Author Topic: Submetering water on just one duplex?  (Read 2848 times)

the fixer

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Submetering water on just one duplex?
« on: June 05, 2017, 03:23:08 PM »
Hello all, it's been a while.

My side-by-side duplex in King County, WA (outside City of Seattle) needs new hot water heaters... which will need to be relocated due to space restrictions... so I might as well repipe to replace the old galvanized ones. I'm trying to scope out the project, and am considering whether or not to install submetering with the repipe. I assume the upfront marginal cost of doing so will be low because of all the other work this will require, but I am unsure of the long-term costs and benefits.

Currently, tenants are responsible for their share of the water bill, which is determined based on the number of occupants. I am computing this and billing the tenants every two months via email.

I am interested in moving to submetering because:
  • I assume it will further encourage water conservation
  • I suspect the current allocation of the bill by number of occupants is unfair, although I have not heard complaints (it does not consider dogs, an aquarium, long-term guests, or travel)
  • it would get me out of the business of billing my tenants directly and could use a billing service instead, saving me time
I'm interested in hearing from others about the following:
  • If we went with submetering, what should we do if we decide to take occupancy of one of the two units in the future? I've heard things get weird with these services when you're submetering to yourself. Ideally, I'd want the option to cancel the service and read/bill the rented unit's meter myself.
  • how much do these billing services cost? Do they work at my scale with only one property of two units, considering I already bill my tenants? Most of what I've read on submetering benefits assumes a landlord that does not already bill separately.
  • Is the installation something I should be more concerned about, e.g. getting the repipe specialist to correctly install the meters, planning a location for them so they're readable?
  • Are there other costs or downsides I'm missing?
  • would this be likely to add to the resale value of the property, i.e. would you as an investor be more interested in buying a duplex with submetering infrastructure in place?
Thanks in advance!


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Re: Submetering water on just one duplex?
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2017, 11:35:46 AM »
Would you be paying to hookup fees instead of one, before the water usage was even figured in?

I simply write-off the portion of the water bill that I'm attributing to my tenants' usage in my duplex. I also go per occupant.

I guess I just consider the water bill as part of the expense of landlording. (that and I'd rather my tenant feel that it's included in their rent and not feel nickel and dimed)

the fixer

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Re: Submetering water on just one duplex?
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2017, 04:09:17 PM »
To clarify, this is not submetering through the public utility; it would be using one or more third-party submeters which cost $50-100 each.

I'm discovering from talking to companies that this does scale down to a single duplex with one huge caveat: the equipment that allows for remote reading of the meters is quite expensive at around $1000. Billing services do not work at this scale either. I have a clever idea for a DIY remote meter read but that's a subject for a different thread.

Nate R

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Re: Submetering water on just one duplex?
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2017, 05:13:37 PM »
For me, I just take the average water bill from the last couple years, and divide it out per unit, per month, and add it to the rent. Overall, the difference that COULD be saved with more water conservation would NOT have been worth the hassle to submeter.

Jon Bon

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Re: Submetering water on just one duplex?
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2017, 05:04:23 AM »
I have a sub-metering service for a few of my duplexes.

Honestly, its still a HUGE pain in the ass.

The company reads the meters and sends out bills monthly. However the bills are wrong maybe 25% of the time? And by wrong I mean they are zero dollars or like 400 dollars. As an added bonus they often mess up the billing to me. I have it on autobill and honestly never check it, why would I ? The whole purpose of this company is to make things easier, I don't want to be micromanaging my billing because if I did that I would just bill the water bill to the tenants myself.

However it is cheap and the houses came with the meters already installed so to switch would be 500 bucks or so. I usually do have to do a reconciliation on each sides water bill a few times a year to make sure im not losing out. Luckily all their bills are online or I would really be sunk. I have thought about including it in the rent just for simplicity. If I lose (or gain) a few dollars a month I honestly dont care, it would be worth it not to have to chase down water bills and constantly fight with the sub-metering company to do their job correctly.