New York City condo owner John Doe lost his job and couldn’t pay his bills. Eventually, the bank foreclosed on the mortgage to his condominium apartment, and Joe was forced to move. On his way out the door, the disgruntled Mr. Doe—who always felt the condo board had it in for him—turned on the hot and cold water faucets in his kitchen and bathroom full blast, and left them running.
By the time his fit of spite was discovered a week later, 100,800 gallons of water had poured down the drains—a whopping 3,600 gallons per faucet per day. That cost his condo’s owners’ association $1,291.36—$36.12 per day ($17.81 for water and $28.31 for sewer service) per faucet, for a total of $184.48 per day, based on estimates by New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The association had to pay because Joe’s building—like most in New York City—doesn’t meter the water its individual residents use. “The entire building is billed for water use on the main New York City meter,” explains Alan Rothschild of Vantage Group, a New York-based water cost-management consultant. “In rental buildings, this is factored into the rent. In condominiums and cooperatives, it is part of the maintenance charge.”
As a condo or co-op resident, your portion of the overall bill may be a flat rate based on the number of units in your community, although some common-interest communities tweak the numbers to strive for fairness. “They may divide the bill based on square footage, number of occupants, bathroom fixtures, or a combination,” says Jerry Baker, president of National Exemption Service, Inc., a utility metering and billing company with New York City clients among more than 200,000 around the nation.
While such adjustments can help, Baker says they can’t account for individual usage quirks such as teenagers taking long showers, or snowbirds who winter in Florida and use no New York City water for three or four months.