Turning on water in your newly rented property

17 Replies

Hi BP team! I have an empty rental property in Houston TX that I am currently rehabbing. It will be done very soon and I am curious as to what options I have regarding the water. I opted out of turning it on during the rehab because it’s expensive in this neighborhood. That means that the faucets I have replaced haven’t been tested yet to make sure they work properly. Now, what I want to do is require the tenant to have the water turned on in their name 72 hours prior to moving in so I can go test the faucets, toilets, pipes, etc to make sure everything is working properly. If anything is not working, I will have time to get it squared away before they move in. Is this requirement going against any state laws for Texas? And has anyone ever run into issues with the tenant getting the water(or other utilities for that matter) in their name? I’ve always heard not to have the utilities in your name as the landlord because they will abuse it and then not pay.

@Courtney Hebert I always turn on water during a rehab but given your situation I would try and get tenants to turn it on a couple days before they move in. They could refuse, then everything would have to be tested when they move in and you send your plumber over to fix what is wrong while the tenants are there.

I always schedule the utilities to be cut off right before or within 24 hours of a new tenant moving in. I tell them and it is in my lease that they are responsible for utilities and they need to have them in their name before they are shutoff.

You need to air test your plumbing.  It's simple and shouldn't cost more than$15-$40 if you DIY and have compressor or rent one. Instructions are online. "Air pressure leak test plumbing". Call a plumber if you don't want to DIY. 

I would want to test that everything is working and that there are no leaks before I let the new tenant turn the water on just to be sure there are no leaks.  What happens if they turn the water on before you can get there to check for leaks and there is flooding?  

I have never had issues with a tenant getting the utilities on in their name.

My two cents: next time just pay the 100 bucks for having water during a rehab. Think of it as a cheap insurance policy that makes sure your plumbing rehab doesn't get screwed up.

I opted out of turning it on during the rehab because it’s expensive in this neighborhood. ...  Now, what I want to do is require the tenant to have the water turned on in their name 72 hours prior to moving

Surely you jest.  Getting tenants to get utilities in their name after they sign the lease is a problem.  Having them do it before then is almost certainly going to be difficult.  Especially if they have to pay some turn on fee.  A fee that is yours to pay, not theirs.  Pay the money and get it turned on in your name.  Then have it put in the tenants name after they sign a lease.

I always have the water activated but don't turn it on. I have a water key and turn it on/off as we work on plumbing stuff.

Keep in mind from out of Texas, it is extremely rare for us and landlords in Texas to be responsible OR even be able to transfer utilities to a tenant.  They would have to execute a new agreement with the supplier as well as a new connection fee

512-293-3885
Originally posted by @Greg H.:

Keep in mind from out of Texas, it is extremely rare for us and landlords in Texas to be responsible OR even be able to transfer utilities to a tenant.  They would have to execute a new agreement with the supplier as well as a new connection fee

 We have our tenants pay for all utilities including water.

But I wouldn't ask my tenant to turn them on until they moved in. 

I would strongly suggest getting the water turned on in your name to test it prior to a tenant moving in. Although water may be expensive in your area, I am guessing it will not be as expensive as emergency repairs that may need to be done because there are leaks in the plumbing when the tenants go to use the water.

Is this common down south to not have the water turned on in the house during a rehab at all?

Michael Noto, Real Estate Agent in CT (#RES.0799665)
860-384-7570
Originally posted by @Courtney Hebert :
. I opted out of turning it on during the rehab because it’s expensive in this neighborhood. That means that the faucets I have replaced haven’t been tested yet to make sure they work

i Think most readers of your post will be wondering exactly what you mean by “because turning water on is expensive”.  Are we talking thousands of dollars here or are you quibbling over 50 bucks.  It sure seems like it would be the latter - in which case, by trying to “save pennies, you likely end up wasting dollars”. 

Just turn on the water and test the system.  It’s (a tiny) part of the cost of doing business.

Originally posted by @Andrew S. :

Just turn on the water and test the system.  It’s (a tiny) part of the cost of doing business.

 And you can write it off as a business expense! (Just got done doing my taxes.)

Hi @Collin Garbarino , I don’t think I shared enough info. Sorry about that. I bought the home under an FHA Loan, so i have been holding the property for a year. It’s $100 to start up the water, and $100 per month, so when all is said and done it would’ve cost me $1,300.

I would give the tenant all of the information for the MUD that controls the water for that area when we sign the lease.They call and have it connected. If they don’t, they won’t have water. Im just wanting to know if anyone ever had issues with that in the past? When I bought the property a year ago, there was a tenant living in this property and according to them, there were no issues with plumbing. Nothing came up on my inspection report either. I just want to be able to run the water through the pipes to make sure they aren’t getting any stagnant water that has been sitting in the pipes for a year when they first move in. And I also want to make sure the new fixtures are connected properly. It’s a good point though, I could have it turned on now(instead of a year ago) in my name and test everything. It may cost me a couple hundred bucks, and that’s fine. I just do not want the water to remain in my name.

By hold it for a year, I assume you are referring to owner occupy clause which even holding it a year you are breaking the clause by not living in it, but neither here nor there.  

With or without water, that's a lot of carrying costs (electricity, insurance, tax, etc).  If the place is near where you currently live and work, what about moving into this property and renting out your current place or terminating your current lease if you are renting either early or when it expires.  It may take many years of rent collection to break even from the 1 year vacancy.   

I'm no plumbing expert, but every time the water was off at whatever property I was looking at, simply using a "water key" solved that issue. Do some googling/youtubing - might save you a couple of hundred bucks. 

FHA is for owner occupied. Hard to believe you've lived there for a year with no water. Are you admitting to getting an FHA loan but not meeting its conditions? You're setting yourself up for much bigger troubles than a water bill.

IDK about your area but in many the water supplier has the ability to place a lien on your property if the bill is not paid.  Water always seems to be an issue with tenants.  Even if they get it in their name you can still end up stuck with the bill.  I've been leaving it in my name and paying the bill and charging the tenants an amount based on the average bill.  They pay each month with the rent.

Water is the only utility that I keep in my name. If not, it costs too much at turnovers to get the water back on for such a short period of time. I include an average priced water bill in the rent amount along with a dollar amount that the tenants can't go over without being charged extra. I will text a warning the first time they go over and start charging after that.

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