Who pays for dehumidifier in common basement?

7 Replies

I just bought a two family with a very damp basement. I put a dehumidifier down there but one of the tenants asked about which unit's electricity it's plugged in to (answer: I don't know but will be checking tonight when I go by).  They're claiming a dehumidifier can cost up to $400 a year. There are separate meters for each unit.  How do I deal with this?  I plan on adding more outdoor lighting and I know they're going to ask the same question.  Now I'm waiting for them to ask who pays for the light in the basement.  Are there any laws in Massachusetts about this sort of thing?  They've only lived in the unit a week and I get the feeling they're looking for problems.....

If it is a duplex you can bet the landlord is 100% responsible for everything that runs on electricity in common areas that are shared by both units. I can see the tenants being responsible for electric lights outside their front and rear doors and in hallways that are not shared by both tenants. The landlord would be responsible for any other lights on the property that benefit both tenants.

If is your building, your moisture problem and if you wants to run a dehumidifier 24/7  you will have to pay the electric bill and the cost to run 24/7 is about $300 to $400 per year depending on the size of the dehumidifier.

If you want to run a pieces of equipment that expensive then you probably should install an owner's electric meter and that will probably cost $4,000 to $5,000 with the additional wiring you will need.

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They may just be financially savvy or have been burned in the past.  I personally would ask the same question as a tenant, and that doesn't mean I'm looking for trouble.  Either way, as Jack said, that's going to be on you whether you separately meter your lighting/dehumidifier, or give a rent credit towards power bill.

@Jennifer F.   If it costs $300-400 a year, it is easy enough to give a $25 discount to the tenant who is in the unit that it is connected to.  Give the fact that this tenant has been there a week and is already asking, I'd buy an extension chord and plug it into an outlet connected to the OTHER unit.

@Jennifer F. Tread very lightly here with the tenant because if they go to the utility company and they deem it a shared meter issue the utility company will switch their electric into your name until you properly separate the electrical by putting an owners box in. I have been through this personally and have had clients go through this and it gets very sticky and costly. 

If there is an owners meter make arrangements for an electrician to come out and rectify to put all common area lights and outlets onto the owners box. If not, unplug the dehumidifer from the tenants outlet and figure out another way to have it plugged in.

In general, tenants should only have lights or outlets on their meter that they can turn on/off from inside their apartment. Anything outside of that the utility company will deem a shared meter situation and will literally make you pay for their electric until resolved. 

Who uses the basement?  Is it a shared basement?  What is down there? Who is emptying the dehumidifier?   If it is only mechanicals in the basement it is basically on you to provide electric. If one of the units has use of it they should provide electric to it. 

If , as I suspect it is just a shared mechanical space I would run the dehumidifier hose to the outside,  hook it to one unit and give that unit a credit for the months it is on using a lease addendum to do so.  You could opt not to run a dehumidifier.You could get another meter at a fair amount of cost too.  Keep in mind unless someone is emptying it, the dehumidifier isn't using electric because it isn't running so if you credit someone for it make sure it is in service. I would not allow basement storage either way.  That said someone in Massachusetts can comment on if you choose a rent credit for electric use if that is acceptable in Mass,

Thank you all for your responses, this is something I hadn't given any thought to as this is my first multi-family.  Rookie mistake.

@Colleen F. The dehumidifer is on a pump that goes into the washing machine drain so I don't need to worry about emptying it fortunately.   I'm looking into what it would take to add a meter (fortunately I have free labor for the wiring once it's attached to the house).  I'd rather play it safe than have problems with the tenant.