The water-billing nightmare

Rent it Right
Published on May 14, 2009

Q: I've lived in a 40-unit apartment building for the last five years. Until now, I have paid for water, as required by my lease, based on a submetered water system. Recently, the landlord said the meters are broken and she has decided not to fix them, claiming that they are inaccessible. She is now billing us on an allocation system, based on square footage and number of people in the apartment. My water bill has doubled! Can they bill us for water this way or are they required to use meters? --Leslie P. A: Shifting the cost of water to tenants is becoming increasingly popular with landlords. Doing so reduces their costs of doing business, and though they could build in the cost of water when setting the rent, many hesitate to do so for fear that they will end up with a higher-than-market rent. Some will argue that when tenants pay for their specific usage, they tend to conserve more, which is important in drought-plagued parts of the country. Submetering each rental unit...