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5 Signs Your Tenants are Using Excessive Water

Water is a hot commodity.

In New York City, the cost for 100 cubic feet of water is $3.81.

When you're responsible for tens or hundreds of units, those numbers add up quick, especially if there's waste occurring.

The hard truth is tenants are less likely to care about their water bill when they don't have to pay for it, and in the Big Apple, landlords don't have the ability to charge them. This means landlords and property managers need to find some creative and common sense ways to identify overconsumption.

Spotting Overuse with Some Simple Methods

While reckless consumption of water can leave your wallet empty, there are plenty of ways to catch it before it becomes too large of a problem.

Many of the techniques require nothing more than some time on your part in order to understand whether your tenants are using water correctly, wasting water, or hosting leaks in their plumbing.

1. Know the Average Consumption Rates

Before you can accurately monitor your bill, knowing what you’re looking for is vital.

The average tenant uses around 75 gallons of water a day. This includes everything from teeth brushing, to dishes, to flushing the toilet. Because of shared use, the second resident will only add 35 gallons per day to that unit. A third unit will increase it by another 25.

In 2014, a survey by the National Multifamily Housing Council found that a majority of apartments were occupied by two residents. Using that a baseline with the averages, you can safely assume that units consuming over 150 gallons per day are wasting water.

If you only have a single meter monitoring water for your building, you'll need to multiply your total number of units by 150 for an idea of your building’s expected consumption rate.

Some of your water-conscientious tenants will make up for the water-wasters, but if you find yourself over 150 gallons per day per unit, this should be cause for alarm. While you may not know exactly where the overuse is occurring, this is a quick and efficient way to identifying it as a problem.

2. Compare Your Previous Billing Cycles

Your bills are records and they can help you identify any large spikes in consumption.

Each month, analyze your bill for any large discrepancies. If your number of tenants hasn’t changed but the amount of water used has climbed, you could have tenants overusing, or worse, you may have a leak.

Monitoring any changes and analyzing the reasons could save you loads in the long run.

3. Watch Your Water Gauge

While your water bill gives you an exact idea on consumption from month to month, it’s difficult to find a good way to know how much water your tenants use daily.

That’s where your water gauge comes in.

Reading a gauge can be difficult if you have a lot of tenants. With a personal property, you can turn off all the water throughout your house and then check for leaks, but getting 100 units to stop using water at the same time is near impossible.

Instead, you should find the time where water consumption will be at its lowest and check the gauge then. Try 2 to 3 am on a weekday, when most of your residents will be sleeping.

In a household, a slow drip in a faucet may not show on the water gauge. In an apartment complex, that drip probably isn't alone, and you’ll watch the leak dial race.

By monitoring during low use times, your water gauge can give you daily insight into the water usage rates of your buildings, and if you monitor it frequently, you can have a decent idea of what's going on with your bill.

4. Educate Your Tenants

A low cost method to curbing overuse is knowledge. Although you’ll rarely find any immediate savings by teaching your tenants to minimize water usage, if your monthly bill starts to lower over time, you may have identified an issue.

Many people don’t understand how to conserve water and when they realize the amount they use has no effect on their rent, it only fortifies their lack of interest. Because of this, you need to tie water usage into things they care about. Avoid focusing on how much money could be saved and appeal to their other interests, like environmental protection or conservation for future generations.

A few well-written bulletins around the building or pamphlets under the door can go a long way towards helping tenants care about the utilities they're using. Also, let tenants know you're committed to fixing any leaks and provide them with information for reporting leaks appropriately.

This process is meant for the long-term, but by teaching good water control, you can help all of your units foster better choices. Watch your bill over time and try to spot any changes. If this is the technique you’ve focused on, any large drops can be attributed to new knowledge.

5. Plan for Plumbing Inspections

While overuse does happen often, a lot of times, it’s the use tenants are unaware of that costs you the most.

One in five toilets leak and that quickly ramps up your bill. Many tenants may not know it’s happening and some that do won’t report it.

To target leaks, add plumbing inspections into your lease. Whether they’re quarterly or semi-annual, they can save you an immense amount of wasted water by identifying and fixing leaks regularly.

Controlling Waste and Saving Money

Monitoring overuse can be tough, but there are easy and affordable ways to lessen the financial burden that comes with wasted water.

If you’re looking for a passive technique to identify and stop leaks before they worsen, the Toilet Scrooge can help. With it, you can receive wireless alerts when toilet leaks are occurring in different units resulting in an average of $500 saved per unit annually.

Water waste will always remain a challenge for property managers, but it can be reduced with a bit of time and some well-designed products.


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is the founder and president of The Water Scrooge, which offers maintenance-free, tamper-proof water conservation tools to landlords and homeowners. The Water Scrooge is based in Lynbrook, N.Y.