ADU/Granny unit utilities metering

28 Replies

I am thinking about converting my garage to a studio to rent it out. The one thing I am wondering about is how I can sub-meter PG&E and the water. I can pay for the tenants utilities as long as I am still living in the main house, but the plan is that I move out of there at some point and rent it out as well. In this case I certainly don't want to pay for any utilities anymore. How do you all handle that?

Btw: I was told that to meter it completely separate, it had to be handled as a different address and that this is not worth doing.

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What I did in Berkeley is add the adu as unit B. I don't if that qualifies as a completely different address in Oakland but I would ask around different dept.s, especially the fire dept. That was the ruling dept in Berkeley.  The reason why it's important is so the fire dept can find a fire and isn't wasting time in the front if there's  B unit in the back that's the one that is burning down.

I'm in the same boat as you in that I plan to convert my garage to an ADU as well. I suppose another way is to submeter the ADU -- this way you can at least calculate how much of the water/gas/electric went to the ADU unit.

A quick search on BP and found this post which may be helpful:

https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/542401-separated-electricity-meters-for-in-law-unit

I am in the process of converting a garage/workshop. However; when originally permitted, inspected and built it had a kitchen, bathroom in it.  Once converted it will be assigned its own address. (Call  your planning department about this issue, they can give you details)  As for utilities, I can leave as is and be served by main house, submeter, or install new meter for separate unit. 

If I rent the house and guest house to 1 tenant, a separate meter isn't necessary. However; if 2 unrelated tenants are there, it needs to be at least sub metered. The problem with that is you have to calculate the cost for each unit every month, as the utility company only gives you the amount of energy used. 

For mine, it's a spendy proposition to do a separate meter, as the main panel is about 200 feet away (20 ac. lot) 

Out of curiosity, what fees, etc. are you required to pay to convert? 

For mine they're asking for: 

  •  $2000  Permit to convert
  • $1000 - It already was approved with septic, but they're requiring new design which cost 
  • $900 - Septic permit
  • $8420 - Additional leach field being required 
  • $8700 - Impact fees (required, even though it already has septic, community water, PG&E, so no County services) 
  • $6000-10,000 for separate meter (that's with a new panel and us digging ditch for lines) Waiting for PGE engineering to give me final numbers

Due to the regulations by state holding ADU to 1200 sq. ft., (the building I'm doing is 2500 s.f.) I am considering just permitting as 2nd residence, as I'm allowed another house on the property, though that will increase all of my permit fees (still waiting to hear back on how much)

Thanks everyone for the input. Sounds like I either have to 

  1. do my own submetering and have the tenant report the readings to me (which I don't like too much)
  2. have to include the utilities in the rent and pay them myself or 
  3. add a fix price for the utilities to the rent. 

None of the three solutions are perfect, but it gives me at least something to think about.

Originally posted by @Simon Stahl :

Thanks everyone for the input. Sounds like I either have to 

  1. do my own submetering and have the tenant report the readings to me (which I don't like too much)
  2. have to include the utilities in the rent and pay them myself or 
  3. add a fix price for the utilities to the rent. 

None of the three solutions are perfect, but it gives me at least something to think about.

 There's a solar panel company I'm familiar with that sub-meters with a web interface for the landlord to see how much was used by Unit A, Unit B, Unit C, etc, for a property that isn't officially a 3-unit and has one 'official' meter. It's a side accessory to the solar panels, so they won't do just that component, but it does show that there are private sector (eg, no big gov't process & 'official' meters not needed) solutions to this. 

Hey @Chris Mason how is it going? I actually found one company as well who sell smart electric meters, but there is surprisingly little to find in this area. Unfortunately their meters have to be plugged into the internet to update the usage online. If the tenant is responsible for the internet access, I don't think that it is a good idea to tell them that they have to do that...

Originally posted by @Simon Stahl :

Hey @Chris Mason how is it going? I actually found one company as well who sell smart electric meters, but there is surprisingly little to find in this area. Unfortunately their meters have to be plugged into the internet to update the usage online. If the tenant is responsible for the internet access, I don't think that it is a good idea to tell them that they have to do that...

Good to hear from you :)

 Unconventional idea... cheapo Android cell phone added to your family plan with a wifi hotspot? Find one of those plans with minimal minutes/data where the carrier is losing money if you don't exceed the limits, banking on your exceeding the limit, which in this case you have a good sense that you will not do? Plug it in and - if you can do sheetrocking - put it right there inside the wall, installed next time you're in between tenants?

Or, in other words, what's the cheapest data connectivity available via the existing cell phone infrastructure? 

Or, maybe this is an even easier solution, find out if the smart meter can store the data and update once it has internet connectivity. Turn on your own wifi hotspot whenever you visit the property so it can push the data up into the magical cloud.

Haha, thank you @Chris Mason , you always have the best ideas. I don't plan on driving by once a month though and I'd rather not pay any phone service fee. I also thought of just tapping into the neighbors WiFi or the public Comcast WiFi.

Or maybe speak with a neighbor who has reliable internet and see if they'll be generous to allow you to connect your device to their wifi.  Either offer a few bucks or maybe buy a few brewski's or nice bottle of wine and call it good =)

OK here's a possible solution: 

  • I found a company that sells smart meter for electricity, gas and water for around $500 all together
  • For the internet, I could get a mobile 4G hotspot (MiFi) for around $150
  • There are actually companies that offer free 4G data service as long as you stay below 200MB per month

This way, i do not have any recurring payments, but can still see the usage online

@Daniel Gonzalez sure thing. I hope that does not count as advertisement?

