Utility Submeters for Individual Condo Units May Provide a Better Solution

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G.N. from Nevada writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a very small condo; there are only 12 units. There is only one electric meter for the property. Electricity is provided in common and is included in the monthly common fees. Unit owners have an option to own a freezer which would is installed in the unit owner’s garage but if they wish to operate the freezer they pay a personal fee of $5.00 per month to keep the freezer running in their private garage. Only those owners that are using this electricity to keep a freezer are being charged this fee. However the electricity is part of a common usage. My question is the legality of the request and how the charge is determined. All garages are private, heated and have automatic door openers.  I believe there are only 4 owners of 12 that have freezers. I do not question the fee amount only the legality of it.

Mister Condo replies:

G.N., I am not an attorney so I cannot offer a legal opinion on this matter. However, as a question of practicality I can only see this situation being handled in a few different manners. Ideally, each unit owner would have their own meter so that they paid only for their use of electricity. If I work from home and keep the lights on all day and my computer running as well as my TV and air conditioning, I am going to consume far more electricity than my neighbor who leaves the house and uses almost no electricity during the day. Why should my neighbor pay for me? Since there is only one meter for the complex a decisions was made to make electricity a commonly provided utility. There are companies that will install submeters so that individual units can be billed for their portion but that would require an investment from the community to install and maintain the submeters. If everyone seems to be happy with the current arrangement of an extra $5.00 per month for freezer owners, I don’t see a problem with it. However, I would much rather see the submeters installed so that all unit owners would be encouraged to conserve electricity and only have to pay for their fair share.

Here’s a great article for your consideration http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/08/realestate/your-home-the-case-for-electric-submetering.html. Most studies have shown that while the initial expense of submetering is substantial, the long-term benefits are worth the investment. All the best!

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