the rebate. Huh?”
All of a sudden, the $100 Fockler hoped on getting back turned
out to be $155 he would end up owing the water district.
“It was like opening Pandora’s box,” he said. “I don’t want to
let those guys in the house.”
Fockler said he’s not sure how the house isn’t in compliance.
He said the water fixtures in the 850-square-foot, two-bedroom,
one-bathroom rental unit on Wanda in Seaside were updated when
his wife’s family took over the home after her mother, who lived
In Fockler’s case, according to water demand manager Stephanie
Pintar, in 2003, the district sent several notices to Fockler’s
wife’s family requesting they contact the district to “verify
compliance” of the water-saving devices in the house. When the
district didn’t hear back, it recorded a “Notice of
Non-Compliance” on the house’s deed, which means it can’t be
sold without the water district’s OK.
“Our rules for the rebate program do say you have to be in
compliance with district rules,” Pintar explained.
“My wife’s sister was handling their mother’s affairs,” Fockler
said. “It is possible that the notice was ignored. It begs the
question of how a notice of noncompliance can be filed without
an inspection ... guilty until you prove your innocence? And if
they wanted $255, then no wonder it was ignored. What is
happening to friendly, customer-based government?”
While Pintar acknowledged that the fixtures in the Fockler’s
rental home may be up to date, she said water district officials
need to verify that. And they can only do that by personally
inspecting the home.
“By not doing that, that [deed restriction] notice will remain
on the title,” she said. “And when they sell the property,
they will have to clear it.”
Pintar said Fockler’s tale is atypical, and that the issue he
faced only occurs in about 1 percent of the cases. The district
hands out hundreds of rebates each year.
However, Pintar said the district rejects about 25 percent of
the rebate requests it receives, often because those applying do
not live within the services areas of the water district or
water provider, California American Water.
The water district’s rebate program is paid for by water
customers themselves via a monthly surcharge tacked onto water
bills. Apart from paying $200 for customers to install new
efficient toilets, the district offers numerous other rebates,
including $500 to replace old clothes washers with a new,
water-saving models. But only if you’re also otherwise in
compliance with the water district’s rules.