Sacramento Water Bill SHOCK

22 Replies

I closed on a fourplex in early June and just received the water bill and it's $711.40 for the period of June 5th to July 20th. 

This threw my math off. How can I get this under control??? Is this expected? I have a duplex and two cottages in the back. Duplex is 2 BR, 1 BA each side and cottages are 1BR/1 BA each. 

Here is the break down:

Water flat charge

Waste water flat charge

Storm drainage flat charge 

These total to 351.00 

Then we have:

Garbage : 94

Street sweeping : 5

Recycling, Yard waste : 75.32

FINALLY:

Regional Waste water treatment: 161

I assume this is City of Sacramento. Overall, that doesn't seem too outside the expected range, seeing as that number is for one and half months. I ballpark water/garbage bills to be about ~150 a month for a SFR, but that's billing for a 3bed/2bath, so your units will be slightly less.

I'll admit I have no idea how multi-units are billed, but the water amount seems roughly correct. Assuming they bill similar to SFR, it's about $13 per 'room' per month. I'd guess a 2/1 has five rooms, and 1/1 has 4 rooms, so you have: 18 rooms * 13 * 1.5 months = $351.

Garbage/recyling/yard/sweeping will run about $40 a month for a house , so that number actually seems a little low if they all have their own cans, and those number are for 6 weeks.

Waste water seems about right as well. I pay $30 for a single family. So if each half of the duplex is $30, and each 1/1 is $20, that's roughly $100 for one month, and $150 for 6 weeks. 

As far as reducing the numbers, the only thing that comes to mind is setting up dumpsters for trash, but I have no idea if that actually saves money with only 4 units. Other than that; I think it might just be what it is.

If your water bill is a flat charge, I'm not sure there is anything you can do. I know one of the first things I do when I'm responsible for water is to change out the toilet "guts" with the new versions that prevent water running due to a leak. They are only a couple of bucks more than the normal version but only allow the water to fill if the handle is used.

One runny toilet can mean lots of added expense.

Your bill includes your sewer and garbage.

The only  thing you can possibly change is your garbage and yard waste, but these don't seem high for a fourplex - your bill should show how many garbage cans and yard waste cans you are being charged for and make sure you are using that amount. Unless you can reduce garbage and yard waste( maybe your landscaper can dispose of the yard waste), I think the rest are fixed costs.

Well, not being surprised is somewhat preventable.  The seller could have provided you with numbers and/or you could have checked with the utility company. What were you expecting and what did you base it on? Please don't tell us you relied on the listing agent, :) The state, cities and large water districts have all kinds of info available to understand and project CA household water use.

I wouldn't have used less than $150 per unit. I pay that much for the same services in So Cal for a 2/1 SFH. And my bill is less than most of my neighbors. In the winter I sometimes get it down to under $110, But now we are having regular rate hikes so it's hard to keep it down. I pay less in the Central Valley (go figure). You're at $120/mo per unit and that includes a water treatment plant fee.

I'd say it was to be expected.  Definitely take advantage of any free water check ups offered by your muni.  You may want to consider cutting off or limiting outdoor water use if your tenants aren't paying water. 

Sacramento city isn't on water meters yet, so cutting back on water usage won't affect the amount being paid.

Originally posted by @Derek Daun :

Sacramento city isn't on water meters yet, so cutting back on water usage won't affect the amount being paid.

For reals?  I was assuming it was like here with a base charge plus additional charges for usage. So, without meters there is no way to reduce the bill other than go after trash? Isn't Sac the state capitol, a place that should be setting the example for the drought?

So then in answer to the OP: Your bill is not out of the ordinary and was a known quantity when you bought the property. So, what happened that you budgeted the wrong numbers?

+1 for Derek's comment - my cousin lives in Sacramento and has had that headache before. Your bill is not out of the ordinary, but agreed, definitely needs some change. Good luck!

Well - I think it's time to join one of Brandon's seminars for a lecture on "doing the numbers"...lol

What you do now is you find a sucker (much as you were when you bought this thing), and sell!  Trust me, this won't be the only thing that throws your numbers off - more is coming :)

K.marie P.

 Yup, Sacramento, the state capital, of a state in a multiyear drought, and a city which itself is highly affected by the drought, isn't water metered. Apparently it was a contentious issue going back years. I heard a story that at one point the city bought the meters, and was storing them in a warehouse for a couple of years while the issue continued to be debated. When it was they finally decided, the meters had disappeared, and the process started over. 

The city is now in the middle of the process of installing meters everywhere; with the original estimated completion date of 2025 moved up to 2020 due to the drought. I just received a letter a couple days ago informing me that a property whose meter was installed three years ago is finally going to be turned on, after which we'll still be on flat rate for a year, but will be able to see what our billing would have been using the meter.

It seems reasonable to me when I compare it to my fourplex in downtown Sac. I really hate how they jack up the rates compared to my neighbors who are SFH, when comparing the size of the properties. It's primarily the water that is high. The garbage and recycle cans have to stay. The city won't allow you to turn them in, even if you have four and don't use two of them. You must keep all of the cans. I'm convinced it's a scam for our money. I tried to get info on how to change it years ago and got lost in the bureaucratic phone system and never got an answer.

