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Question DetailsAsked on 2/28/2017

We put a small studio rental on the end of our house how much would it cost to put a separate electrical meter in

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First, make sure this rental unit is legal for your area (rentals like this are not in many single-family home areas), and that the unit is zoned as a separate rental unit. In most areas, it is illegal to put a second meter on a single-family residence unless you have the separate living space (or commercial rental space as applicable) zoning compliance certificate and/or certificate of occupancy, and utilities will not run the additional service drop without that.

Cost - if the second meter is going to be close to the existing and the existing utility service drop (main utility wire to your house) can serve both demands (enough amperage capacity for both) probably in the $600-1000 range assuming that the existing wiring for the studio rental is separate already (separate breaker box and such) and that the building permit is not unduly pricey. Unless this is a very small studio or isnot wired for electric range or dryer, quite likely it will need a new service drop from the utility to the second meter base (or if each meter base is required to have a separate drop in your area), then add from zero $ (with utilities who figure they will recover the new service drop and meter cost in the new utility billings) to more commonly $500-1000 range (or $1000-3000 in some very high-priced areas with unfriendly utilities), on up to several to many thousands if they have to install a new transformer, or go a long ways to where they can connect to a line or transformer to initiate the drop and will not absorb that cost themselves. And that is not uncommon - new home construction they will commonly provide the drop for free or cheap - but adding a small satudio rental to an existing house is not that much added revenue so they commonly balk at doing that for free. I have seen service upgrades/additions in rural areas run into the many thousands if they had to upgrade the service line and it ran a mile or more from the main power lines.

One thing you may see ads for is "internal usage" devices that you hook into the internal lines (like the feed line to the rental breaker box) - saying you can pay the entire utility bill yourself, then use that meter to figure how much the renter used of it and pro-rate. Watch out - those are legal for internal accounting within a company say, but generally NOT for billing a renter - both because they are not certified meters, and also because that action (billing the renter for power usage yourself) technically makes you a power utility or power broker and subject to a LOT of regulations and record-keeping. Unless you want to just assume a certain usage and include the utilities in the rent as part of the rent (and absorb any heavy usage like if you get an artist with a welded art business), let the utility handle it with a separate meter.

Don't forget how you are going to account for water, sewer, gas, garbage collection, and any special usage or service district charges too - and any installation costs for cable TV and phone service and such - generally same rules about it being registered as a separate living unit to be able to get them installed and billed under the renter's name rather than yours.

Also - unless you get a separate address for the rental unit (or a legal unit or apartment number) you can also be on the direct hook (rather than just as landlord) for any violations or police/fire call service charges, etc - because they get billed to the physical address, and if the renter uses your address that makes you, as the building owner, liable. Ditto to mailing address - needs separate address for separate mail delivery - which if he/she starts sending countraband through the mail you do NOT want going through YOUR mailbox.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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