Investigating reasons for a high water/sewer bill

9 Replies

Recently purchased a 4 unit multifamily investment property and the water/sewer bill has been quite high. The water and sewer company agree that it is high in comparison to comparable properties. The cost in my area is $3.9 per HCF.

Gross building area: 4,847 sq/ft

Living area: 3,132 sq/ft 

Couple things to keep in mind: 

  • Laundry is not coinop (yet)
  • Many animals in the property (15-20 cats)

Trying to look at potential reasons why the water/sewer bill is so high. I have yet to do a water inspection myself (checking water meter, toilets, faucets, etc.). I am more reacting to seeing the water usage increase almost exponentially since 09/2013. 

I guess I'm looking to understand the first things to check for. I've been in touch with my property manage about it and we are going to talk to the tenants to educate them about water usage.

Thoughts?

There could be a leak somewhere. I would get a plumber in to see what's going on

Our water sewer bill shot up to $1,000 from $300  (we get billed every 3 months).   It was the toilets in our rental  duplex.  We have to retrofit all the tanks with new insides.   There are 4 toilets/   The cost of the parts will be  approx $10.00 a toilet.  We are able to do this ourselves because my partner can do plumbing but if you have to hire a plumber it might pay to just buy a new toilet/  Our toilets are over 20 years old .  How old are your toilets?  

Also check all faucets for leaks.

My partner  estimates  it will take approx 1 hour a toilet but who knows? 

Originally posted by @Barbara G. :

Our water sewer bill shot up to $1,000 from $300  (we get billed every 3 months).   It was the toilets in our rental  duplex.  We have to retrofit all the tanks with new insides.   There are 4 toilets/   The cost of the parts will be  approx $10.00 a toilet.  We are able to do this ourselves because my partner can do plumbing but if you have to hire a plumber it might pay to just buy a new toilet/  Our toilets are over 20 years old .  How old are your toilets?  

Also check all faucets for leaks.

My partner  estimates  it will take approx 1 hour a toilet but who knows? 

Are you retrofitting them with dual flush insides? 

I don't know if he is putting the low flow in

I hope so

I will ask him

There is either a leak or someone is running a laundromat out of your house.  I have seen both happen plenty before.

On a side note, 15 cats in a 4-unit building?  Yuck.  Does Ace Ventura live there?

Be aware that installing low-flow toilets can lead to more clogged toilets.  

The comment about "running a laundromat" may be the answer.  I had a tenant doing this.  Sort of like stealing from me to pay his rent.  

I would contact the tenants and tell them that you have noticed a substantial increase in water usage and that you are going to do a walk-through of the units to check for leaks as well as check the water heaters for leaks.  

This is why I like to pay for water.  It tells me what is going on at my units.  For example, normal usage is 5 cubic feet per quarter per person.  Anything over that indicates to me that there is a leak, an extra person has moved in, or someone is running a laundromat out of my property.  I let my tenants know that this is how I measure usage and it is written in the lease that any water usage exceeding 5 cubic feet per person, will be billed to the tenant.  

One time a tenant didn't even have the smarts to put the futon away that the extra person was sleeping on when I came over to look for leaks.  When questioned about another person living there, sure enough, they had a long-term "guest" living with them.  

Aref, I'm sorry, but you waited way too long to address this, if it has been going on since 2013.  You should have handled this the first quarter that you noticed an increase.  The good thing though is that you are addressing it now.  Excess water usage = your tenants stealing from you, in my opinion.  

Originally posted by @James R. :

Be aware that installing low-flow toilets can lead to more clogged toilets.  

The comment about "running a laundromat" may be the answer.  I had a tenant doing this.  Sort of like stealing from me to pay his rent.  

I would contact the tenants and tell them that you have noticed a substantial increase in water usage and that you are going to do a walk-through of the units to check for leaks as well as check the water heaters for leaks.  

This is why I like to pay for water.  It tells me what is going on at my units.  For example, normal usage is 5 cubic feet per quarter per person.  Anything over that indicates to me that there is a leak, an extra person has moved in, or someone is running a laundromat out of my property.  I let my tenants know that this is how I measure usage and it is written in the lease that any water usage exceeding 5 cubic feet per person, will be billed to the tenant.  

One time a tenant didn't even have the smarts to put the futon away that the extra person was sleeping on when I came over to look for leaks.  When questioned about another person living there, sure enough, they had a long-term "guest" living with them.  

Aref, I'm sorry, but you waited way too long to address this, if it has been going on since 2013.  You should have handled this the first quarter that you noticed an increase.  The good thing though is that you are addressing it now.  Excess water usage = your tenants stealing from you, in my opinion.  

Thanks James. That average usage is helpful for a benchmark. I do plan on walking through and investigating, but wanted input like what you provided to have a solid strategy.

I should have elaborated a bit more on my "Recently purchased" comment that I began with. I bought this property only one month ago (close date 07/06/15). What drew me to this property along with sound financials was that the previous owner was a bit careless. I knew there were opportunities to help the bottom line. He had no idea water costs were on the rise!

So, seeing the potential for water usage to go back down to 2013 levels helps. I have a feeling they are running a laundromat out of there as well. I do the landscaping, and during it recently I noticed a couple non-tenant family members stopping by. Time to get to the bottom of this!

Originally posted by @Michael Noto :

There is either a leak or someone is running a laundromat out of your house.  I have seen both happen plenty before.

On a side note, 15 cats in a 4-unit building?  Yuck.  Does Ace Ventura live there?

 Hah! That comparison is quite accurate. I posted about it already. (http://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/2117...

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