Water metering in Massachusetts

17 Replies

I saw there are laws in MA about meeting efficiency prerequisites before you can meter water. Does anyone have a solid company who can help me meet the standards and install meters?

@Alex Cornwell There are efficiency prerequisites, but there's a bit more to it than that if you want to start sub-metering an apartment building. For example:

1.  You've certified to the local board of health that a licensed plumber installed the submeter 

2.  You have installed low-flow, water-conserving faucets, showerheads, and toilets in your unit and the low-flow toilets were installed by a licensed plumber

3.  You have signed a written rental agreement that clearly states that tenant is responsible for a separate water bill and provides in plain language the billing arrangements for payment of water

4. You cannot bill tenants for water separately if their tenancy began before March 16, 2005 (so careful if you have any long term tenants). 

5.  If the previous tenant—who was not required to pay for water—left involuntarily, you cannot bill the new tenant for water. The law seeks to prevent landlords from forcing existing tenants out in order to bring in new tenants who would be required to pay for water. 

6. Landlords billing separately for water must file a certificate with the local board of health or inspectional services department that certifies they have done all of the above. 

You may want to watch this video, which gives a pretty in-depth overview of the considerations and best practices.

As for the low-flow fixtures... I would first schedule an energy assessment through mass save. They will give you some stuff for free (low flow shower heads) and pretty solid rebates on other stuff (I think $50 off or so on low-flow toilet). 

As for the installation, I'm not sure where your property is, but most licensed plumbers should be able to do the submetering. If you give us the location of the property I'm sure someone here can give you a recommendation. 

I agree with @James E. posting with a general question regarding #1 and 2.

I had been checking into sub-metering off and on and awhile back I thought they had change the law/rule so that you only needed a plumber to verify the low flow items are installed.  Essentially, no longer requiring an actual plumber  to installed it.

Can anyone confirm this ?

@Rich N. We have been doing this to all of our buildings and you need a licensed plumber to sign off on the form that goes to city hall. 

It's definitely worth doing, the only thing that's a pain is tracking the water usage and doing the billing. We haven't found a company that does it so we've been doing it in-house. Also, make sure you get multiple quotes from plumbers and make sure you let the plumber know they need to sign the form but I would drop it off yourself with the city it will save you some money.  

Originally posted by @Rob L. :

@Rich N. We have been doing this to all of our buildings and you need a licensed plumber to sign off on the form that goes to city hall. 

It's definitely worth doing, the only thing that's a pain is tracking the water usage and doing the billing. We haven't found a company that does it so we've been doing it in-house. Also, make sure you get multiple quotes from plumbers and make sure you let the plumber know they need to sign the form but I would drop it off yourself with the city it will save you some money.  

Thanks. but a little detail into the question.

I understand the plumber has to sign the form, but do they still have to do the actual install ?

I have all the water saving devices in place (some by me and some by a plumber years ago).

just checked the form and I think the 3rd line "Determine" allows us to now install our own stuff vs paying the fees to the plumber.

Licensed Plumber Certification

I certify that (check all that apply): I have installed the submetering equipment listed above in accordance with accepted plumbing standards.

I have installed one or more water closets not exceeding 1.6 gallons per flush.

Determined that existing water closets do not exceed 1.6 gallons per flush.

The plumbing permit issued by the city/town, if required, is attached.

@Rich N. @Rob L. I'm not 100% sure (Rob you may be able to clarify)... but the way I read the rule is that it was only the toilets that had to actually be installed by a licensed plumber:

2. You have installed low-flow, water-conserving faucets, showerheads, and toilets in your unit and the low-flow toilets were installed by a licensed plumber

It is market in Massachusetts for the landlord to cover W/S (in multifamily at least). I believe it is because in MA if the tenant doesn’t pay W/S then the utility can file a lien against the property.

Something to consider...

@Kush Patel

This is the point of sub-metering and billing ourselves.  The whole bill is still on the landlord, but you sub-meter and charge the tenants for their portion.  This is one way to reduce your cost (in a manner of speaking raising your rents).  But the true thing, in my opinion, is making the tenant pay for their runaway cost. 

@Alex Cornwell No, the city still bills you on a quarterly basis and it's up to you as the owner to read the sub meter's and bill out the tenants each month. It sounds like a lot of work but we had some properties that had 3X the normal usage. So I would gladly pay someone 15 dollars an hour to drive to all the properties and read the meters and then send the tenants a bill. The cost of the installation of the meters is usually 100% recouped within the first six to 12 months.

@Rich N. Just to further clarify, I attached a photo from the last one we did in Haverhill. It ended up getting delayed because the plumber failed to pull a permit and the city inspector wanted to look at the work. 

I have our guys install the low flow showerheads and do any work that doesn't require a permit or licensed plumber to save money. 

Anyone have a meter you check remotely ? or maybe have them on camera? i am just wondering if this is available/acceptable.

@Rob L.   Thank You.  I am around Haverhill often enough that I can read the meters on a quarterly basis to save me some money!

@Alex Cornwell Is that 360 - 450 monthly or quarterly ?  My quarterly for a 3 family can run that range.  If its monthly...wow!  That would drive me nuts. I would be doing like @Rob L. and cutting over to sub-meters in a flash.

I'm in the process of this right now.

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