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Managing Utilities
January 14, 2005 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Multi-unit property, single utility meter. Unit size/occupancy varies widely, and so does the monthly bill. What's a fair (to both parties) way to bill tenants for utilities since their actual usage cannot be determined?
posted by nakedcodemonkey to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
 
I wouldn't accept a split, if I was renting I'd want my own meter installed. Some individuals can really spin the meter when they are not footing their share.
posted by sled at 1:12 PM on January 14, 2005


How about dividing it up in the same ratio as the rent. That is, if one person pays 60% of the share, they also pay 60% of the utliity bill.

I'm presuming they are paying more rent because they occupy more of the house or have more amenities.
posted by vacapinta at 1:12 PM on January 14, 2005


Up everyone's rent and then you pay for utilities?

My old landlord did it by occupancy, though. Upstairs unit had three people, downstairs had two, so upstairs paid 3/5 of the water bill and downstairs paid 2/5.
posted by occhiblu at 1:16 PM on January 14, 2005


Square footage...
posted by mhaw at 1:20 PM on January 14, 2005


"Up everyone's rent and then you pay for utilities?"

Yeah, that's the way to do it. Get the past year or two averaged, add that to the rent - rent as "Utilities included".
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:24 PM on January 14, 2005


In some areas, if a renter is required to pay utilities, the landlord has to provide them with their own meter, and they get a bill directly from the water company, electric company, whatever.

Personally, I wouldn't want to pay utilities unless the bill came to my address in my name. Who knows if someone in one of the units takes two hour showers twice a day, or has an apartment washing machine, or something else that is causing them to use far more water. Even if that isn't the case, if the renters know their landlord splits the bill, they'll always wonder.

I agree, utilities included is really the way to go.
posted by Kellydamnit at 1:36 PM on January 14, 2005


We were in that situation, and our family got the bill. Not fair because number one, the water bill was billed at commercial rate because it was for two separate tenants, and number two, the other renter did not feel it was fair to split the bill because she was single and we had a family-despite the fact that the landlord wanted it that way. We wound up footing her bill because she never wanted to pay.

Put the utilities in the rent and juggle as needed.
posted by konolia at 2:08 PM on January 14, 2005


Which utility are we talking about? This might make a difference. In Paris, area is typically used. There can be inexquities of course, which is where the complaining at tenant meetsing begins...
posted by Dick Paris at 2:11 PM on January 14, 2005


These are all good thoughts. Keep 'em coming.

My old landlord did it by occupancy, though. Upstairs unit had three people, downstairs had two, so upstairs paid 3/5 of the water bill and downstairs paid 2/5.

The challenge there is keeping track of heads once tenants see an economic benefit to underreporting who's in their household, and the landlord has incentive to count every houseguest as another tenant.

I'm also uncertain whether that approach could be challenged as "set[ting] different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling" on the basis of family status.

Does anyone know what's involved in getting separate meters, if we wanted to go that route? Something like that a major project?

Which utility are we talking about?

Both gas and electric. There's one meter for each, covering everybody.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:13 PM on January 14, 2005


I lived in a triplex back in my college days and the landlord had us work it out with our neighbors.

The girls next door said the way they were with the last tenant was they'd pay the electric bill if we paid the gas. Sounded like a deal to my roommates and I [It was Santa Barbara, it wasn't like there were heaters].

Cut to a year later right before the end of the school term and the lights go out in half of the apartment. A guy from the *other* apartment happened to be over when it happened. He was like "you guys didn't pay your bill either?" and we told him about the arrangement with the girls behind us. Turned out 1/2 of our apartment was on the guys in front's bill, and 1/2 of it was on the girls in the back's bill. The girls in the back got a great deal since they only had one plug in the kitchen and the bathroom. The guys in the other apartment paid for all of our other stuff. They were cool about it and settled for us buying beer that night [they hadn't paid the electric bill in months and planned on skipping town on the electric company].

We recommended to the people moving into our unit that since we couldn't do anything about the utilities*, they should meet with the girls in back and the new people in the front and work out a deal. I think they split it by number of people. In other words, the tenants worked it out.

*the apartment was in a student ghetto with strict zoning laws and the owner converted the garage of a duplex into the third apartment [added second floor] and so it wasn't really "legal". But with housing so scarce it seemed like a deal to us.
posted by birdherder at 2:31 PM on January 14, 2005


> The challenge there is keeping track of heads once tenants see an economic benefit to underreporting who's in their household, and the landlord has incentive to count every houseguest as another tenant.

If someone's living there full-time, they should be on the lease. If they're on the lease, they should be counted.

I guess I'm not sure why you're expecting so many people to be coming through.
posted by occhiblu at 2:42 PM on January 14, 2005


I guess I'm not sure why you're expecting so many people to be coming through.

That's just the how neighborhood ebbs and flows. It's mostly large close-knit families, or roommates banding together to save their money. When one person comes or goes, it's rare that someone thinks to mention it to the landlord.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:09 PM on January 14, 2005


I'd just move.
posted by crunchland at 4:58 PM on January 14, 2005


In Minnesota, unless electricity and gas are included in the rent, there must be a separate meter for each unit.
posted by Coffeemate at 6:39 PM on January 14, 2005


Being the token electric utility call center monkey here, I've answered this countless times before. Crunchland has it dead on - move. If you can't, there are lots of things to consider: separate or shared water heater(s) and heat, and how old and efficient are said appliances? Does someone have 7 computers plugged in while someone just uses a toaster?
Many landlords don't want to deal with separate meters due to the cost - often it involves rewiring or rerouting most if not all of the home, especially if it is an older home. That would all be on the owner's dime, and few is the owner willing to accomodate renters that way.
Birdherder is also dead on - I've spoken to many apartment dwellers who unwittingly paid for washer and dryer rooms, outside lights, the manager's apartment and outdoor lights. When in doubt, I always suggest turning everything off in the apartment as well as flipping off the individual breakers - check your meter to see if it is spinning. If so, the wiring is flaky, and you are getting billed for someone else's usage.
Good luck.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 6:51 PM on January 14, 2005


I work for a city elec. dept. so here are some approx. costs involved in adding another electric meter. Overhead service to meter =$80. Underground Service to meter = $200, This dosen't include digging a trench that you have to find another party to do. Then you have to add a new electric panel inside =$200. Then connect all circuits for the other apt.=$100. All in all you will have to pay from $350 - $500. On the low end
posted by Kilovolt at 9:02 PM on January 14, 2005


Thanks, kilovolt, that's good info to know.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:14 PM on January 14, 2005


Landlord pays and adjusts rent accordingly. Anything else is more headache than it's worth.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:14 PM on January 14, 2005


kilovolt: Great username!
posted by grouse at 7:07 AM on January 15, 2005


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