Q: I’m a large tenant and my utility bills have the potential to be very high, particularly water. How can I be sure that I’m not being overcharged for water by the owner of the space I’m considering leasing?
A: A separate water meter for your space would be ideal. Disputes over things as seemingly insignificant as the amount of utility bills at a commercial property can result in protracted litigation. Water costs are especially confusing; an owner’s failure to install water meters for each unit on the property and bill tenants individually for usage can make it extremely difficult to determine if a tenant’s unusually high bill is correct. When this involves a large tenant, the cost of utilities can get into the tens of thousands of dollars, so it’s really not something to be overlooked, even if you devote most of your negotiations to larger lease provisions. Require in your lease that the owner must install a water meter, and enforce the provision. Be vigilant about monitoring your usage closely, and compare your figures with the owner’s bills to make sure you’re not being overcharged. Make sure you can refute erroneous charges with objective evidence.