Electric sub meters are popular in HMO buildings as a way to accurately track individual energy usage and allocate costs fairly. However, while these landlord meters can bring many benefits, they can also pose challenges for owners and tenants alike.
This is the fourth part of a series of articles where we continue to explore the experiences of Jim Haliburton, known as HMO Daddy, who installed Metro Prepaid electric sub meters in his properties, sharing insights and lessons learned along the way. He is an experienced landlord with over 100 HMOs and 1000 tenants.
These questions and answers are taken from his booklet called HMO PREPAY METERS: Everything You Want and Need To Know About Fitting Prepay Meters in HMOs.
Do tenants abuse the sub meters?
Unfortunately, albeit very occasionally, some tenants bypass the meter or run extension leads from the communal areas to steal electricity. When I catch tenants running extension leads, I will remove them and leave a note stating that they are stealing electric, and if they want the extension lead back then they will have to see me. I have obtained a lot of extension leads by this means and no one has ever asked for their extension lead back.
Tenants who are bypassing the meter usually leave everything switched on. If you go into a room when the tenant is not there and find electric appliances switched on, then 99% of the time you will find they have run an extension lead or bypassed the meter to avoid paying for the electricity. Another way to identify fraud is to monitor the amount of electric sold to each room, though I find there is a large variation in the amount of electric purchased by tenants.
Do you have to buy electric from Metro Prepaid meters?
No, you are to choose our own supplier. I scour the market for the cheapest supplier and I have never found anyone who can do better, when the standing charges are factored in, but please let me know about your competitive supplier. I set the rate for which I resell the electric to the tenant and Metro Prepaid meters process the payment from the tenant to me.
What do electric sub meters cost to buy?
Card and coin prepay meters cost about £140 each (I get my card and coin meters from PJ Wales - 01626368595). Metro Prepaid meters (MET001 single phase meter) that I use costs around £60 including VAT. For suppliers visit www.metroprepaid.co.uk. Always try to negotiate a price with your supplier.
Metro Prepaid meters are so much cheaper to buy because they are selling them at close to cost to encourage sales. I believe that their strategy is to make money in the long term from recurring charges in administering the purchase of electricity through the meters. Also, Metro Prepay meters are fully digital and many call them SMART so they are cheaper to produce than the old coin meters with their mechanical components.
Will the use of electricity sub meters deter potential new tenants?
It may do but we have had no experience of it deterring tenants. Although, we would be unaware as the tenants would not come and apply for accommodation if they know we charge them separately for electricity, i.e. bills are not all inclusive.
We occasionally get asked what the electricity would cost and if it is a room we tell them it will not cost much, unless the tenant uses an electric heater or has a fridge or cooker. I do not meter the electric light for safety reasons and there is very little else which uses much electric unless the tenant uses an electric heater. The electricity used by a phone, laptop charge or TV is very little.
Jim Haliburton has written a book on fitting prepay meters in HMOs entitled, “Everything you Need to Know About Fitting Prepay Meters in HMOs”. It can be obtained as a free download or as a paid for book only at www.hmodaddy.com.
Jim Haliburton, known as HMO Daddy, is not an electrician, energy conservation expert, lawyer or financial advisor, nor does the following represent legal, financial or any other advice. If such advice is needed, then the reader should seek professional guidance from a qualified expert with appropriate public liability insurance. The following information is given to the best of Jim Haliburton’s knowledge and is provided for educational purposes only. It is the reader’s responsibility to obtain their own professional advice.