electrical meter count

5 Replies


Consider a building with 3 dwelling units, and some common space (laundry room and stairwell.) There are currently 3 meters, the laundry/stairwell/outdoor power connected to house meter. Each smaller unit has its own meter. Is there anything unsafe about this situation? Does adding a 4th meter just clarify electric bills, or is it possible something is tapped or connected in a dangerous manner?

Thank you

Metering separately is expected, and like all electrical work, it's safe if done properly.

So there are three meters - one for each of the two smaller units and one for the third unit and the common area electric?  Is that right? 

Do the tenants pay the electric bill or does the owner?  If the tenants pay their own and they find out they have unknowingly been paying for common area electricity, you will probably have a huge headache and end up writing some unpleasant checks.

It's fine to charge them for a share of common area electricity, and in fact it's common practice, providing it's written into the lease.

Thank you, Matt

You understand correctly, the biggest unit is also billed for the common areas.

When I bought the place, I discovered that this unit was connected to the common power.  I give them a supplemental payment every month to make up for the extra use.  We have a written agreement for that.  I have always planned to move in to that space, so I decided I wouldn't re-meter because I would eventually be paying that bill anyway.  

I know that all 3 meters were inspected and signed off in the '80s.  I now have an inspector hinting that this is somehow against code, to only have 3 instead of 4 meters.  I found a civil code stating that they way I'm handling the situation is legal, but I can't find any Los Angeles or NEC codes that explain metering. I'd like to know whether it's just a landlord/tenant issue, or an actual safety/code issue.  Can you help with that?

In a former life I was responsible for creating a billing system for a municipal utility (customer service manager) and what you describe is somewhat common. As an investor, and separately a CRE professional, I've had to confront this issue. The cleanest way to handle this situation is to install a sub meter to measure specific usage e.g. the unit or the common areas. And then once the bill is generated and sent to you or your property manager the bill is prorated by monthly service charge and electric usage. This will remove any questions by current and or future tenants. In addition it may save you time and money having to justify how and in what amounts you divided the electric bill. Needless to say a tenant would be hard pressed to initiate legal action if you have documentation of meter readings.

Thank you, Christopher,

Another Californian!  Billing issue aside, I'd like to know if structurally, "electrically," there is something against code about the current situation.  Can you clarify this?  Can you cite the code that refers to "landlord" meters?

there is no code violation for this. due to the fact that the building was approved by the governing body that inspected it in the 80's. Now that this has been said after doing some more research on this subject in the Nec I found that there is an article that pretains to this it is article 210.25(b) "common area branch circuits. branch circuits installed for the purpose of lighting, central alarm, signal, communications, or other purposes for public or common areas of a two family dwelling, a multifamily dwelling, or multi occupancy buildings shall not be supplied by equipment that supplies and individual dwelling unit or tenant space." Okay this is true for a new building but for this building that is more then ten years old and is not being remodel more then 20% of value( I believe this is the magic number but the building dept. in your area can give this number) will not need to meet this code because of the grandfather clause. The inspector is just trying to bring in revenue so he is telling you is right and wrong. Due to the grandfather clause he can not make you change the metering. Unless you are doing a major reservation or he has found some life saftey issue that will cause you to have to do the upgrade. But if that's the case why did he not tell that all building California have to have fire sprinklers in them? They are also required in all new building and added to any building have a major renovation being done including SFR. I'm telling to call him out but know your rights so that they can't walk on you either.

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