Submetering multifamily in NC

7 Replies

@Jeff R. not yet, but it's something I'm planning on doing with a new 50-unit acquisition in Greensboro starting in the next few months so I've done some research on the topic.

What questions do you have?

If your state allows it (Virginia does) an easy alternative to sub-metering is to  set a formula for usage and build the cost right into your lease. For example, in a multi-unit that has one water meter we charge tenants $50+$10/occupant for water.  This puts more expense on households with more people and has come very true to the actual expense. The tenant agrees to the charge in the lease, so it’s predictable for them and easy to manage for whoever does the billing. 

Im planning on adding it this winter to all of my units. True Submeter may work for your your area... they are reasonable in price and take care of all install, and real time metering. The data gets sent monthly to you/PM for back billing. Also works for leak detection and runs off of 4G, so no wifi required. 

Last year I looked into submetering water for a 24 unit I own in the neighboring town, Winston Salem. Details are a bit fuzzy but I'll share what I recollect. I spoke to my property manager who helped me get a quote - and then she talked me out of it. First, the installation quote was higher than expected because labor costs were high - commercial plumbers are licensed and in short supply - and also the existing plumbing of each unit had to be brought up to code (so if you have an older property expect extra costs), and finally walls had to be repaired and repainted. Then the property manager noted that there's no process for enforcing payment, unlike rent in which nonpayment can lead to eviction. Finally I understand one has to get approval from the NC Utilities Commission to submeter which may be a straightforward administrative process but extra effort nonetheless. On the flip side, she said that, at least for my market, being able to promote to tenants that water is included in the rent as a selling point. All in all, I thought for now submetering wasn't going to offer a quick or high payoff. Perhaps in a few years if and when the property improves I'll take another look. There is a company in NC that makes the submeters; if you want to talk to them let me know and I'll find their contact information. Hope that is useful information.

hi @Ryan Daigle , I am underwriting a deal in Greensboro where the property is not sub-metered, at which the current owner has incurred this expense. We are looking to get an idea of the cost of sub-metering vs including the average cost of utilities into the rent. 

@Patti Robertson thanks for that, i like that approach as well. 

Thank you @Sean Rooks , I will definitely look them up. 

@Greg Fitch Thank you for sharing that information. Your PM has a very valid point in regards to the lack of enforced payment of utilities. I deal with some renters that have lapsed on their utility payments and I get call and/or letters about the tenants default. If you do not mind sharing the NC sub-meter maker you know, id appreciate that POC. 

Own a 20-unit.  In Portland, water prices are stupid high (go figure), so not unusual to see $100/month for water/sewer bills on a 2 bed (esp with it's own W/D).  First, SHUT OFF ALL COMMON WATER NOT NEEDED like outside faucets people use to wash cars.

We installed flow-meters and the price <$200/unit.  If you can't access the main line into each unit (usual) then tap the feed into the water heater.  Theory is if A uses 100 gal HW and B uses 200 gal HW, then B pays 2x what A does.  I don't know what a install charge is since you need to cut the pipe and then tap it to put the flowmeter in, may be worth trying it on a unit just to see how long and if you can do it.  They're wireless now, so you can geta WiFi link to see usage 24/7 (I'm hoping you have a personal life).

I get people asking about flat rates (say $50/month) and my response is its $50 if a guy doesn't use a drop or if he runs every faucet all day long - You want people to use less water.  Hence with a sub-meter, less you use, less you pay.

Found it. Guardian Water and Power, Raleigh. I think I completed a webform and a sales person got back to me pretty quickly.