This post is directed to those in the Rhode Island (RI) market. Has anyone installed meters on their water lines for each floor of their unit and then billed back the tenants for their allotted use? Did you run into any issues? What has your experience been like?
@Greg Dowdell I haven’t done this, mainly because the landlord in RI is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the property has running water and sewer, which in practice usually means s/he pays the bill to ensure that’s the case.
That said, you can certainly try to bill it back to the tenant, but if they don’t pay you will end up paying the bill anyway because if the water is shut off then you will have breached your implied warranty of habitability, and I believe it would count against you if you ended up in eviction court.
So, basically you have to hope that the tenants are good enough to care about paying their water bills consistently, but not so good that they google (or ask) around and find out it’s ultimately the landlord’s responsibility.
My main concern as a landlord would be how it would play out in eviction court. I know that you can only evict for unpaid rent, certainly not for something like an unpaid water charge back. But I don’t know how it would look to the court or judge if you were applying money received to a water bill arrearage, resulting in a rent shortfall that you are then evicting under.
I think this might be kind of like illegal third or fourth rental units. People probably do it every day of the week and it is not a problem, so it ultimately comes down to your own comfort level on it. Definitely a good question for an attorney, especially in eviction attorney, though.