Allow washer?/Prevent water abuse.

14 Replies

In my 2 unit rental my lower level tenant wants me to allow her to have a washer & dryer. Originally my stance was no washer due to what I read in The Section 8 Bible. I noticed that in my market a “no washer” policy is not the norm for section 8 rentals.

 

The majority of landlords in my area allow washers and during my process of trying to get the unit rented my  “no washer” policy was an issue for a lot of potential tenants and I believe it will prove to be an issue into the future if I maintain it.

 

My tenant called me and really wants me to allow her to get a washer. She has two kids, no car, and does not want to drag them out in the cold to go do laundry. Due to it being a duplex with 1 water meter I as the landlord am responsible for the water and my biggest concern is water abuse.

 

Should I/would you allow the washer? Do you allow washers in situations where you pay the water bill? If I allow the washer how do I prevent possible abuse?

 

*Side note: The basement is not accessible to both units. It is only accessible to the lower level tenant.

Thanks in advance for all feedback,  this community has been very helpful to me as a rookie in this game.

If it is section 8 you could possibly install a coin or card operated machine system. That would help recoup the cost of the equipment and the use. Or you could say sure but I am going to pass the cost onto you. Take your average water bill over a period of 6 months or so. When you get the next one with the W/D on it subtract/bill her the difference. 

If it really is a competitive issue for your rentals, then I would look at structuring it in such a way that you don't take on the risk. A couple local landlords I know don't have split meters for utilities, but write in a flat % split between the two units and bill them each month. You can even let the two tenants haggle over what the split will be, and if they can't come to an agreement, you can just leave the answer at "no". Ultimately, you're probably not going to be burned by the laundry issue and overuse, but why even open yourself up to the possibility? If you can find a way to leave the water use liability in the tenant's hands, go for it, otherwise, I'd leave it at NO.

First, the Section 8 Bible is not always right. Always consider your market and also take into consideration the way your local Housing Authority administers the Section 8 program. Most likely by providing more amenities you will be able to charge more rent.

If the space will easily accommodate a washer/dryer then install a set (her own or yours). The upside is your tenant will likely stay long term and will be a satisfied customer. Your unit will be more marketable as well. The chances of abuse are really not that great and if they occur, nail it before it gets out of hand.  You can recoup your extra water cost by raising her rent. Watch the numbers and just make sure your income from this is more than your expenses. Also, consider separate metering... initial investment cost high, but long term benefit very favorable!

Originally posted by @Ryan Dossey :

If it is section 8 you could possibly install a coin or card operated machine system. That would help recoup the cost of the equipment and the use. Or you could say sure but I am going to pass the cost onto you. Take your average water bill over a period of 6 months or so. When you get the next one with the W/D on it subtract/bill her the difference. 

We have an 8-plex with shared washer/dryer. Coin/card operated machines are certainly one option. There is a down side though..... the commercial machines that have coin or card mechanisms are more expensive to purchase, the tenant has to have enough coins on hand to keep it going (tenants don't like that inconvenience), and the landlord has to access the unit periodically to collect the coins. It would take a lot of coins to recoup the investment cost and water usage. Also, the OP mentioned the basement where the laundry room would be is only accessible to the downstairs tenant. Supplying a coin/card op laundry to only one tenant is not practical.

It is a competitive issue,why not give it a try add $10 or $20 to the rent.  Water is usually not that expensive,  If you are paying for the dryer / electric then that is a bigger factor.  

Keep in mind that happy tenants will stay longer so if this reduces your turnover or shortens it by a month then it has a real economic value to you.

@Alan B.  

1.  Consider the increased costs of water and hot water, electric and gas in your calculations.  I had a tenant with 3 kids who did laundry every day.

2.  Consider the costs of coin-0ps.  They are higher priced and higher repair costs if needed.  Used coin-ops should be approached cautiously as they may be near the end of their life and not last long before needing repair or replacement. 

3.  Coin ops can be rented with the money split with the lessor.

4.  Often times its not economical to have a coin op for less than 4 units.

Personally I allow washer/dryer but the tenants have to supply. Personally I would allow them but charge $25 more a month for utilities.

I would definitely allow it in a section 8 where there wasn't a laundromat within a few blocks. Just let them know if there is a significant increase in utilities that you will have to increase.

@Chris K.  

That's not exactly how Section 8 works.  Here they require a 1 year lease, so if there is and there will be an increase in utility use, you can't raise the rent until the current lease expires.

And even then if the increase to the utility costs exceeds the max that Section 8 will allow, you will have to eat it as the program will not allow a tenant to pay more in rent and utilitites than their guidelines.

I would say, it makes sense to allow a washer, it must be very hard on your tenant with out one, and your ultimate goal most likely is to make money on your rental with low turnover so Installing a washer seems like the best course of action.  You might want to charge a little more for the water use.

Allow laundry?   We provide laundry in all our properties: where possible, en-suite laundry.  We have even removed common laundry rooms to move laundry into individual units.  It has been our experience that common, commercial, coin/card-operated laundry is not a viable long-term profit/cost centre:

 - commercial card/coin-op machines are more expensive.  If you want high-efficiency equipment it will be double the cost of residential laundry units;

- the amount of revenue collected by the laundry units about covers their operating costs and routine maintenance.  When laundry is placed in the unit, the tenant is responsible for most, or all (where water is sub-metered), utility costs;

- equipment in common laundry rooms lives a rougher life and suffers more unattributable vandalism/damage than laundry in individual units.  If en-suite laundry machines are damaged, there is no question about who is accountable

We use en-suite laundry as a differentiator in our market where common laundry rooms or, occasionally, en-suite hookups are the norm.  In a land where winter is already here and will not leave until April, not having to leave your home to do laundry helps attract and retain tenants.

Originally posted by @David Krulac :

@Chris K. 

That's not exactly how Section 8 works.  Here they require a 1 year lease, so if there is and there will be an increase in utility use, you can't raise the rent until the current lease expires.

And even then if the increase to the utility costs exceeds the max that Section 8 will allow, you will have to eat it as the program will not allow a tenant to pay more in rent and utilitites than their guidelines.

 Yes that's how it works here too but they're less likely to take advantage of the utilities if you tell them you gonna do it vs telling them you're going to try and might not be able to. 

Greetings @Alan B. hope all is well, wanted to learn how the laundry upgrade go for you and your property. - Thanks

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