  • Smart meters: www.ekmmetering.com
  • 4G MiFi hotspot: Really any one works that you find on amazon, or choose one from the mobile company below. For the EKM system, you will need one with an ethernet port
  • 4G data service: www.freedompop.com - free if you stay below 200MB per month

I just finished EKM meter installation myself.  It is a very advanced, but easy to setup solution.  I have set it up to push the meter reads directly to the Cloud and it is all free for life.  I can also share the meter with the tenant for total transparency.  

We currently have an ADU w/ shared utilities. The concern I have about sharing all the utilities under one service is that we incur high usage charges here in San Diego. So, if the usage exceed a certain threshold in a billing cycle, we are charged the higher rate. This is easy to do with 2 or 3 units under one service. So, although the sub-metering is handy to keep track of what each tenant owes, the biggest issue for us is getting hit with the high usage charge. We are going to do a garage conversion now that AB 68 passed to allow 2 ADUs. Hopefully, we can split out the utilities if not cost prohibitive. Or, maybe end up with solar!

Emy like it-want it-or not, after 1/1/2020 we will have solar per the Title 24 2019 Energy Code going into effect in 2020. I'm in the same boat, and will also have to re-roof and upgrade my panel for the solar. Maybe you too? Fortunately for me SB 13 will halt the $4,600 developer impact fees, leaving only $2k +- permit/building fees. I imagine you will benefit from that too, google SB 13 for all the details.

Additionally I believe the new law allows for one ADU and one JADU; big difference between the two.

@John A Murray   - thanks for the info on AB 13!  I hadn't seen that one - it is similar to AB 68 but has more language in there about the connection fees, etc.  I work for a  local coastal city here in San Diego County that has very strict zoning and design ordinances and once folks get wind of this, it's going to get ugly. Esp, with the getting rid of the owner occupied requirement and set backs.  

First post here guys!! I just finished constructing a 500 square-foot ADU on my property here in Oakland. First time doing such a project its been a crazy journey and I'm nearly there. When I called for the final inspection from the city of Oakland, the inspector said before they can give us the certificate of occupancy we need to install separate gas as well as separate electric meters for the ADU. Mind you when we first started the process there's A document from the city of Oakland planning department that states separate gas and utility are not required. When I talk to the inspector they said well PGE Is requiring this. Does anyone have any ideas how to push back. I have a beautifully constructed unit that is now empty because of this requirement. We already constructed a sub panel and have electricity and have sent a 1 inch pipe from the gas meter to the unit and those have been passed inspection.

Emy, I had the same concern so as per the plan we are going to have a separate electric meter but the same gas meter as the only gas appliance ADU has is gas water heater.

I am curious - can you still request for a separate electricity meter?


Originally posted by @Emy Bernardo :

We currently have an ADU w/ shared utilities. The concern I have about sharing all the utilities under one service is that we incur high usage charges here in San Diego. So, if the usage exceed a certain threshold in a billing cycle, we are charged the higher rate. This is easy to do with 2 or 3 units under one service. So, although the sub-metering is handy to keep track of what each tenant owes, the biggest issue for us is getting hit with the high usage charge. We are going to do a garage conversion now that AB 68 passed to allow 2 ADUs. Hopefully, we can split out the utilities if not cost prohibitive. Or, maybe end up with solar!

 

The city has to follow rules that were applicable at the time you applied for the permit. If subsequently rules change - I think they can't force you to adopt those rules..



Originally posted by @Hisham Zawil :

First post here guys!! I just finished constructing a 500 square-foot ADU on my property here in Oakland. First time doing such a project its been a crazy journey and I'm nearly there. When I called for the final inspection from the city of Oakland, the inspector said before they can give us the certificate of occupancy we need to install separate gas as well as separate electric meters for the ADU. Mind you when we first started the process there's A document from the city of Oakland planning department that states separate gas and utility are not required. When I talk to the inspector they said well PGE Is requiring this. Does anyone have any ideas how to push back. I have a beautifully constructed unit that is now empty because of this requirement. We already constructed a sub panel and have electricity and have sent a 1 inch pipe from the gas meter to the unit and those have been passed inspection.

 

Originally posted by @Hisham Zawil :

First post here guys!! I just finished constructing a 500 square-foot ADU on my property here in Oakland. First time doing such a project its been a crazy journey and I'm nearly there. When I called for the final inspection from the city of Oakland, the inspector said before they can give us the certificate of occupancy we need to install separate gas as well as separate electric meters for the ADU. Mind you when we first started the process there's A document from the city of Oakland planning department that states separate gas and utility are not required. When I talk to the inspector they said well PGE Is requiring this. Does anyone have any ideas how to push back. I have a beautifully constructed unit that is now empty because of this requirement. We already constructed a sub panel and have electricity and have sent a 1 inch pipe from the gas meter to the unit and those have been passed inspection.

 Hi Hisham,

Congrats on the ADU! I'm looking at building one in Oakland as well. How much did it cost to build (hard cost only)? And if you used a GC do you recommend your GC? I would much appreciate an introduction if you're willing. Thanks



@Hisham Zawil

I've built several ADUS, most recent one was finaled last September in Albany. No requirement from the city or PG&E to have separate meters. I did sub-meter everything, by my own choice. Unless some new rule has gone into effect Jan 01, 2020, I haven't heard of any requirement that an ADU be separately metered. I would go to the city of Oakland building department and speak with a supervisor. Let us know what you learn.

@Simon Stahl The city where I built my ADU requested certain discretionary items to be included in my project. I complied with the ones that were reasonably priced and pushed back on the ones that would be a financial burden. This sounds like one you want to push back on.

@John A Murray I thought the solar requirements did not apply to a conversion of existing space. Am I reading that incorrectly?

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