M.M. from Litchfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We have a problem with the shared sewer. There are 19 buildings in our condo complex. We live in a building that has 16 units. I just found out we all share one common sewer pipe and that usage is divided up among the 16 units of our building equally. We paid $300 per year for the 4 years we have lived here. The new bill, for the past year’s usage is $720! The sewer commission said they did not raise fees; that is actual usage. We asked the association to pay the difference and they refused. Why are we responsible for someone’s use of extra water, or someone’s runny toilet or whatever the issue is, just because we live in the same building? We have no control over what the other people are doing. I asked the association why they did not send letters to alert the units to find and fix any plumbing problems as they once did years ago, and can they please send a letter now, they refused.
What if next time the bill is an extra $1000, or $2000? Why must we pay this because we live in the same building? To us, it as if someone broke their windows, and all 16 units have to share the bill to fix them. Thank you.
Mister Condo replies:
M.M., ah, the joys of sharing utility bills in condominiums! Regardless of how prudent and responsible the majority of unit owners are with their water usage, it only takes one running faucet or leaky toilet to drive up the usage for the entire building. Some communities have turned to submetering (individual meters for each unit) as a solution, which is the fairest in my opinion, but is a solution that comes with a price tag that many associations are not willing to bear. My guess is that your governing documents simply state that the utility bills will be shared in common and have a formula in place for dividing the usage by the number of units. Unless that language is changed, that is the law of the land. It may not appear fair but that was the language of the condo documents when you purchased your unit.
Your suggestion of either asking unit owners to be vigilant is reasonable and it is too bad that the Board didn’t agree to do so. Ask again and explain the reason. If they still refuse, you may wish to write a personal letter to your fellow building dwellers asking them to inspect their water usage and repair any leaks. After all, they are being hit with the same increased water bill that you are. Good luck!