Baltimore City - Water Bill

11 Replies

Hi fellow BP members,

I'm looking at a 2-unit property in Baltimore City for a potential house hack.

In researching market rents in the area, I've come across few posts about utilities in the city. One of my concerns is the water bill. The numbers work if the tenant pays water, otherwise the property won't be an option for me. What I've gathered so far from other posts on BP is the following:

-Property owners are ultimately responsible for ensuring the water bills are paid

-A tenant who is in default of the water bill for >90 days can result in a lien being placed on the property and unless stated explicitly in the lease, they cannot be evicted for nonpayment

-These consequences don't apply to sewer, gas, and electric bills

For landlords and property managers, I have a few questions:

1.How are you ensuring tenant compliance with water bills in multifamily homes, aside from proper screening? Can water and the other utilities be separately metered?

2. If you pass this responsibility to the tenant, do you "inflate" the rent cost and pay water bill yourself or stipulate water as a deliverable with rent each month and nonpayment as a condition for eviction? Given that Baltimore City water bills are increasing each year, it seems fairly easy to list above market rates for rent.

Thanks,

Keenan

Originally posted by @Keenan Rusk :

Hi fellow BP members,

I'm looking at a 2-unit property in Baltimore City for a potential house hack.

In researching market rents in the area, I've come across few posts about utilities in the city. One of my concerns is the water bill. The numbers work if the tenant pays water, otherwise the property won't be an option for me. What I've gathered so far from other posts on BP is the following:

-Property owners are ultimately responsible for ensuring the water bills are paid

-A tenant who is in default of the water bill for >90 days can result in a lien being placed on the property and unless stated explicitly in the lease, they cannot be evicted for nonpayment

-These consequences don't apply to sewer, gas, and electric bills

For landlords and property managers, I have a few questions:

1.How are you ensuring tenant compliance with water bills in multifamily homes, aside from proper screening? Can water and the other utilities be separately metered?

2. If you pass this responsibility to the tenant, do you "inflate" the rent cost and pay water bill yourself or stipulate water as a deliverable with rent each month and nonpayment as a condition for eviction? Given that Baltimore City water bills are increasing each year, it seems fairly easy to list above market rates for rent.

Thanks,

Keenan

 The water bill can become rent, and I have it in the lease that way.

I've done it several ways, depending on the tenant, but none of mine are multi-family.

1) Tenant pays the bill directly, but it remains in my name. I just give them a copy to pay from.

2) I pay and the tenant reimburses me. The water bill never leaves the landlord's name anyway, so this is the most common method.

3) The rent is increased and water is included. But the problem with that is that they have no incentive to keep the water usage down and you can get some crazy water bills sometimes.

Hope that helps.

If the water bill is the difference between making it work and not...you might be cutting it too close. Water bills are only about $30 per month, which is expensive, actually.

@Shawn Clark thank you for your feedback! I remembered that Baltimore used to bill water quarterly so I used a very conservative number (about $250 per quarter) and assumed responsibility for it, but knowing that billing is now monthly makes it easier to run my numbers with the tenant paying if the amount is much lower. 

Originally posted by @Keenan Rusk :

@Shawn Clark thank you for your feedback! I remembered that Baltimore used to bill water quarterly so I used a very conservative number (about $250 per quarter) and assumed responsibility for it, but knowing that billing is now monthly makes it easier to run my numbers with the tenant paying if the amount is much lower. 

 I like your $250 per quarter number. I've seen $360 before when there was a leaky toilet or they had 8 people in the house. Better to estimate high. Especially if there's two units.

But yeah, they are monthly now.

in my area water bill can go in remnants name but landlord is ultimately responsible. so in my lease I have that the borough utilities (which I am ultimately responsible for) can be cause for eviction if they go unpaid. the borough sends me notifications if utilities are late, so this makes managing this a little easier on my end. I have had utilities purely in my name before and never again. the remnants ran electric way up and used a to of water. my parents are now in that unit as they transition to the area, and I can confirm that bills are half the price.

1. Include in rent, raise rents to accommodate

2. Tenants cannot be evicted for unpaid water in baltimore city using failure to pay rent/rent court. This would become a breach of lease filing, which is more time consuming and expensive. I include all water in rent and raise rent appropriately. Rent court/eviction for unpaid rent if unpaid. You should do the same.

You could do rent + utilities or the preferred method (like most members mentioned here), increase the rent to accommodate.  This would be a question for a lawyer, but you might even be able to say something like "Rent includes up to _____ of water.  Tenant is responsible for paying for consumption beyond this and will be billed separately."  That seems like more work on your end, though.

Not always but water bills in Baltimore City can certainly hit $100+ in just a row home.

I rent in Annapolis a lovely 3/2 house here in Annapolis. The land lord just emails us like every 1/4 stating what every the bill is. Never questioned as it's ussually low and we just included in the rent the following month. Same for the electric. 

 @Keenan Rusk Baltimore City Water allows (and actually encourages) that you add the tenants name using the "in care of" titling feature to the water bill account. This has helped me tremendously by giving the tenant some skin in the game even though it is for the most part only in theory. You will still have liability for the bill getting paid but it does have an "ownership" effect on the tenant. You can have the bill mailed directly to the property while you monitor the bill online. 

Try to install water wise toilets on all your property. Unless it is all metered you are the one having to worry about it.

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