“Ask Kari” is a monthly, Question & Answer feature from Kari Negri. Kari has two decades of property management experience, is a featured speaker at many industry trade shows, such as AAGLA’s annual trade show, and is the CEO of SKY Properties, Inc. in Los Angeles.
Drought Defense and Water Conservation Tips
- Submetering Water vs. RUBS (Radio Utility Billing Service)
While submetering is required by law in some states, it is not yet required in other states such as California. Submetering is done by having a meter installed for each individual unit instead of the building owner paying for the water building-wide. On buildings built prior to 1978, it is more costly to install the meters and often times only 50% of the buildings are even able to accommodate the retro-fit.
The cost for older properties per unit is about $325- $600 and for newer construction it is about $250- $275 per unit. Most companies offer low-interest financing options that let you leverage meter install costs against the resident utility payments. And since it is a capital investment, it directly adds value to your property. Check magazine listings, Yelp and Google for companies serving your area. Note that restrictions exist for submetering at affordable housing and rent controlled properties. Existing rent control tenants cannot be required to pay for water usage, as they are protected under the rent control statute. Only new tenants can be legally required to pay for their water usage.
With a RUBS program, the billing is based on a formula, which uses square footage and occupant count. The total bill for the property is then divided up based on unit size and occupant count rather than actual usage. So for example, a one-bedroom apartment with three occupants would pay more than a one bedroom with one occupant. In addition, with the RUBS option it is possible to recover 5-15% of the common area (water/sewer/trash costs) by billing back this portion to the tenants.
With either option, you are doing your part to help conserve water by adding this on your property. If a tenant knows they are being charged back for their usage, they are less likely to take long showers or go without reporting a leaky faucet or running toilet. On average, submetered or properties using a RUBS program typically use 20-30% less water.
Lastly, be sure to review the water bill often and look for sudden spikes in usage as this could be an indication of a leak.
- Take advantage of utility company incentives
In our current crisis, utility companies are offering incentives to curb usage of our resources. In Los Angeles, LADWP is offering free sink aerators and showerheads to commercial customers. This is a no-brainer benefit to save water today across all of your buildings. Additionally, LADWP offers a $150 rebate per unit on replaced toilets via their SoCal Water$mart program. Simply upgrade your 1.6 gpf or higher toilet to a 1.28 gpf ultra low-flow toilet. DWP might also offer rebates on replacing washers with water conserving models (for owners who own their own washers / dryers). To take advantage of these offers, simply visit your nearest LADWP customer service center.
- Sprinklers a likely culprit
Note that restrictions for watering landscaping have been put in place by DWP. A massive amount of water can be saved in irrigation by improving watering efficiencies. A couple of the many ways you can do this is by installing a soil moisture sensor system and more efficient sprinkler heads. Again, LADWP offers rebates for installation of these and other irrigation items. Don’t let water, your money, run down the sidewalk!
- Replace landscaping with California Friendly plants and/or artificial turf
Consider replacing your landscaping with California native, drought tolerant plants. They require less water and are beautiful! LADWP also has rebate programs for swapping out your current landscaping for California Friendly plants, mulch and permeable pathways. For a list of drought tolerant plants and suggestions, visit the following links:
- Los Angeles Department of Public Works’ top ten list of California native and drought tolerant plants and shrubs: http://ladpw.org/epd/sg/plants.cfm
- Additional list of California native drought tolerant plants: http://www.laspilitas.com/garden/drought.html
- Control your flapper.
The #1 cause of a high water bill – the toilet flapper. When tenants start paying for their water, many suddenly report running toilets. So get ready to replace 10x as many flappers if you’re not checking them already during your routine, six-month smoke/carbon detector checks.
As always, please remember, I am not an attorney. Seek clarification through your attorney. All articles are simply an opinion. Stay in touch at www.GetSky.net
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