Sub metering multi family in Meridian Idaho

5 Replies

Hey there!

Question for any of my Boise area or Southern Idaho investors. On the property in question (4plex); I as the property owner am paying sewer, water, and trash, has anyone had success in getting there units “sub-metered”? The property is located in Meridian. This is my first property and I would like to get this nailed down ASAP. If it is not possible I was thinking of doing a “cost share” billing plan, basically dividing the total bill for SWT by 4 units. Has anyone been doing this? I hope as a newbie I didn’t ask the most ridiculous questions to an easy answer :) thanks ladies and gentlemen for your responses.

I am unaware of any means to sub-meter S/T in the Treasure Valley. My understanding is that the sewer fees are based on the amount of water you use at the property. In order to isolate that charge and get the City to bill each tenant independently, you would have to have four independent (Suez) water meters to each unit which I have never heard of. Doesn't mean it isn't possible but unless it was built that way, I would even attempt it because of how expensive it would be. What you could do is put your own sub-meters on the independent water lines leading in to each unit. This would require the purchase of the sub-meters (flow meters) and require some demolition and patchback to get them installed on each water line. The benefit would be you would know how much each unit would use, the inconvenience would be that you would have to monitor the flows and modify the S/W/T bills for your tenants accordingly.  

Hey @Andrew Eichelberger , we pay WSG as a pretty standard matter of course on our Boise rentals, without passing that on to our tenants. However, if you wanted your tenants to pay those utilities as well, I think you have an easier option without going to the trouble and cost of sub metering. 

First, I would definitely not recommend doing a billing plan where you receive the bill and then retroactively charge your tenants for it (this is something you'll face with sub metering as well). Water and garbage bills are every two months, sewer is every three months. You can imagine how quickly this will become complicated - you'll have collection issues, possibly issues with timing reconciliations, etc. Not to mention your tenants wondering why the water bill is SO MUCH HIGHER in the summer than it was in the winter (they may understandably wonder if they are subsidizing their neighbor's extravagant water usage - and you know who they are going to be asking about that). 

Instead, I would recommend that you charge a flat monthly rate to each tenant to cover your average utility cost. It would be a separate charge above and beyond rent. I don't know about Meridian, but in Boise the sewer charge is a flat quarterly charge, regardless of usage, so that is easy to budget for. Garbage too is relatively flat. It may just take you some time to figure out what the right amount is, but if you just bought this property you probably already know the historical utility expenses.

The downsides are obvious - if your water bill is higher than the rate you are charging, you as the owner are going to eat that charge. But, as I mentioned, it's pretty standard in Boise for landlords to cover those charges anyway. Also, if you have tenants in place, you'll have to wait until your leases roll over to implement this charge; however, I would think you'd have to do the same if you sub-metered and wanted them to start paying for their own water. Maybe you don't have tenants yet so that is a moot point.

My approach in rentals and business is always to just go as simple as possible. Good luck!

@Jen Harwood 's solution is simple and functional. RUBS (utility reimbursement) is another option. There's info and Q/A's available on it through an internet search. 

Find out what the charges were for a couple of previous years and raise their rents accordingly when their leases roll over. Don't bother trying to sub meter. It is not as accurate but if you build in a little extra on top you should be fine. If you have all tenants on M2M you can quickly adjust by raising their rents when rates go up depending on your state regulations. 

Tenants are much happier knowing in advance what their cost is monthly rather than being surprised ever month. 

Thank you all for your responses! I have got this thing nailed down with a plan in place! Happy Holidays to you all.

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