duplex water meters

22 Replies | Columbus, Ohio

This question goes out to all multifamily owners/landlords in Columbus, Ohio. Is it a normal thing for duplexes to have a single water meter coming in from the city? Where the water is in the owner's name and the tenants pay the owner(sub-metering). I was under the impression that some duplexes were plumbed separately. Can you please help a newbie out!? Thanks in advance. 

In my experience most of the time here in Columbus Ohio there is one main water line and one meter at the duplex. The first thing I suggest to clients is to deliver a 30 day notice that the water will be billed 50/50 each quarter. This creates shared fate and each side watches their water consumption closely because they are both paying for it. 

Please let me know if I can help in any way. 

@Trent Ecklar thanks for the reply. My over all issue is if Tenant "A" doesn't pay their half how do I other than evicting them penalize them for not paying ? I wont be able to just shut the water off since the other tenant will affected.

I’m speaking through my own experience. If the tenant will not agree to the updated terms of the lease and will not pay the water. It’s time for at new tenant. 

I’ve closed on eight duplexes in the past month here in Columbus Ohio. I’m here to be of service if you want to grab a cup of joe and discuss your goals. 

@Raul Velazquez Jr I agree with @Trent Ecklar in that the most cost effective way is just split the per bill per unit and make sure is clear in your leases.   If you inherited the tenets and leases read through them as I have found in a few cases the terms were already there it was just not being enforced by previous landlord.   In some of my four-plex’s have sub-meters but to be honest it is almost more work and costs versus just having the PM divided evenly.   The expection to this is if you are on Franklin County Water as those fees are significant so we do use the sub-meters for those units.

Cheers,

Art

We manage over 100 duplex units in and around Columbus, and have tried every different way to bill water - included in rent, split 50/50, and sub-metered. Our recommendation is sub-metering, for the following reasons:

  • You will get monthly reads instead of quarterly, so any leaks or other abnormal usage can be addressed faster (this one benefit alone could save you thousands on a water bill). Even when vacant you'll be able to see what's going on with water usage. Lifesaver in winter especially.
  • Because it's more fair for the tenants (they are billed for their exact usage), they are more likely to renew their lease and/or just behave better. I'm also not sure how a judge would feel about billing tenants 50/50 if you can't prove how much each side used.
  • It's essentially free for landlords (at least with Guardian) once it's set up, because the cost of the service is included in the tenant's monthly water bill.
  • Using the city water bill, it's an issue at move-in and move-out to prorate usage since the tenancy won't line up with the billing periods. With submetering, you can provide readings at move-in and move-out and thus bill the tenants precisely for their usage.

Many duplexes in Columbus already have either submeters for both sides, or a "master-deduct" system where there is 1 submeter for 1 side and they subtract that usage from the main city meter to determine the other side (not ideal though). Rarely you will actually find a duplex that has 2 city meters. If you buy a duplex, take a careful look and you may find an old submeter that is hooked up and either inoperable or simply not in use. Get that up and running; you'll be happy you did.

I was under the impression it wasn't exactly legal to split the water bill 50/50 between tenants since you can't prove how much water each side used. If one half has more people living in it or a leak, you can't charge the other side more because of it. Even if it's not technically illegal, I imagine it could cause frustration on both your and your tenant's end and higher turnover. (I tried to do a quick search to find if it is legal or not but didn't see this issue clarified anywhere, does anyone know?) What if there are 3 people in 1/2 and 2 in the other? Do you split into 5 and charge one side 3/5 and the other 2/5? (Headache!) 

We sub-meter our duplexes. The upfront cost can be as high as $600 (for both sides) but will pay off in the long run! If you don't want to sub-meter, I would include water in the rent and increase the rent by whatever the average cost per month works out to be. 

50/50 split - does not matter how many people per side. We have satisfied tenants who appreciate the home we provide for their families. 

We are dealing with this right now as well. We have some multi-family properties that we charge a flat fee per unit based on past usage. @Amanda Roderick We have some properties that we split according to # of units and you are absolutely right - tenants get upset and feel it's unfair. We have found it's difficult to spot a leak if everyone is on 1 meter. We have looked into 2 companies for sub-metering and billing the tenants monthly. The tenant would incur the service charge ($3-$6/mo) as well so easier for us and no money out of our pocket after set up. 

Originally posted by @Raul Velazquez Jr :

@amanda roderick. Who does your sub-metering? Other than the up front fees are there any more incurred by the owner?

We use Spectrum. My husband looked into another company (I think it was Guardian) that had cheaper monthly fees but we had a hard time getting them to communicate with us. Happy with it so far, it's only been a few months since we had them sub-metered.  There is no cost to the property owner after the initial cost to install the sub-meters. 

@Trent Ecklar Glad to hear your tenants don't mind the 50/50 split! 

@Randa Lake , I agree, we had a leak recently that we could easily tell which unit it was happening in. Saved us the hassle of searching both sides of the property. 

We also have a 4-unit where the water is not sub-metered and we include water in the rent. The couple of times in the last few years that we've had leaks, we've had to search all four units to find where it was happening. The water bill overall is pretty low at that property though so it hasn't made sense to us to have it split up.. yet.  

@Trent Ecklar Glad to hear your tenants don't mind the 50/50 split! 

@Randa Lake , I agree, we had a leak recently that we could easily tell which unit it was happening in. Saved us the hassle of searching both sides of the property. 

We also have a 4-unit where the water is not sub-metered and we include water in the rent. The couple of times in the last few years that we've had leaks, we've had to search all four units to find where it was happening. The water bill overall is pretty low at that property though so it hasn't made sense to us to have it split up.. yet.  

Not sure why this posted twice but I'm unable to delete it!

Originally posted by @Amanda Roderick :

I was under the impression it wasn't exactly legal to split the water bill 50/50 between tenants since you can't prove how much water each side used. If one half has more people living in it or a leak, you can't charge the other side more because of it. Even if it's not technically illegal, I imagine it could cause frustration on both your and your tenant's end and higher turnover. (I tried to do a quick search to find if it is legal or not but didn't see this issue clarified anywhere, does anyone know?) What if there are 3 people in 1/2 and 2 in the other? Do you split into 5 and charge one side 3/5 and the other 2/5? (Headache!) 

We sub-meter our duplexes. The upfront cost can be as high as $600 (for both sides) but will pay off in the long run! If you don't want to sub-meter, I would include water in the rent and increase the rent by whatever the average cost per month works out to be. 

Thanks for all your input on this thread!!

Don't know about Columbus, but in Portland, the city charges (like $1K) for each meter when you build and the charge depends on the line size.  Prob why there are less than more meters.

You can install sub-meters which I'd recommend in each.

Originally posted by @Steve Morris :

Don't know about Columbus, but in Portland, the city charges (like $1K) for each meter when you build and the charge depends on the line size.  Prob why there are less than more meters.

You can install sub-meters which I'd recommend in each.

It's pretty similar here in Columbus, OH. 

Originally posted by @Raul Velazquez Jr :

This question goes out to all multifamily owners/landlords in Columbus, Ohio. Is it a normal thing for duplexes to have a single water meter coming in from the city? Where the water is in the owner's name and the tenants pay the owner(sub-metering). I was under the impression that some duplexes were plumbed separately. Can you please help a newbie out!? Thanks in advance. 

  Most of the time duplexes have a single water meter in Columbus, Ohio. I have some companies I can refer to you that can sub-meter them.

Originally posted by @Jay DeVore :

@Remington Lyman

I would be forever grateful to have your sub-meter references as well. I'm looking for someone right now and struggling. 

Best,

Jay DeVore

 Yeah I can send you my list