Utilities: tenant laws and cost of sub-metering

6 Replies | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Hey folks,

I've been exploring Pittsburgh as a potential investment area and had a few questions to help me better analyze opportunities. In particular, I'm wondering for both single- AND multi-family properties.

  1. Are there laws around who must pay utilities in Pittsburgh (or Pennsylvania as a whole)? If landlord must pay up front, are they allowed to bill tenants after the fact?
  2. Anybody know what's involved in setting up sub-metering and how much that might cost per unit?

Thanks so much!

@Daniel O. as long as the utilities are metered separately and there is not co-mingled utilities then you can have the tenant put any utility in their name. You want to be careful with water and sewer since one or both can stay with the property owner if the tenant does not pay. You may want to consider paying that bill and billing the tenant back as one option. Also if you have the water metered separately but not with the utility company meter but an off market mechanical meter then you can bill back the tenant also. Its just a bit of work since you will have to go and read the meter and calculate the water and sewer usage.

To add to what @Alex Deacon said, some municipalities require some utilities stay in the landlords name. For example Avalon Borough won't allow waste management to bill outside of the property owner.

@Ben Simon gotcha, but the landlord is not prevented by law from passing that bill on to the tenant? I read something somewhere about not being able to evict based on failure to pay utility costs...

@Alex Deacon great, thanks very much! Any idea where I could go to learn more about those mechanical meters or other sub-metering options and understand the costs involved?

Dan,

I'm not aware of any restrictions on utility charges to tenants in PA. I personally do not charge for water/sewage/trash, as most do not (for reasons mentioned above by Alex).

For submetering, check out Guardian (not the home security company).

@Daniel O.  I don't think charging back should be a problem. Not sure if it would complicate evictions... Would think record keeping and clear communication with your tenants would be key. All of mine are separately metered to begin with so I'm not really sure. Would love to know the answer though!