Separated electricity meters for in-law unit

9 Replies


I own a rental house that has two separated units in California. One unit in front and one unit in the back. They all are separated. The unit in the back is an in-law unit. Right now they share a same electricity meter. Would it be possible to get a permit from city to separate the electricity for the two units? 

I know that you can do it with duplex or second dwelling units California but I am not sure if it is allowed for the in-law unit.

I would appreciate if anyone would help me with this.

Thank you

my understanding is that you can’t on adu’s

A in-law suite is likely illegal to rent, it is in most jurisdictions. Maybe different in CA.

Generally speaking, your property must be zoned for duplex, two homes on one lot, etc or else the County and utility company will not allow for separate meters.

In-law units, as far as I understand, do not fit this category. They are single family homes zoned for single family residence, but the county allows for a separate in-law unit on the property.  Assuming this is what you have, I'm gonna say no, you can't get separate meters unfortunately.

I think the State of California has told counties they have to allow ADU's, due to the lack of affordable housing. I am curently converting a garage/shop building to an ADU. However; my house is on 20 acres, and sits back about 150' from the road. The house and the garage unit (it actually already has bathroom, kitchen, etc.) is across from the main house. I talked to PG&E today in regard to a separate meter. It's allowed, the only question is what it's going to cost me to switch out the main panel, put in another that will handle the ADU. Both houses will have their own addresses, and the ADU is basically another legal unit. I can also build another house on the property too.

Every state and city is different. What you need to do is contact the utility provider and ask them what it takes to do what you want. Also contact the planning department, and building departments. 

In my case the ADU is limited to 1200 sq. ft. The unit as built actually has around 1800, therefore, I will need to put up a wall, submit an "as built" set of plans, and of course, pay for another permit for the conversion, because the building permit that we paid for when we originally built wasn't for an ADU.

Thank you very much all the for helpful information. 

I contacted PGE, the electricity provider and they have no problem split the electricity in their end. The only problem is that, I would need a permit from city so that they can inspect when the electricity split is done, and the issue would not provide me the permit if it is not a legal dwelling unit.

Let me add some more information about my house. My so called in-law unit has the same size of the main unit which is about 1500sqft. The land is 7000sqft. The in-law unit has kitchen, bathroom, and 4 beds. It is 1500 sqft, which  is more than the 1200sqft limit for a second unit. So the city gives me two options: 

- make second unit smaller (up to 750 sqft as it can only be 50% of the first unit)  so that it can be a second unit

- or apply for the house become a duplex.

The first choice does not work for me because it would alter the whole layout of the second unit and from investment point of view it does not give me any benefit.

The second choice would be very expensive as the city said it would cost about 50K for all the fees to pay for the city to legalize it. On top of it, I have to put a fire-proof wall between the two units which need me to tear down the current wall between them.

What I just want to do it to split the electricity but it seems that there is not an easy way to do it. I am not sure how to move further with this situation.

@Karen Margrave When you submitted the plan to legal the unit, wased the fee was as high as 50K like I mention above?

Thank you

@Max Gradowitz My house is in the zone of duplex but the house is the single family house with in-law unit

@Peter Doan   on mine, the County has the original plans and permits from when the house waas built new. They have all the inspections, and the unit was finaled. However; somehow they didn't record the information on the septic, and are making me do a new design and retrofit to current standard, which will cost me around 16,000 for that. As for the conversion I'm told it will be around 3000. They don't have to do much on their part. All the construction went through permits and building inspections when it was built, they just need a new set of plans showing the reduced size. 

Have you considered just adding a subpanel with a submeter?   I suspect there is a small number of electrical runs from the primary unit to the secondary unit.  Run them to a metered subpanel.   I have had subpanels added but not a metered subpanel.

I do not know how much a submeter is but I know that the inverter for my solar has a submeter (I.e. I can find out how much power I generated as well as how much power I used).

Of course the utility company would not read the submeter.  In some locations in Germany they have a meter for water for entire property and a submeter for water for the garden/yard.  The sewer fee is based on water that is not for the yard (water into house - water used for yard).  The property owner reports the water use on the submeter.  I suspect there is an occasional verification that the reported submeter water is accurate. 

Good luck

I thought it was a fair approach as people with large yards in US where sewer fee is based on total water use pay more sewer fee than what they use.

Peter, you will need to do it your self. You might have the same situation as me, in San Pablo, CA. The in-law unit has it's own water, gas and electricity but they come from the main house. I was able to get a contractor to install a sub meter for gas, electricity and water. I ask the tenants to send me a picture of the readings, according to when the master meters are read. 

The only thing that I'm having issues with; is not having a good spreadsheet with all the calculations, where all I do is plug in the numbers from the total bills and then plug in the numbers for the actual submeter readings. I'm still looking of that spreadsheet.

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