It goes without saying that, depending on the age of the building, some duplexes will indeed come with shared water meters. Although not ideal, if you are interested in such a dwelling then you’ll have to make sure you establish how you pay for your fair share.
Do Duplexes Have Separate Water Meters?
Most modern duplexes will have been built to ensure that each separate dwelling is provided with its very own water meter.
Of course, this would make life a lot easier and make a lot of sense.
That said, unfortunately some of the older duplexes will definitely have been developed based on a shared utilities principle – and that understandably includes water meters.
If you are purchasing or renting a duplex, it therefore really does pay to read your lease agreement very carefully so that you can establish whether or not the building you are looking to rent or purchase expects its tenants to share water meters.
Failure to read the contract (and the contract / lease documentation really must stipulate the fact that the water meter is shared with the neighboring building) will only result in an unexpected and possibly nasty surprise later on – especially if the landlord has been less than vigilant, and merrily disregarding the fact that perhaps just one of the families has been paying the entire water bill.
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In some cases, this could have been going on for years with nobody really ever realizing it.
Think Carefully About Your Water Meter Situation
Naturally, if you are thinking about renting or buying a duplex that does share a water meter with the neighbor, you must take into consideration the fact that you will certainly need to agree with your neighbors that they should pay for half of all the water bills, as it will not be possible to ascertain or calculate the precise amount of water used by each separate dwelling if the number of occupants in each is the same.
The added complication to consider here, however, is what to do if there are, say, two of you but four or five of them?
If a couple is looking to rent or buy half of a duplex, going forward it might also be worth considering the fact that although your present neighbors may consist of just two people, any possible future tenants could have a larger family, meaning that they will probably use more water than you.
This will then entail you having to reach an agreement with your new neighbors regarding the fact that they, by the very nature of their size, will definitely be using more water than you.
They should therefore pay a greater proportion of the monthly water bill.
At the end of the day, if you are indeed sharing a water meter with your neighbors, you should certainly not be responsible for paying someone else’s water bill unless you have explicitly agreed to do so.
If, however, your lease does not mention the fact that there is a shared water meter but then you move in only to discover that you do actually have to share the meter with your neighbor, then you could have a claim against your landlord for misrepresentation.
There Are Positives to Sharing A Water Meter
In a more positive scenario, it can often be the case that the landlord (if you are renting) is decent and has already thought about the issues that can arise as a result of two separate dwellings sharing the water meter.
It could even be that the landlord has had some serious complaints / law suits against them as a result of this situation.
Here, it might be that the landlord already pays for the water bill themselves but apportions it in a set figure within the monthly rental fee.
Again, irrespective of the manner in which you as a tenant might be paying for the water, the methodology must be explained in black and white in your rental agreement.
You also have the right to check with the landlord that, say, the four-person family next to you is paying a larger amount that you as a two-person family – you don’t want to be paying the same as the large family alongside you! This applies conversely if your family unit is smaller than that of your neighbor.