May 15

Sewer, water and municipal service fees have become a major operating expense.  I’m sure these runaway fees have lead to the failure of many newer, under capitalized owners.

Last month the law changed on municipal utility charges, making it more practical to have tenants be responsible for these charges.  We owe a lot of thanks to the work done by Gary Goyke in making this law a reality, as well as the support of the members of the Wisconsin Apartment Association, the Apartment Associations of South Central WI and of course the members of the Apartment Association of Southeastern WI

In addition to the potential financial benefit to owners, there is a societal and environmental benefit as this will certainly result in conservation.  No more walking into a unit, only to see the tenant thawing dinner by running cold water over frozen meat for half an hour.  Remember when you paid for heat and would find windows open on sub freezing days or when you paid for hot water and found your basements being used as a laundromat for friends and family.

The most important aspects of the law effect the 2015 billings.  However there are some things we as owners need to do now to ramp up.

First, you cannot bill tenants directly for utilities that are not separately metered.  This means for multiple unit properties the water needs to be separated and an additional meter added.  In older Milwaukee duplexes this is not going to be a major job.  The two plumbing contractors I spoke to felt it would be a $600-1000 per duplex  to separate the water and install a second meter horn.  Remember that in this style building you only need to separate the cold water to the lower unit faucets and toilet as well as the feed to the lower water heater and possibly laundry facilities.

Older side by sides and four families will take more work, read $, as they typically have a single cold feed to the upper units.

Second, for the benefit of tenants, owner occupants and the city’s ability to collect their utility bills; we must urge the city to go to monthly billings

Attorney Tristan Pettit shared the attached doc from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities that should be the first step in the road map to making the change.

4 Responses to “The next rental housing game changer”

  1. Sarah Kemp says:

    Two of the largest property management companies in Green Bay have most of the utilities as the tenants responsibility. The benefits of this are far and wide. Aside from the obvious benefits, the wastefulness that I am sure occurred when it was the landlords expense. This is a fantastic trend. Don’t be afraid to adopt this with your company. It may cause some upset at first. Once we changed over I don’t believe we lost a single resident. Now that this is more common place. It’s rarely an issue with incoming residents. And comparatively we had some of the most expensive rents in the greater Green Bay Area.

  2. Ada Duffey says:

    Has there been discussion with Milwaukee Water Works about their willingness to install multiple meter horns in rental units. In my conversations with them, that has not been a possibility. I’m hoping things have changed.

  3. Sarah Kemp says:

    Ada – the owners needed to install them. Otherwise some owners just split them per building. It isnt too complicated, and it works well.

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