Combined utilities in duplex

7 Replies

Looking for some advice on a duplex I am evaluating. It is a great deal on paper, but the utilities are not separated out. It is an up and down duplex in a 1915 house so I suspect separating them out would be costly at best and not possible at worst (without a complete gut of the interior). The current owner bills the tenants for the actual utility bills. If I do that, do I just split it 50/50? One unit is larger so by default it will use more heat and electricity. My real concern is what recourse I have if they don't pay? If they don't pay rent I can evict, but could I put a clause in the lease regarding utility nonpayment? The bills will be in my name so I will pay them regardless. Just wondering what others have done with combined utilities?

@Jill Herges Hello!

I am not familiar with how complicated the process is to have separate utilities, but I would think that it's not as hard as one would figure. Shoot my apartment complete has a meter on the water heater inside my own unit to figure out my usage and charge me that way. 

Personally, I wouldn't want to pay half of a bill knowing full well that I might have actually used less than the other person, ie I'm on vacation or one person living upstairs but 4 people down below me. But they don't have to know that.

You can put whatever terms (legally) you want in your lease contract, you have every right to do so. Because in reality if they did not pay their own utility bill, the lights would be off as well as the water. Since turning off one would turn off both, this won't really be the case but still the same principal. Rent is not just for room and board, it encompasses many other things as well. What you can do is ask the owner roughly what the bill is and just include it in rent (with some padding) saying that all utilities are paid for. That way it's all package in one payment with a nice pretty bow. Covers yourself with collecting just "rent" and falls into the category of an obligation the tenant must pay for outlined in the lease.

Hopefully, there is some advice somewhere in my post.

Best of Luck,


I agree with @Thomas S.  

I was wanting to be in your corner since you felt as though it was a great deal. But ultimately it's just a smarter choice to just leave it alone and find something else.

Suggest factoring in the shared utility. Need to be used on rooms, appliances.

For example 2 br, 3 br 40-60% total 120 so you collect the dime and penny each month.

@Jill Herges I have 2 such duplexes. Though electricity is separate water is not. You DONT split the utilities. In my area you can't evict for nonpayment of utilities. You average out a years worth of utilities divide by the number of units and add it to the rent. You can evict for unpaid rent. I would be more concerned about the overall age of the building. Things like lead base paint, asbestos, clay or even the old paper sewer lines and on and on. I don't know if and when this one has been up graded so some of this stuff might have been improved. Many land lords like the older buildings I tend to shy away from them. RR

I agree with the suggestions to include it as part of the rent.  I've known many people who consider "utilities included!" to be a perk of renting, so your potential tenants hopefully will as well.