As commercial property managers we have found it’s really important to have sub meters installed at each tenant’s place of business. Most of our leases state that we can charge on a pro rata share of the total water bill.
Without sub meters, the only criteria to determine each tenant’s bill is their occupied sqauer footage as a percentage of the total building. However, using % occupied isn’t an accuare representation of actual water used by each tenant. It’s just an estimate. The best, most accurate, and frankly most fair method of charging water to commercial tenants is based on actual usage. Since almost all water utilities just bring one main water meter to the building, it’s up to the landlord and or tenant to install sub meters within their space.
The next challenging issue for property managers is the time consuming process of reading each meter regularly and then caluclating the gallons used. Manually reading water meters is riddled with the potential of human error. The maintenance guy is hung over and transposes a 8 and a 6. The book keeper can’t read his chicken scratch. Worse yet, it’s read on inconsistent dates. Bills are done haphazardly. This inevitabley leads to tenants questioning their water bill.
We have found the most effective way of reading submeters is to not read them at all! What? How can that be? Well, we use technology to read the water meters for us. Companies like New Century and Neptune offer the needed software to track the water usage and reading. Automated meter reading benefits both the tenant and landlord. For one, we get alerts if water usage spikes at a particular tenant. We can proactively notify them by email when this happens and they can check it out. Often, a leaky toilet or sink left unoticed can jack up a tenants bill and the last thing we need is tenants to be jacked up on high water bills. As property managers we just want see them stay in business, pay the rent. You don’t want to push the tenant over the edge by a really high water bill.