The impact of water rate increases proposed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is likely to be heavy on West Hollywood apartment owners.
A survey by the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) reveals that more than 86 percent of rental property owners in greater Los Angeles who pay for tenants’ water have seen usage increase or stay the same since Gov. Jerry Brown first mandated statewide restrictions in April. In West Hollywood, 78 percent of housing units are occupied by renters rather than owners. Apartment buildings typically have “master meters,” which means water usage is calculated and filled for an entire building rather than an individual apartment unit.
“The truth is, a shockingly small number of tenants seem compelled to do their part to help the state thought this difficult time,” said Jim Clarke, AAGLA executive vice president. “State and local leaders should be very concerned that the state’s largest water district will fall short of mandated reductions.”
The governor has mandated a 25 percent statewide reduction in water usage by February 2016. That number goes up or down based on a particular community’s current water usage. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which serves 70 percent of West Hollywood residents, is planning to implement early next year its first rate increase since 2008. If approved by the LADWP board and the L.A. City Council, the increase will also include a change from a two-tier billing structure to a four-tier billing structure for individual homes. Apartment buildings would still have a two-tiered billing structure. Under its current timeline, LADWP expects the first rate hike will go into effect during the first quarter of 2016. Incremental adjustments would be made on July 1, 2016, July 1, 2017, July 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019. Other WeHo residents get their water from the City of Beverly Hills, which is implementing its own water conservation measures.
According to the AAGLA, most multifamily dwellings serviced by the LADWP are “master-metered,” not “sub-metered,” which means there aren’t meters measuring and billing for the use of water on individual apartments. Thus the building owners are responsible for the water used by the tenants in their buildings.
AAGLA’s survey of building owners found that about 90 percent own buildings that are master-metered, with only about eight percent reporting owning sub-metered buildings (two percent of those contacted for the survey did not respond). Among rental property owners with master-metered buildings, the following tenant water usage was reported since April:
- 14.4 percent increased water usage
- 72.2 percent were relatively unchanged
- Only 12.2 percent reduced water usage
“Not only can the LADWP and other water districts begin levying fines and fees against these property owners, rent control and other city housing regulations prevent rent increases or the installation of sub-meters for current tenants,” Clarke added. “There is simply no way to enforce usage restrictions on a majority of the city’s population.”