When you own an old commercial building like our family does, dividing up the water and sewer bill between tenants takes a bit of finesse. In the days when our building contained light offices and small retail with a central lounge and restroom area, it was easy to divide the bills in equal portions among the tenants. Now that the building has an restaurant occupying the entire ground floor, dividing up the utilities has become a lot more complicated.
Unlike residential homes, many of the commercial building in our downtown have meters in the street. For us to meter the building separate would mean tearing up six lanes of Main street and running several new lines to the building. Here's what we did instead.
Established a base reading.
Before the tenant improvements commenced on the first floor, we determined an average water reading for the upstairs tenants of 1 CCF (hundred cubic feet) per month. Once the restaurant was in full operation, the restaurant owner took over the sewer and water bills for the building and was rebated a monthly 5 CCF credit to cover both water and sewer costs for the upstairs tenants.
This simple method of splitting a commercial water bill worked fine for about 18 months. As the restaurant business picked up and water usage increased threefold, the owner blamed the increased used on the upstairs tenants. Solving this problem meant revisiting the possibility of a metered system.
Installed an internal meter.
It wasn't until calling the water company that I discovered that there was an alternative to digging up the street for separate meters. This alternative is called a "private sub-meter" which can determine how much water is being used by each of the tenants in a single commercial building.
Sub-meters are installed directly on the tenant water lines inside a building by a licensed plumber. They do not replace the building master meters, rather they are a separate meter that records the water usage. These meters are read by the building owner (or his employee) on the days that coincide with the reading of the master meter and will show at a glance how much water each of the tenants in the building are using.
In our case, we installed the sub-meter on the water lines feeding the upstairs office suites. Now instead of rebating our restaurant tenant an automatic 5 CCF credit each month, we read the meter to determine the actual water usage for the upstairs tenants which is less than 1 CCF. Since the sewer waste water can not be metered, we estimate a 1 CCF monthly sewer output as well, and rebate that portion of the bill to the restaurant owner.
In a commercial building with similar tenants, dividing the water and sewer bills into equal portions is a great solution. When a tenant space changes from a light office or retail to one with a more intense use, installing a private sub meter can help you determine exactly how much water one (or all) of your tenants are using.
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- Nature & Environment
- commercial building