Tenant Abusing Water in 4Plex

6 Replies

Long story short: I thought I had a water leak when my bill spiked $1,000 for 2 months in a row. A fourplex I bought in December has 1 water line so water is included in the rent. I've had 4 different plumbers (one specialized in Leak Detection) out to the building and everyone said there was no leak. I had the water company out to check the meter for a leak or malfunction and that proved to be fine too.

I didn't want to believe that it could be one of my new tenants but with everything else crossed off my list I don't know what else to think although I don't know who it is. There were 6 separate days in the month of July where someone ran the water to 3,000 gallons which is an insane amount. I actually had to do the math and that's equal to running your tub on full blast for 8 hours straight. 


I don't know what to do at this point. My Property Manager wants to tiptoe around the situation and thinks by emailing all the residents to inform them about the issue and to stop that could actually backfire especially if I've made an enemy out of a tenant or something and just don't know it. At this point I'm ready to non-renew the entire building and find new tenants but leases don't end for another 8 months.

What do I do here? I am at break-even with the water bill where it's at.

The most likely culprit - every single time - is a toilet that flushes regularly or runs constantly. Your plumber should have checked all the toilets, sinks, showers, and tubs to see if anything is running and using excessive water.

I would contact all four tenants directly. Explain the situation and ask them if they have any running/flushing toilets. Let them know that if you can't figure this out and stop it, the excess water use will be split four ways and charged to them. They'll figure it out.

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

The most likely culprit - every single time - is a toilet that flushes regularly or runs constantly. Your plumber should have checked all the toilets, sinks, showers, and tubs to see if anything is running and using excessive water.

I would contact all four tenants directly. Explain the situation and ask them if they have any running/flushing toilets. Let them know that if you can't figure this out and stop it, the excess water use will be split four ways and charged to them. They'll figure it out.

 I can't see a toilet running 3000 gallons in a few days. Sounds more like an outdoor faucet being left on for a couple days.

Have the PM monitor when the water meter is spinning and do an emergency apartment check when it is spinning.  Let the tenants know that the emergency leak detection inspections will continue until the source is found...then either they will stop or PM will find a sink that did not turn off, or a toilet linking, or like in my case, a cat that liked to play with the refrigerator water until he made a small lake in the kitchen.

We used to manage a 28 unit community (2 buildings) that was a little older and was not taken care of prior to us managing. Therefore we have no idea who fixed what, how often and it repairs were even made correctly. Knowing this, we had a plan to upgrade the property over the course of 2 years. With that, we would replace toilets and shower heads with low flow, install LED fixtures, purchasing Energy Star appliances, etc. During all of the renovations, we encountered a VERY HIGH water bill that was inconsistent. It was very frustrating as we brought GC's, leak detection companies, and plumbers to help determine the source of the issue. To mitigate, we inspected the units every quarter to check for leaks in the commodes, showers, and sinks. We locked all exterior hose bibs. We upgraded ball valves and installed individual shut off's. We learned the hard way that a contractor may not always find the leak. I discovered that I had to be my own Inspector Gadget and ask as many questions and do my own research. Sometimes it's going to take lots of trial and error before you find the source and eliminate the problem. Hope this helps.

Did you have any new tenants move in in the last 4-5 months?  I'd give the tenants notices saying that the water bill has spiked and despite multiple inspections of the plumbing, no leak has been found meaning it must be something inside one of the units (increased usage or a leak).  Ask them to please check if their toilet leaks or if any of their faucets are leaking to let you know.  Otherwise you will monitor the water meter and do emergency checks in their unit when the usage is spiking to narrow down the problem.