Duplexes are amazing, but one issue you might face when you decide to live in one is having to share utilities. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every duplex, and not every utility requires sharing. So, can a duplex share a water heater?
It’s possible for duplexes to share a water heater. This is common in the duplex that shares plumbing. If that’s the case with your duplex, you need to identify the energy source of the heater, determine if the house is up to code, and add an on-demand water heater if you can’t split the utilities.
However, it’s not advisable to buy duplexes that share utilities, especially when every utility is shared. The cost of splitting might be too high, which means extra work splitting energy bills. Here, we discuss whether a duplex can share a water heater and what to do in that case.
Type of Duplexes based on Utilities
Duplexes generally mean two housing units capable of housing two different families but sharing a wall or floor. They come in various types, and one way to classify them is based on the utilities. In this case, they’re of three kinds.
1. Fully Split Duplexes
This duplex is the dream scenario for everyone, tenants and house owners. In such duplexes, each unit has its utility. This works to everyone’s advantage, so most newer duplexes use this model. With this, the landlord can charge the tenant exactly for the water and electricity they use. This saves everyone a lot of trouble as no tenant will pay more than they use.
Thus, it’s advisable to look for this duplex type when trying to buy or rent. To know if utilities are split, go to where the utilities are located. Check to see that there’s two everything, i.e., two electric panels, two water heaters, etc. Most properties that have split utilities are true duplexes. Not family homes converted into duplexes.
2. Semi Split Duplexes
These duplexes share some utilities while others aren’t. It differs from one duplex to another. Some share plumbing and water heaters while having different electric panels. Others share only plumbing, but the electric panels and water heaters are separate. This is a decent option for most tenants and house owners.
The fewer utilities that are split, the better. For the shared utilities, it’s best to go for a flat rate to cover the cost of those utilities unless it’s possible to ascertain how much each tenant uses.
3. Shared Utilities Duplexes
Duplexes, where the two units share all utilities, are generally not ideal. Whether for the tenants or the landlord, there are a lot of challenges people living here could face. The utility dilemma is a major challenge for this type of duplex. It’s more difficult to determine how much each unit uses. If the landlord imposes a flat rate or percentage, there’s a chance that one tenant might feel cheated.
Besides that, joint utilities put a lot of stress on the available resources, leading to wear and tear happening faster than you want to. But there’s a small advantage of only having to repair or replace one utility. However, most duplexes that have shared utilities aren’t true duplexes. This means they’re mostly single-family homes converted into duplexes. So, the utilities might be a bit old.
What to Do if Duplexes Share a Water Heater?
If you’re buying a duplex that only has one water heater, there are things you need to do. They include:
1. Determine the Energy Source for the Heater
If there’s only one water heater in a duplex and two electricity or gas meters, you need to determine which meters provide the water heater’s energy. So, you need to find out which meter the heater is connected to. If it’s only connected to one electric panel, it might be possible to add another water heater for the second apartment and split the water heating system.
2. Determine if the House is Up to Code
Your duplex may have one water heater in some cases because it’s not up to code. So, it helps to make some inquiries before you decide to buy it. After purchase, there could be much work before bringing it to code. That will cost you more than you originally intended to spend on the property and May not be worth it.
3. Install On-demand Water Heaters
The major issue with a shared water heater is water hoarding. One unit in the duplex may be using more water than the other, forcing tenants to resort to cold showers despite paying for hot water. The solution to this could come in the form of an on-demand water heater unit. This may not require a permit in your area, so you can still improve the hot water supply in your building without imposing an extra burden on your tenants.
Who Pays for Shared Utilities
When there’s a shared utility, the landlord will be responsible for paying the bill. But they can charge the tenants accordingly based on usage. The landlord or property manager may impose a flat rate that tenants must pay every month. They may also include it as part of the rent. The shared water meter is common in old buildings where it’ll cost a lot to replace the entire system. As a landlord, it’s best to split the bill rather than add it to rent. The tenants will be more conscious of their water use since they pay for it every month.
You can also consider adding a timer to the thermostat lines. This records the amount of time a unit uses hot water. You can calculate the bill based on that.
Is it Advisable to Buy Duplex with Shared Utilities?
It’s best to avoid buying a duplex that shares utilities, including a water heater. Remember, you may need to buy a duplex, but it doesn’t have to be that particular one. However, the deal might be too good to turn down, so you must buy it. In that case, the first thing you need to do is separate the utilities. When tenants are paying directly for all their utilities, the consumption will be considerably less than when they pay a flat rate that you have to pay.
If you come across a duplex that you’d like to buy with shared utilities, determine if you can split the utilities and how much it would cost. This could become leverage for you when you negotiate for the property. However, it’s not always easy to split the utilities, especially when it comes to water heaters.
When people buy duplexes, it’s usually a real estate investment, even if they choose to use part of it as a personal residence. Anyone who chooses to own a duplex with shared utilities will face some challenges. It’s best to approach it prudently and make the right decisions.