I have a tenant with a malfunctioning water heater that spews water everywhere running up the water bill that I pay. I’m running into roadblocks with what I’m legally able to do to get them to fix or replace it. I can’t force them to repair it to my knowledge.
I’m putting in submeters for the future to avoid this issue. Would the kind at Lowe’s do the job? Or do I need a third party company to help with this or would my park manager just bill them for their usage each month?
Before you do anything, you need to understand the laws regarding utility billbacks and your rights as the property owner. To gain those facts, I would contact your state manufactured housing association (MHA). Here's what you need to know:
1) What are my rights to turn off the water in the event of a leak in a home? While you may have no ability, having a festering leak is going to destroy that home and many states have rules that would allow you to take emergency action until the repair is made. If it's a matter of money -- and the tenant has none -- you might make the repair yourself and bill it back to the tenant in monthly installments. You'll come out ahead even if they don't pay for it fully as the loss of water is not cheap.
2) What are the laws regarding sub-metering utilities with a particular focus on:
a) Do you need a license or permit to do so?
b) What type of systems are allowed (meters, RUBs or CAMs)? A RUBs or CAMs system does not require meters.
c) Do you need a licensed plumber to install the meters?
d) Who is allowed to read the meters?
e) What does the billing for the utility look like (some states require certain information on the bill).
3) What type of meters can you afford? The new ones that are read by satellite are not cheap to install or maintain -- but they do a much better job and you don't have to physically read them. For mobile home parks, most people are using METRON.
4) Do you really want to get involved in all this or just raise the rent accordingly? If the answer is "too big a hassle" then you may be correct and should just raise the rent enough to cover the average utility cost.
The most important thing here is to DO NOTHING UNTIL YOU HAVE THE FACTS. The penalties on this issue in most states are crushing.
Thank you Frank!
That is so helpful. I just acquired this park in a divorce so I’m having to learn as I go. Am I able to make the repairs and bill them without their permission? This issue is becoming a hazard to the other homeowners in the park as well.
Also, is the submeter billing to the tenants usually done by the property manager or the third-party company? This is only a 6 pad park.
Not sure if legal or not, had a similar situation with a toilet. I purchased the repair components and dropped them off to the tenant. Cut the water off until repairs were made. Took about 1 hour, water back on.
You will have to get the homeowner's permission to enter their home, so they definitely have to be in the loop. Tell them that you're aware there's a problem and you want to go ahead and get it fixed and then bill it back to them in 12 easy installments -- something like that. If they are hostile to even making the repair, then you definitely need to find out from your state MHA what you're rights are.
The laws on sub-metering hold true regardless of the size of the park, but the realities of economics can change dramatically based on size. Here's how it pretty much works. If your residents are using around $40 per month per lot in water and sewer, then you should probably just raise the rent $40 and leave the water and sewer in the rent. If the bill is more than $40 per month per lot, then you have one of two problems going on: 1) your lines are leaking (that's your fault and not the tenants) or 2) they are wasting water due to individual household leaks. You can determine if there are household leaks by seeing how much water is going down the main sewer line at 10 AM on a weekday when nobody is home. If there's not much water going down the line and the bill is higher than around $40 per lot then it's probably main line leaks.
To fix main line leaks you need to walk on top of your water line and see if there are any marshes or patches of greener and taller grass -- signs of water leaks. The worst possibility is if there are a large number of small pinhole leaks due to corrosion of the pipe. You will have to run the numbers to see if replacing the pipe makes any economic sense as it is very expensive to do and you would need some really serious water bills to warrant it. If it's identifiable, then fix the leak and see what the impact is on your bill.
@Brittney WIlliams Do you own the homes in the park or just the lots the homes are located on? I would think knowing this would make a huge difference in what you need to do next.
I just own the lot