Business & Economy

Landlord group brainstorms ways to pass water bill to tenants

A cover sits next to a water meter. The landlord group for greater LA proposes meters go into individual apartments for accurate billing of tenants.
A cover sits next to a water meter. The landlord group for greater LA proposes meters go into individual apartments for accurate billing of tenants.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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A Los Angeles landlord group that's been trying to get tenants in rent-stabilized units to pay their own water bills has been thwarted at every turn by City Hall.

Splitting the water bill among residents? It's been criticized for not being precise enough.

Getting DWP to put in individual meters in apartments? Too expensive.

But the Apartment Association of Greater L.A., in its bid to save money and water for their members — particularly critical, they say, during a drought — hasn’t given up.

“We’re talking to different metering companies that have new technologies,” said AAGLA's Jim Clarke. He said these companies can do the same thing DWP does for thousands of dollars less.

 “Meters are read inside the wall via cell towers," Clarke said. "What they do is monitor each unit."

Landlords need city approval to change the leases of units that fall under L.A.'s rent stabilization ordinance. Making these renters pay their own water bills would be considered a reduction in service, so landlords would also be required to lower the rent.

Clarke said that this could actually slash overall costs for tenants who cut down their water use.

The AAGLA again made the case that renters would save more water if they paid their own monthly water bill, after releasing a survey of members this week.

About 100 members, who own apartment buildings and collect rents, answered the survey. It showed that renters had not cut their water usage in recent months. Respondents said 14 percent of tenants increased their water usage since April, and 72 percent "stayed the same."

Tenants’ advocates view the landlords’ proposed solution with suspicion. Larry Gross of the Coalition for Economic Survival questioned AAGLA's concerns about the drought.

“It’s more about their attempts to do an end-run around existing rent-control laws instead of really  trying to conserve water,” Gross said.

Gross pointed out that water use in L.A. has gone down in the last year — 13 percent, according to the DWP. He said renters, the majority of Angelenos, must have had something to do with it.