Water bill is outrageous

11 Replies

Hey guys. I recently picked up my first rental property and got a smoking deal on the home. There are tenants already in place. Upstairs unit and downstairs unit. As per their leases already in place I am responsible for the water/sewer part of their utilities. I just transferred that over to my account today and asked to receive a statement showing the history of the water bill. To my surprise I saw a massive fluctuation between extreme highs and average lows. One month was as low as 30 dollars (about on par with what I paid for my personal home last month) and another month in that same year was as much as 348 dollars!! Average for the last 12 months is around 125 dollars. Again... I paid 35 last month for my personal residence. Does anyone have any ideas how in the world a water bill can fluctuate so much? It's not like electricity where the temperature and the season will cause it to rise and fall at different intervals. It's water. Am I naive to think it should be much more consistent? I know mine always has been. Also, how can I go about changing it over to being the tenants problem so maybe they'll learn to be a little more responsible with their usage? 

There are many factors that contribute to the price of water.

Washing machines, running toilets and 'guests' are the three that I've seen most often, a distant third is leaky pipes, slow or catastrophic.

Tenants will never care as much as you do about the cost of water.  If you want them to pay for water, you have to write it into their lease.  Where I live, only the person who owns the home may have an account with the water company, but the tenant can pay it, or pay you, as per your preference.

An added benefit of having the water bill as a part of the utilities the tenant pays is that if the tenant pays it late, you can use it as grounds for eviction (provided you've outlined this in your lease).

This happen with my apartment building. Every month my personal water bill is pretty stable. (more in the summer with me washing the car and watering the grass) My 4 unit building is all over the place. As already suggested make sure none of the toilets run. You might want to replace all the toilet guts to be sure. You could also look into installing low flow shower heads faucet aeraters.

I don't buy ANTHING with landlord paid water. Been there and done that.

Tenants use on average 30% more water when they do not pay the bill or it is included in the rent. Also they do not report leaks because it does not come out of their pocket. So you would have to find out during monthly maintenance inspections for leaky faucets and toilets etc.

If you have  super high water bill then the main going to the street could be leaking or something else. Usually if you talk to an engineer in the water department and submit receipts from a professional you used to fix the problem they will do a one time credit.

Whether you can offload the water onto a tenant will depend on how the tenants are conditioned in the area. If almost all buildings separate it out then tenants are usually used to it and your building just hasn't been converted yet. If all landlords pay water in the area and you try to separate and put on the tenants they will move out of your unit and go down the street.

Look for outside water spigots on your building. Those are prime for non-tenants to steal the water. You can have a mobile car wash truck etc. fill up on your dime or the neighbors connect up the building over to wash their cars. All kinds of stuff can happen.   

Medium allworldrealtyJoel Owens, All World Realty | [email protected] | 678‑779‑2798 | http://www.AWcommercial.com | Podcast Guest on Show #47

Originally posted by @Joel Owens :

I don't buy ANTHING with landlord paid water. Been there and done that.

You must not own any multi-family properties. Im in MA and if you own a multi you are paying for water. 

Re: high bills...running toilets is the biggest issue. Tenants dont care since they dont pay the water bill. 

In MA,you can submeter water but its an expensive upfront cost. 

If its a SFR you want to pass that along to the tenant.

Why don't you write them a letter stating that you now own the building and in 30 days the water bill will be reverting to the tenants name.

That is such a big difference in the bills that my first thought is you have a leak somewhere. Perhaps it has been fixed now so I would look at the last 2-3 bills and go by that.

It sounds like leaks or running toilets.    I don't "pay " for water as I have a well but I have just made a well repair and started tracking water use through a meter we had installed.  We pay electric to run the pump.  Leaking bathroom faucets resulted in use of 150-200 gallons/person /day. Non-leaking is 80-100.   Now I know people travel and have visitors and I can't for sure say some of that wasn't use but I am tracking closely after each improvement/repair water use is decreasing.  While ultimately you want to shift the cost it is worth it to look at where the water is going.  Outside taps are another loss. I am not sure if you have large volume washing machines, toilets, or old dishwashers they all can make a difference.   If a bill is estimated you can have a bump too.   You probably can't shift the cost now but do check for leaks and maybe shut off some of  the outside spigots. No car washing...

Thanks so much for your replies! I actually just realized that the water has to be in my name being that there is just one water source going to both units so it'd be an issue to separate between the two. I spoke with the former owner today after I posted this and she said back in January she had replaced the toilet guts and it seems to have leveled off some since then. I'm just gonna have to keep an eye on it as over the last two years it's been all over the place. Fingers crossed. Cheers everybody!

You could offer an incentive to both tenants.  Tell them if the bill comes under X, you will give each unit a $10 gift card.  (Something like that.)  This way there is incentive for shared water conservation even if you're paying.

Dawn Anastasi, Core Properties, LLC | http://www.coreprop.biz | Podcast Guest on Show #29

I have been thinking about a metering system such as

http://www.ekmmetering.com/

This would not work under existing lease but if you put in place before hand, when you renew or replace tenants you could charge them according to percentage of use.  check your state laws first.

There is also another alternative.  I just picked up a four plex where the water use is higher than buildings around it by $300.00 per quarter.  The tenants got the note in their rent increase letters that the high water use has been factored into the rent increase.  I don't care if they use higher water...they will pay for it in rent.  But as a former water department employee, water use is high from running toilets.  In maintenance checks, start at the toilet, and put dye in the water, then continue your inspection.  At the end of your inspection, check to see if the dye has run into  the bowl.  BTW, a leak in the water line to your property does not cause higher water bills, because that lost water never makes it to the meter.  It can screw up a lot of other stuff though.  

Hi Dan Sieg

Tell me it has been how much time that you have been shifted in your new house. I was reading here http://www.qwiknumbers.com/dwr-cymru-welsh-water-contact-number that you receive the bill every six months. You can also find your billing information on the Welsh water welcome letter. It seems they have not  paid water bill since long. 

Important to note : If you have just moved into a house where meter is installed, you may not receive the bill up to six months. It will be best for you to visit dealing authorities and apprise them all the facts.