What are your thoughts? Looking at buying an upper/lower duplex and need some input

31 Replies

@Ethan Blue

So many people have posted and I haven't read them all but here is my experience that I just went through with shared furnaces. We purchased two foreclosed units in a small town- two tri-plexes. When we went to go turn the water on we learned that we needed them inspected before we could rent them out- no problem. The town nor the inspector had a list of what was need to pass inspection but one of the things was the shared furnace. We called the Wisconsin state inspector and he informed us that nothing is wrong with a shared furnace but it just needs to be separate cold air returns such as a common hallway it could not pull from inside a unit.

Here is my two sense: find out if there is a pre-inspection from a city official! That being said if we had decided to put in separate air returns we would have put a lock on thermostat that controls the unit ( the plastic cover kind) and leave it set at 69 degrees.


We opted to instead close the furnace off to the other units let it heat one ( it was not large enough to heat all the units) and install small wall natural gas heaters which were about 1200 a piece. This allows tenants to control their own heat and also to pay for their own heat!

@David Krulac In that scenario, you won big time!

@Tom Meade You might be right. I never really thought about the rebate thing, so I will definitely look into that. Thanks for the input!

@Rebecca Dillon Hi Rebecca, thank you for the valuable input! What was the process of "closing the furnace off to the other units" Did you actually cut the ducts or just close the vents in the other units or how did that work? Thank you for the good advice!

@Ethan Blue

I am not 100% sure what they did but they closed off the cold air returns and then it looks like they placed metal stops aka pieces of duct work inside the duct to stop heat from going into the other ones. I assume some heat will escape but it should be minimal. The vents are still in the floor with the grates so it did not change the look of anything.

@Rebecca Dillon & @Ethan Blue

That's not the most correct way . The ducts to severed apt should be cut and capped with sheet metal at the plenum or trunk lines, those lines closest to the furnace. The metal patches should be secured with sheet metal screws and the edges sealed with duct tape or some other sealant so that the air does not leak out from the patches. Unless sealed air tight the ducts will leak heated air and waste energy, not very fair to the tenant now paying for their own heat and all that can leak out also.

Originally posted by @Drew MacDermott :
@Ethan Blue @Eric Yingling @Arthur Banks

Great information! You may have already found these in your research, but there are tamper-proof thermostat units that are hardwired to a range of approximately 68-72 degrees. Not even the manufacturer can change this range once the product has left the assembly line. I am looking into this product when I start investing. I am not affiliated with and have no financial ties to this company. I'm sure there are many other suppliers to purchase from. www.landlordstat.com/

Does anyone prefer certain thermostats over others? Have you found it to be helpful breifly counseling tenants in regard to heat before they move in?

As much as landlords want a tamper-proof thermostat to exist, the reality is that all thermostats are vulnerable to certain tenant practices; read below for more on that:

http://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/39794-heating-season

http://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/23979-cap-heat-in-mn-or-other-cold-winter-states-

http://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/12/topics/34037-heat-included-in-rent-new-york-state

http://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/39174-landlord-controlled-thermostats

Yeah, when you drive past a block of rentals in the winter and you see windows open, you can bet the landlord is paying the heat there ...

@Drew MacDermott

I prefer tenants paying for their own heat and the simply round mechanical old school thermostats, cheapest to buy and less problems due to their simplicity. I've seen some of these that are 50 years old and still working just like the day they were new.