Split level house with one meter, best way to split utilities?

6 Replies

Two years ago we purchased a primary residence with a basement apartment. We have been renting out the basement unit with utilities included as there is only one meter on the house.

We are moving overseas for a few years for work and will be renting out the main unit as well. Any suggestions on how best to divide the utilities between the two tenants? The utilities are for electric and water only. We do not want to keep them in our name and we will have a property manager who lives two doors up. 

One other potential issue is that the breaker box for the entire house is in the basement unit. It has not been a problem for us as we have a good relationship with our tenant.

Any advice on how to manage this would be greatly appreciated, as would any advice on how to properly set up the leases to cover these details (our tenant has been going month to month since the lease ran out after the first year and we will have to create a new lease with the changes to terms).

Thank you in advance Bigger Pockets members!


I have to deal with the same thing. I have a pretty big townhouse that I have split into two - renting to two different families. The family on the top is large family and family in the basement is just couple of people living together.  Everyone has separate leases but utilities are in name of the family that lives upstairs. I have agreement with the family upstairs that I will write them a check of $125.00 to cover the expenses of the family downstairs, as long as they pay the rent on time and in full amount before the end of grace period.  

This keeps everyone happy, and I don't have to deal with hassels of sub metering, and all the RED TAPE that comes with it. And last people I want to ever hear from is HOA for doing something against their strict by-laws. You think in-laws are bad.. You should read some of my HOA by-laws..lol

Is it a legal two family or an inlaw apartment ?  You can submeter or look up RUBS (Ratio Utility Billing service).   Long term and a legal unit I would add an electric meter but if you aren't wired right it would be tough. For water RUBS would work fine I would think. Electric is more use related and can vary more. If it isn't a legal 2 family I think you might just look for one family to rent it to decrease your issues or you will need to explain the situation going in to the new tenant.

Hello Amy,  I have experience with two different sub metering systems.  The one that would allow you to sub meter both your water and electrical is http://www.ekmmetering.com/    If you installed it yourself, it would cost about $600 per unit for everything you need to separately meter both water and electricity for each unit (an Omni meter, a water meter and communications software and hardware).  You might be able to get by with sub metering just the basement then deducting the basement usage from your utility meter readings.  EKM meters are utility grade (highly accurate) and they can be read online in real time from anywhere in the world that has internet access. However to meter the electricity you would need to either have one set of main wires to the metered space, or else be able to group all the hot wires to that space through one current transformer. That is doable for an electrician, but might be too tricky for the average home owner.  

For $400 you could use http://energycurb.com/ , which is an electricity only sub meter that monitors 18 separate circuits and also makes the information available online in real time.  You can see the electrical consumption on each of the 18 circuits as it is being used.  Curb accuracy is +/- 1%.  Your data with both EKM and CURB systems can be viewed either on a smart phone, tablet, or with a computer via a web browser.  There is just a few seconds of delay. 

Even cheaper and simpler to install is a $300 system that I have not used, because it requires time to learn each home's usage and appliances, is https://sense.com/ .  Sense is not a true meter. Instead it uses software to recognize and record each device's electrical signature and calculate it's consumption.  I like it best because it is the most flexible and informative, just not the most accurate -at least during the initial months while it is learning your devices. 

If you want to sub meter water and electricity give EKM a call. They are busy, but very helpful.  Best wishes.