March 21, 2022
Billing Water Usage in Mobile Home Parks: 3 Potential Issues
Implementing water utility billing systems in mobile home parks can present some unique challenges. In this blog, we review those challenges – and discuss the best ways to overcome them.
When it comes to managing water expenses, a park owner’s goal is for everyone to be responsible for their own usage.
The problem is, charging tenants a flat-rate water utility fee often doesn’t accomplish this. Water consumption varies, which means some months the flat rate may not cover the usage of the entire park.
Billing back water usage to tenants is a great way for mobile home park owners and operators to fully recover the costs of water each month. But what’s the best way to do this?
The most ideal water utility billing solution is submetering. Water submetering allows mobile home property owners and managers to allocate costs fairly among residents by measuring each pad’s true consumption of water.
Installing individual submeters is the most precise way to allocate water costs. This improves utility cost recovery (and NOI) by ensuring that residents are billed according to their actual usage. Submetering is a great solution but be aware that it can come with some potential issues.
3 Potential Issues of Billing Water in a Mobile Home Park
This list is by no means exhaustive, and conditions vary from place to place. But these are some of the most common issues we see when setting up water utility billing systems in mobile home parks compared to multifamily apartment buildings.
Before setting up a new utility billing system in your mobile home park, make sure that you have a plan to address these issues should they arise.
#1) Differing, Non-Uniform Structures
One of the main issues you face in a mobile home park is the uniformity of the existing infrastructure. Installing submeters is a challenge because the size of the piping and connections can change from pad to pad.
When setting up a submetering system in an apartment building, generally the pipe gauge and construction will be mostly uniform unit to unit. This is not usually the case in mobile home parks.
This makes planning out your water submetering system an even bigger challenge. In a more uniform apartment building, it’s easier to bulk order the submeters needed based on the size and construction of the pipes. But in a mobile home park, you might need a lot of different submeters to fully address the intricacies of your park.
#2) Harsh Conditions
Mobile home parks are spread out, and a lot of the utility infrastructure is exposed to the elements. That means varying temperatures, storms and animals can ruin the integrity of your system. Depending on how spread out your mobile home park is, it can be challenging to find and address any problems.
Submeters on mobile home parks usually require a little more attention and upkeep to make sure they’re working properly and there are no leaks.
#3) Getting Reads from Your Submeters
The last potential issue is making sure you can get reads from your submeters, which usually requires an office and internet connection to house the line data collectors. Depending on the size of your mobile home park, this can be a major issue.
The good news is there are now cellular meter reading options on the market that make it easier for mobile home park owners to set up and get accurate reads on a water submetering system.
An Alternative to Submetering – Ratio Utility Billing System (RUBS)
The alternative option to submetering is ratio utility billing system or RUBS. With RUBS, you proportionally allocate costs for water to residents based on an industry-accepted formula that takes into account unit size, layout, occupancy and more.
Due to some of the potential issues listed above, it may not be possible to submeter your mobile home park’s water. RUBS is a great alternative in these cases. However, RUBS presents its own challenges in mobile home parks. The property and unit size are not as uniform as, say, an apartment complex, which can make it difficult to find consistent RUBS factors to use for your allocation equation.
A utility billing expert can help you figure out the right water billing solution for your mobile home park – whether it’s submetering or RUBS.
Conclusion – Work with a Water Submetering Expert
The bottom line is water submetering is complex, especially in mobile home parks. From system design and submeter installation through meter reading, billing and collections, it’s not something mobile home park owners, managers or landlords should take on themselves.
Working with a submetering expert can help you address and avoid some of these common issues mobile home parks face. They can also help you maintain your system, so you can focus on the other aspects of running your mobile home park.
At Synergy, we offer decades of experience creating and maintaining water submetering systems that increase NOI and offer residents greater control over their utility bills. Get in touch today.