Mike Kuss, background, who is part of the University of Colorado Student and Community Outreach on Renter Energy, helps student resident Ryan Biehle seal a single-pane window during an energy audit last month. The city of Boulder is hoping students will fill out online surveys on potential new rules that would require landlords to make units more energy-efficient.

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New regulations being considered by the city of Boulder could force rental properties to become more energy-efficient, but it is unclear whether they would result in lower utility bills or higher rent.

Surveys opened online Monday, one for renters and another for landlords, to help give the city feedback on the potential mandates. The city will use this information to help determine potential new rules, which many landlords say would be costly and ineffective.

The city’s SmartRegs plan would require landlords to improve the efficiency of their properties by adding insulation, fixing air leaks or putting in energy-efficient appliances while also reducing electric bills and Boulder’s energy consumption, said Yael Gichon, the city’s residential sustainability coordinator.

City and university officials are concerned that renters — primarily student renters — will not take the time to fill out the survey and will not be represented.

Officials said it is likely that many landlords will take the survey. Most landlords disagree with the regulations because of added costs, while renters may prefer the mandates, which could reduce their monthly utility bills.

Susan Stafford, director of CU’s off-campus student services, said the department is planning to send out an e-mail Thursday asking students to fill out the survey and represent their views on energy-efficient rentals to boost participation.

“We are trying to get the student voice heard,” Stafford said. “And with the final decision expected in May, many students will be gone for the summer and won’t have the chance to speak up then either.”

Students have two weeks to answer the survey, which asks if the renters support energy-efficiency requirements, make personal efforts to conserve regularly and if they would still support the regulations with the possibility of rent increasing and utility costs decreasing.

Sheila Horton, executive director of the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association, said the mandates could force landlords to raise rental prices to make up their extra costs.

“The city’s studies show the average cost of a project like this is $2,000 to $2,400 per unit,” Horton said. “That is a financial obligation that many landlords can’t afford right now and, yes, if the market allowed we may have to raise rent prices to recoup the cost.”

CU sophomore Jacob Ohrman said efficiency is not a priority when looking for a new place — location and price take precedent.

“If efficiency comes at a higher cost, I’m not interested,” Ohrman said. “I mean if the cost is reduced because of lower utility bills, then I’d go with that place, but only because it saved me money.”

CU sophomore Emily White said reducing energy consumption is an important part of her routine, but finding an energy-efficient rental in Boulder is nearly impossible and not worth the hassle.

“I might pay a little more for a place that was efficient, but not much,” White said. “My place now isn’t efficient at all and come to think of it I don’t think I’ve ever even looked at a rental property that was.”

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