2-4 units water charge in San Diego

9 Replies | San Diego, California

I found the water bill is getting more and more expensive....For example one of the triplex I am paying about US 500 every two months ( 8 occupants, no landscape). Another triplex I am paying US 750 (16 occupants, no landscape) ... Does it sound about right?

All long time tenants and rent is below market rate...How do you guys charge tenants on water? Do you charge them based on occupants per units? I am thinking to put a small water meter to each unit water line so I can know how much they use every month and charge them accordingly. Any thought about it?

Your first place to start is by changing out the shower heads and toilets to low flow versions, adding aerators to the sink faucets and locking the outdoor hose bibs to prevent car washing.

I don't know what water rates are in San Diego, but those numbers are much higher than I would underwrite for here in Los Angeles, and they are as much as five times what the stabilized water use is.

@Wai Wah Chan

I have units that are up to 4 on a meter that I charge water based on percentage of costs.  I get some grumbling  but I inform them how much the fixed rate of the bill is and that if they were on their own meter they would be stuck paying the fixed rate themselves rather than splitting it.  Charging them for water encourages water conservation

We have units that have 8 units on a water meter.  We include that water in the rent.  This is because any one tenant's conservation efforts is fairly trivial when there are 7 other units on the meter.  I do admit that the tenants do not fully value the cost of water.  You would think that paying a $100/month more and having water included would be better than paying $100 less and having to pay their own water but I believer the unit charging the $100 extra because it is paying water will be harder to rent.

Also make sure that your units are categorized correctly.

So some of our water costs for May (all but the 8 unit is paid by the tenants):

  • 2 Unit: $250
  • 3 unit: $337
  • 2 Unit: $214
  • 8 Unit: $839 (this is the one that we pay the water)
  • 2 Unit: $308

Each of these units have a yard (typically small) but the first one listed has a dead lawn.

Seems to mostly be just over $100/unit with a high of just over $150/unit (the last one listed: 7th Ave, Escondido).

So your tenant water usages seems a little high.

@Justin R. has used sub-metered water and has described in a BP post his fairly low effort way that he makes use of the meters.  You can search for his post.  Basically he charges a water price that is based on past water costs and only reads the meter either annually, upon tenant request, upon move out, or when he feels like it.  When the meter is read he brings the account current (i.e. either they owe him extra or he owes the tenants).

Good luck

I have a 12 unit on S. Escondido Blvd that typically runs $650-800 per month and a Triplex also on S. Escondido that runs $200-$300 per month. A good portion of the water bills are fixed charges and as long as tenants use are tier 1-2, I am not sure if it makes sense to submeter. If the charges for use were to increase compared to fixed charges, I would reconsider.

@Wai Wah Chan

I work for a local water department as a meter reader, I would say @Dan Heuschele is pretty accurate with $100-$150  a unit (this of course depends on water rates and if you're billed in gallons or cubic feet). I would say low end usage for most people is around 1100 gallons a month per person without landscaping. Lawns and garden will drastically increase water usage. 

I would also agree with @Seth Borman that getting low flow fixtures will also be a good first step; most departments and the SDCWA will offer rebates to assist with cost as well! I installed a free low flow toilet in my rental thanks to rebates a couple years ago.

Sub-metering can be great but there are factors to be aware of. You will not be able to shut an individual tenant off if they do not pay, you would need to make sure your lease is iron clad on how you handle non-payment of water. I like the idea of sub metering as an accounting and informational tool, however to keep it simple it wouldn't be my first step.

My wife noticed that your bill was for two months so I retract the statement about your tenants' usage being a little high.  The water costs that I posted are monthly costs but include small yards.  Your tenants' bill is less per month than our lowest property per unit usage.

I think your tenants are right in line with their water use.  

Unfortunately water bills are not cheap and water and its infrastructure are likely to get more expensive.  It is the price we pay to live in a desert where the water is imported from other locations.

I only own single family homes, which tenants pay their utilities. I have made all my rentals xeriscape, install low flow toilets, faucets, showerheads, energy savings bulbs and appliances. If you old dishwashers in these units, that will definitely be a culprit. Also you might want to check there are no leaks.

One idea I've used, if it is an older building, & if tenants are on the low-income saving program with SDG&E, is to arrange a no-cost visit from their energy-saving department. They will come out and install low-flow shower-heads, low-flow kitchen faucets, a device to lower the amount of water used to fill the toilet tank, and more...(insulation, door jams to keep heat/cool in, and low-cost light bulbs/nightlights. Tenants who receive discounts on their monthly bill can request this service; landlords fill out the paperwork to okay the upgrades. As a landlord of low-income housing, this can stretch the costs tremendously...you may also refer your tenants to the program.

Definitely get your units individually sub metered. You as the owner will get the bill but from there you can write it in their lease that they have to pay for water based on their use. This will in turn make them realize the cost of water use.