Submetering water COST

7 Replies

Hi everyone.

I want to know how much you have paid for your water submeter. Please include how many units/submeters you purchased. I am only interested in knowing the cost of the submeter itself; plumbing, installation, service, costs separate. I am interested in the submeters that have a pulse/don't have to be manually read. Do you use a company to read the meters and bill or do you do it yourself?

Do you advertise a slightly lower monthly rent since your tenants pay their own water?

Thanks for the input.

Also, please include what size your meter/connection is. 1/2" or 3/4" seems to be the norm.

@Sant Li , full disclosure I own a submetering company but thought I would respond since I am so close to this every day and need to know what is out there with competition. You will really get a wide range of prices depending on what YOU want. Really there are manual reading (lowest cost), radio read systems that the owner will do similar to municipalities (generally highest cost as you have to buy the software and radio reading hardware) and finally automated reading where the submetering company reads the meter for you and generates the water bill. I am sure you already know this with your research. In my experience for main line meters (one per apartment) going with 3/4" is required. 1/2" is too small and will not provide enough flow and would only go that small if you are reading hot and cold individually or even per point of use. Pricing, many will sell a brass meter similar to what the city uses and these will run anywhere from $100-200 per meter. Plastic meters will be lower cost. Some submetering companies will offer meters for free but charge a higher monthly monitoring rate to recoup the cost or even lease the meters out. Obviously manual reading may be the lowest cost but each month requires man hours to read each. The advantange to that is that you get a walk through of every unit you own each month to make sure things are in order. Finally, generally advertising $10-20 less per month once you start submetering is the norm. The results are good by doing that as you get more interested candidates and the water bill is always much higher than $10-20 each month, so money in your pocket. The most amazing thing I have seen is how much the water usage drops per month overall when the tenants are responsible for the water. No more long showers and leaking toilets do not go unreported. Good luck!

Thanks for your input.

At this point I am wondering if I should implement RUBS vs installing submeters. Either way the water bill would be taken care of but I wonder how much value submeters would add to the complex vs RUBS.

I think manual readings would be too invasive for many leasees to have someone enter their home once a month. What is your experience?

I am obviously biased with submetering vs. RUBS but before I started the submetering company I started implementing RUBS in my own 6-plex. For the most part it worked well but the reason I was swayed away and looked into submetering was because it increased the number of calls/complaints I would get from my tenants. I would get calls and emails over the weekend from one tenant letting me know the other tenants had friends staying the weekend with them and they wanted me to know because they did not want to be assessed the additional water usage. It was basically a "point the finger at other tenants for high usage each and every month" To their benefit in many ways I agreed with them as I wouldn't want to pay for other people who weren't responsible for water usage. It didn't cost me anything but I got tired of the complaints. Clearly the ultimatum is RUBS is free to implement and only costs a monthly fee to pay a company to do it for you or your own labor to do it each month vs. pay for a larger up front cost to install meters (that is not always cheap) and a monthly monitoring cost. 

Thanks Jedd,

I think it'd be more a complain hassle with a 6 plex than a larger multifamily complex. If the submeters weren't so expensive I'd look at it more seriously. Do you know if municipalities install individual meters for multifamily?

@Sant Li Yes, the city will install meters in a multi-family. However, each city is going to have different codes you have to comply with. Some are very easy to work with and as long as you have individual water lines going to each apartment (which plumbing separation can be the most costly part) they will install meters. I have yet to hear of a municipality do it for free though. They all charge for the meter and the connection fee. Some will be very strict and if you make large plumbing alterations or even just cut into the pipe to put their meter they will require you to bring all plumbing up to code. One instance I have seen was an 80 unit complex had individual water lines all in one utility room. They contacted the city to install 80 meters. The city quoted them $5,500 per apartment unit to install meters and service connection fees. BUT, they also said that all plumbing had to be then brought up to code and the water main coming from the street did not meet fire code and that would have to be dug up and replaced in addition. We are now in there with a $60 meter which did not require any plumbing code violations. Honestly though, if you can or your locale is easy to work with having city meters is 100% the best option! I tell all of our clients that if they can go that route do that, if they can't then come to us.

Water can be a property killer for returns.

As mentioned tenants do not report leaks and let friends use the water. RUBS they complain of unfair billing usage percentages.

Meters can work but come at more cost. Direct cut off to one unit from city or county can be optimal but as mentioned can be crazy expensive to implement.

Back in the day developers separated out gas and power but water was cheap so many did not separate it out. Today it is a huge expensive and issue. Some landlords install low flow toilets and shower heads but many tenants hate them and take off shower heads or clog up toilets with low flow models. Plumbing cost then go way up with maintenance calls.

Additionally you need to look at what is customary for your area. If you go to bill tenants and the whole area includes in rent then tenants might do a mass exodus from your property. If your building includes water but other buildings do not then your building is likely left over when the area transitioned and has not converted. The tenants in the area should be conditioned to the changes as the other options will have them doing the same thing.

5,500 per unit to install service meter and connection is NUTS! You can stud up gut most units for 3k to 5 a unit. 

No legal advice given.


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