The city is/has been installing water meters and will eventually switch from the flat rate.  They did mine about 3-4 months ago.  It could be good or bad depending on your tenants and the amount of water they use.  I've heard BP discuss metering individual units with a large upfront expense to set them up.  Unfortunately my water lines are all under the slab of the house so that won't be an option once they officially begin metering. 

I have hated watching the utility bills go up and plan on selling, hopefully before the individual metering begins.  I don't want to chance the bill going up another hundred per month.

thank you for all the comments guys. I'll check later tonight what I had estimated in my model. Great learning opportunity. :-) This is with county of Sacramento. 

I think Sac County is mostly metered (compared to the city of Sacramento), so you might be metered.

I was wrong. It's city of Sacramento that provides the utilities to my fourplex. 

I just checked my model I had estimated $368 per month ($92 per unit) for water stuff so for 1.5 months this isn't too bad as it includes some initial registration of $22 as well. I guess I need to get used to BILLS. 

@Minka Sha

Some have talked about going with smaller cans.  The only other thing worth checking is that the City has your units sized correctly (#of rooms).  My most recent City of Sac utility bill was about $200 for a duplex (both 3 bedrooms).  I noticed there was a 3% rate increase effective in July.  Here is the rate table for water:

http://portal.cityofsacramento.org/~/media/Corpora...

thank you Jake Weir!

In the central valley my duplexes are tracking around $80 per month ($40 per door) for Water, Trash and Sewer.  

Frank

Originally posted by @David Hutson :

It seems reasonable to me when I compare it to my fourplex in downtown Sac. I really hate how they jack up the rates compared to my neighbors who are SFH, when comparing the size of the properties. It's primarily the water that is high. The garbage and recycle cans have to stay. The city won't allow you to turn them in, even if you have four and don't use two of them. You must keep all of the cans. I'm convinced it's a scam for our money. I tried to get info on how to change it years ago and got lost in the bureaucratic phone system and never got an answer.

The city is/has been installing water meters and will eventually switch from the flat rate.  They did mine about 3-4 months ago.  It could be good or bad depending on your tenants and the amount of water they use.  I've heard BP discuss metering individual units with a large upfront expense to set them up.  Unfortunately my water lines are all under the slab of the house so that won't be an option once they officially begin metering. 

I have hated watching the utility bills go up and plan on selling, hopefully before the individual metering begins.  I don't want to chance the bill going up another hundred per month.

It makes sense to me that MF water rates are higher than SFH when you're talking unmetered units. I'm guessing there is data to support disproportionate use by tenants compared to owner occupants.

You have a building that isn't worth keeping if your expenses go up $100/mo? Sounds like the water bill is the least of your worries there.

Originally posted by @Derek Daun :

@K. marie P.

 Yup, Sacramento, the state capital, of a state in a multiyear drought, and a city which itself is highly affected by the drought, isn't water metered. Apparently it was a contentious issue going back years. I heard a story that at one point the city bought the meters, and was storing them in a warehouse for a couple of years while the issue continued to be debated. When it was they finally decided, the meters had disappeared, and the process started over. 

The city is now in the middle of the process of installing meters everywhere; with the original estimated completion date of 2025 moved up to 2020 due to the drought. I just received a letter a couple days ago informing me that a property whose meter was installed three years ago is finally going to be turned on, after which we'll still be on flat rate for a year, but will be able to see what our billing would have been using the meter.

So they are giving residents a year to learn their water usage? I guess they have no choice as some households won't be able to pay without advance planning/training.  It's a whole different planet when you pay to water your lawn or wash your car.  I'm feeling for you landlords up there.  I'd be over to the properties asap and disabling the outdoor spigots and changing out the washers with coin-op.

@Minka Sha You could just bill your tenants for water, or a portion of the water.  that would be the way to eliminate the bill all together.

I have 18 apartments in Sacramento that have been put on a water meter and another smaller property that is still flat fee.   I think they are going after the biggest ones first.  Water + sewer average about $950 per month, or $50 per month ballpark.   I have to pay for my own trash service separately as a (I think 5+) multifamily and the city no longer collects my green waste.  Your bill was for 1.5 months for 4 units and does not seem out of line.  

The other thing to worry about is to not get tagged for watering landscaping on non-watering days.  You get a warning but then the penalty fees can escalate quickly.  

Sacramento's water/sewer/garbage is going to run a little higher than other central valley cities due to the fact that city is trying to pay for a massive overhaul of the sewer system.  Large antiquated swaths of the system need to be replaced across the city. I also imagine the leaf removal in fall and spring adds a little to the cost.

MFH are actually cheaper than SFH per unit. Obviously one would expect the total usage of a duplex to be greater than a SFH since it could be designed to hold more people. Current prices are set based on the number rooms in the house.

I expect the trend of landlords paying water could start to shift as meters are activated. In some cases, metered water bills could be cheaper than flat rate if the algorithm of flat rate doesn't fit the property.

@Jake Weir

 Good call on checking the room # on the bill. I'm not sure which rooms get counted towards the count; maybe someone else can lend insight into that

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