how much to install an owner's electric meter?

8 Replies

We need to install an owner's meter on a two family house.  It's a two family with two meters.  We're in central CT.  Anyone know how much this will cost?  Meter will have very little running to it - maybe one hallway bulb.  But there is no way to avoid it - the tenant complained to the building department, and the building department says we MUST install an owner's meter, rather than simply changing the bulb over to a motion detector battery operated light.

I had to do the same thing it was less than $1,000. You have about $150-$300 in parts so the rest depends on the cost of permits and the electrician in your area.

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Welcome to BP @Karen F.  

It is always great to see other people from CT on the forums. I am based in Southington/Plainville and do a lot of work in New Britain. 

In my experience it costs between $1500-$2000 to do the work outlined in your original post. There are certain factors that could make the fix a bit more costly, but a licensed electrician can walk you through it. 

If you need a recommendation for a electrician in the area let me know. 

Curious why they are saying that an alternate energy source is not acceptable in the building department?      We installed a solar powered outdoor light and it works great. (for a different issue).  What about giving each apartment their own light?   I am sure you investigated it all, I am just curious as to the rationale of the building department.

Ugh.  It's a long, difficult story, and this isn't even the half of it.  The tenants in the two units are friends, and moved in at the same time.  Each unit has hookups in each kitchen.  Shortly after they moved in, the downstairs tenant asked if she could install hookups in the basement, for her use, to free up space in her kitchen.  We saw no reason to say no, and oversaw the installation to make sure it was done right.  We took the wire from the dryer for her hookup, which is on her meter, and moved it to the new basement hookup.  She then took over the basement, locked us out of it,  and tried to claim it was hers, since she had a door from her unit that went into it!  She refused to unlock the bulkhead door so that we could gain access to the basement.  When we asserted our right to enter the basement through the bulkhead, she and the upstairs tenant called the building department, claiming a slough of violations.  The inspector said that these were the nicest units he'd ever been called into, but he said we had to do some very minor things - tighten a doorknob and recaulk a shower tub in one unit, and in the other replace a window pane that had a fine hairline crack in it, and repair a hairline crack in the wallboard in one place.  The tenants then denied us access to do the now mandated repairs, but when threatened with eviction for denial of access, finally allowed access to make the repairs.

The building department inspector says that we have to install a LL meter to serve the unfinished basement (which the tenant is using as a rec room area and, we suspect, to run a barbershop), and to serve the front hallway, which no one uses, and for the outside light at the front of the building.  I specifically asked him if we could install battery operated motion detector lighting in those areas, and he said, "No, you have to install an owner's meter."  Meanwhile, when I looked up the code he quoted, I see nothing about having to have an owner's meter, just that the circuits from the tenants' meters must not supply common areas.  Since there is so little that needs to be supplied, I would be very happy to cap off the circuits to the basement and hallway and the front porch light, and simply put in motion detector battery operated lighting in these areas, and tell the tenant to use the hookups in her kitchen, and get out of the basement.  I don't want to get the building dep't angry, but I don't want to spend so much on something that really is not necessary for this building.

I was hoping to be able to evict for non-payment of rent, but despite threats to not pay rent, they HAVE paid their rent. First floor, who is the root of the problem, has not paid us the money she was supposed to have paid us by March 1st for the oil that was in the tank when she moved in, but I don't think that can be counted as non-payment of rent for the purposes of eviction. She threatened nonpayment of rent, but unfortunately found out that this would mean an easy eviction, so paid it before the grace period was over. And 2nd has always paid everything. First floor has sent many abusive foul texts, but no overt threats to harm us. I had to involve the police when first floor ran screaming at me in my car on a public street, yanked open my passenger car door while I was in it, and entered the car screaming at me aggressively while I was calling 911, (all because we had made every effort to avoid a confrontation with her), but the police only went to warn her, did not arrest her. So I may be stuck with these horrible tenants until the end of the lease, when I can refuse to renew the lease, then evict them if necessary for staying over. And of course, this is our ONLY property that's in an LLC, so we have to pay a lawyer to run an eviction.

I'll spare you the rest of the sordid details.  But it comes down to whether we should install the owner's meter (and we would STILL have not a single circuit on it, since I am sure that these tenants would try to rig it so that they can steal electricity from any circuits running from it), and risk pissing off the building department, or just not appeal it and install the meter.

And yes, they both posed as leaving a terrible prior LL who refused to repair anything.  And since they were mostly college educated and some had real jobs (which first floor promptly got fired from right after she moved in, for mouthing off to her supervisor), we didn't do all our due diligence.

Tough lesson, and it's not over yet.

Hmm, sounds bad.  Is basement access for the tenant who has the dryer in their lease now?  Or did they ask post least signing?  I rarely would say consult a lawyer but you may do well to do so in this case. Maybe he can help you get them out sooner from this situation. Sounds like it is bad and getting worse.  Not sure if installing owners meter will solve your issue. 

My solar light is an outside porch light cost about $80 and my husband installed shed power for the scouts with a relatively cheap solar panel- it was just a bulb or two.  If you can do that it is probably worth it to try unless code says you have to have a meter.

If you have the money and want to improve the property and get better tenants in the property down the road. I would go ahead and get the owners meter installed will give you options down the road for proper lighting . Extra rented space in the basement or laundry etc

@Karen F. - these tenants sound to me like what I classify as "professional tenants".  They know the system and know how to play it.  I agree this might be worth running by an attorney as far as how to handle the tenant situation.  More on that in a minute.

As far as finding something different in the code, here is a thought for you.  Why not take a copy of the section of the code so that you can quote it directly to the code's office?  You need to do this in a diplomatic and professional manner so you don't make a small problem bigger, but simply pointing out that the code reads that no common area can be powered off of a tenants meter can also be accomplished by alternative energy sources being used for common areas.  You may or may not win this, be gentle but firm with your position when explaining it.

The tenant that occupies the basement could be twisted a couple of ways.  I'm not an attorney and not giving legal advice, by the way.  It sounds like technically you permitted them use of the basement, so you may not be able to get them out of there without evicting them (ask your attorney), if they choose to fight you on this.

Here is a "dirty rules" idea to run by you.  I like to save it for special situations like this.  Can you talk to the code enforcer, explain the tenant problems, and essentially ASK for him to post your property for no occupancy for failure to comply with the requirement for the common area meter?  This essentially requires tenants to immediately vacate and could lead to them coming after you for relocation costs, so again, talk to your attorney.  However, it does get problem tenants out much quicker.  You will also likely have to install the electric service afterward.  You will also likely have a fine (not usually much) to pay and will likely need to have the whole property inspected for re-occupancy.

Another idea would be to have hallway/porch lights next to each tenant's door powered by their respective meters, but that doesn't do anything for the basement lights.  If you have electric panels or other items down there, code will likely require you to have lights there which, in turn, will kick in the need for a house meter.

If I were in your shoes, I would read through the lease that was signed carefully and see if you can get them on something else other than non-payment.  It sounds to me like the tenants need to go and I think you are thinking the same thing. 

Another "trick" I have used successfully in the past (again, not legal advice) is to simply do nothing right away.  I have even gone so far as telling the tenant to their face that I don't plan on renewing their lease and it will be much easier to fix the problems after they leave and move all of their stuff out so I don't have to work around them.  This situation is exactly why I prefer month to month leases.  We have many long-term tenants, but we clear out bad ones much quicker by simply not renewing their monthly lease as opposed to having to wait until the end of the year.

Tough situation indeed.  Good luck!

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