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Subject: Tricky situation - water usage by one owner
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SusanG11
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


11/16/2019 2:48 PM  
Hello All,

I am on the President in a very small Condo association. There are only five units, and our fees are based on square foot. One of the units has a small patch of land attached to it, and is not common area, it is part of their property. THe square footage of the land part is not considered in the HOA fee assessment.

This year there was a huge increase in our water bill for the June-July-August timeframe. The whole building is on one water meter. Not coincidentally, the owner with the land has undertaken an ambitious landscaping project, conplete with irrigation hoses. We obviously know why the water bill spiked (and assume the upcoming sewer bill will spike, as well). We have had the Water Dept inspect for leaks, and confirmed none of the units have leaky faucets or toilets, etc. Summer water usage is normally a little higher in the summer (power-washing the building, washing the decks, etc. as well as some watering) - but nothing like this past summer.

The other memmbers or the Board want to present all the numbers to the group and make a motion that this tenant pay for the extra water use. It sounds reasonable, but I expect to have a fight on our hands as everyone but that tenant will vote for it. But getting payment will be another matter (I can hear the arguments already), so I'm hesitant even to go that route.

Has anyone ever had a similar situation, or have any advice?
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3412


11/16/2019 4:52 PM  
The obvious answer is separate water meters for each unit. Anything else will just be a never ending fight. You will likely not be paid for water already used, but after you have separate meters, he can do whatever he wants.
LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:833


11/16/2019 5:55 PM  
It looks like you have 4 out of 5 owners behind you, simply put. I would change the CC&R's to individually meeter each unit. DONE.
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:459


11/16/2019 6:47 PM  
Steve and LetA,
Not knowing all the details but making some assumptions here. If it is a 5 unit building that was built to have all Units share a water meter you have to assume that it may have only one main source into the building. It would be very easy for the poster to tell us this if she can see the meter. If this is the case separating to 5 meters would be nearly impossible and at best cost prohibitive.

Susan,
How much of a variance are you talking about here? What is your high monthly bill and your lowest monthly bill? I am wondering if this is a fight worth taking.
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:459


11/16/2019 6:54 PM  
Susan,
If you go to the meter and see if you see 5 pipes all coming out of the building and are all connected together and going into the large water meter then you can call the Service provider ask them about separating into separate meters.
SusanG11
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


11/16/2019 7:10 PM  
THe cost is an extra $200 for the quarter, and we do not know yet what the impact to the sewer bill will be. We have ruled out separating the meters 5 ways (cost), although I have looked into just putting a submeter on the spigot she uses for watering, the other spigot being for general building use.
SusanG11
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


11/16/2019 7:14 PM  
The jump is a solid $200 over the same timeframe in prior years. There was always a small jump in water for that time frame, but this owner really amped up the water use this year - irrigation, and such. We just feel it is excessive and we shouldn't have to absorb it year over year. THere are only 5 of us in one builing - so five owners fees keeping the entire building and property going. Really watching our pennies and trying to be fair to all..
SusanG11
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


11/16/2019 7:17 PM  
That would be perfect byt very pricey, as we are all on one meter today. Although we could submeter (private meter) the faucet she uses and bill them for that usage. That ultimately may be the way we go. Orthey couldbe reasonable and offer to pay for the obvious reason the water bill is so high (hah!).
AugustinD


Posts:2045


11/16/2019 8:03 PM  
Posted By SusanG11 on 11/16/2019 2:48 PM
There are only five units, and our fees are based on square foot. One of the units has a small patch of land attached to it, and is not common area, it is part of their property. The square footage of the land part is not considered in the HOA fee assessment.


Your board cannot lawfully just make a motion for the owner of the unit with the land to pay whatever estimate your HOA has for her or his share of the water bill. Instead your HOA has to amend your governing documents. What do your governing documents say about amending? Else I agree that metering the one spigot that this one owner uses to irrigate his/her land is the way to go. Put this in the amendment too.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1469


11/16/2019 8:25 PM  
Susan,

The easy and appropriate answer is everyone pays their way.

Accept the cost of additional meters and move on ... or, subsidize one owner’s landscape watering.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3910


11/17/2019 1:39 AM  
I have relatives in Newton MA who added a separate meter for irrigation. Water that goes through the new meter does not get billed for sewer. Cost of installation recovered in around 3 years.

Does your city have a program like this?

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
SamE2
(New Jersey)

Posts:195


11/17/2019 5:40 AM  
Where is the landscaping located, can everyone see it and enjoy it? Is it a multi-unit building?
SusanG11
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


11/17/2019 6:04 AM  
Yes, the land is at the back of the building. We all see it as part of our 'view'. I foresee that this owner will expect us to pay for additional water as she 'is expected' to keep the land in a reasonable condition - as you would any neighbor..But we feel the water usage was way over and above what's needed to keep it looking acceptable.
SueW6
(Michigan)

Posts:613


11/17/2019 6:27 AM  
You dont have enough info to put this excess bill onto one person. Double-check all your bills leading up to this one and see if it’s an actual usage, perhaps a makeup from past estimates.

What’s your definition of “ huge”?
SusanG11
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


11/17/2019 6:28 AM  
I just want to thank everyone for their comments and advice. This board is awesome!! I see now that separate meters is the way to go. Due to cost, probably just the submeter on 'their' spigot. And amending our bylaws!
SusanG11
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


11/17/2019 6:31 AM  
We have looked back over the years. THis unit has been owned by the same person for seven years. The landscaping project began in earnest last year (irrigation, etc.). The bill was up 125% over last year. Normally the bill has spiked about 20% for that timeframe.
SamE2
(New Jersey)

Posts:195


11/17/2019 7:06 AM  
If I were you I would let it go and just have the HOA pay it or put in separate meters for each unit.  Before the bill went up you don't know if the water was being charged fairly.  You don't know which unit was using more and which was using less.  Maybe this person has always been paying more than their fair share.  In any case because you don't have separate meters this is something you have to accept.  Talk to the person about conserving water but making them pay extra is probably opening the HOA up to more problems than it is worth.  You all get the benefits of the nice landscaping.  If you just meter the spigot I could see someone hooking up a hose from in their unit or just running water in their unit to be spiteful.  Short of separating the meters there is no way to be sure units are paying for just their usage and to meter just the outside spigot would be unfair.  You either do all usage based billing or split it evenly.  The next thing will be charging units for water based on number of people in the unit.
SusanG11
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


11/17/2019 7:22 AM  
Thank you - you make some good points. Before this issue, water was included in our HOA fee, and NOT broken out. The fee is per square foot, so this kind of took into account that the bigger units may use more water for normal purposes - toilet, diswasher, shower, laundry, etc. We did absorb the extra water for that one unit with the land - which, up to now, had been reasonable. FYI, the 'landscaping' is in 'in progress' and looks horrible.
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