Many Massachusetts landlords are unaware that before charging tenants for hotwater and sewer service, they must comply with the requirements of the Massachusetts Water Sewer Sub-Metering Law.
These requirements include having separate water meters for each unit, installation of low flow faucets and toilets by a licensed plumber, and certification with the local health board, and among other requirements outlined below.
Non-compliance with this law may result in a three month rent penalty to the landlord plus payment of the tenant’s attorneys fees.
A landlord can only charge a tenant for water/sewer service under the following conditions:
1. The tenant’s unit must be separately submetered by a separate water meter installed by a licensed plumber.
2. The tenant’s obligation to pay for water usage must be contained in a signed lease.
3. A landlord may not charge the tenant for water supplied through a submeter unless the a licensed plumber has installed fully functional water conservation devices for all faucets, showerheads and water closets/bathrooms in the unit (low-flow shower heads and faucets and low-flush toilets)
4. The landlord must provide a certification under the penalties of perjury, with the board of health or health department, that the appropriate submeters and water conservation devices were installed by a licensed plumber.
5. A landlord cannot charge a tenant for water/sewer service mid-way through a tenancy or lease.
6. A landlord who engages in self-help by willfully failing to furnish water or directly or indirectly interfering with the furnishing by another of water, or transferring responsibility for payment for water to the tenant without their knowledge or consent, is punishable by a fine of not less than $25.00 nor more than $300.00, or by imprisonment for not more than 6 months and is liable for actual and consequential damages or 3 month’s rent, whichever is greater, and the costs of the action, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.
Whether you are the landlord or tenant, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation to discuss your rights.