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Drought: LA mayor won't agree to tenants paying for water without meters

Maywood resident Robert Taylor fills a bottle with tap water in his home on Sept. 26.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Maywood resident Robert Taylor fills a bottle with tap water in his home on Sept. 26.

Landlords in Los Angeles want tenants in rent-stabilized units to share the cost of their building's water bill. But Mayor Eric Garcetti says he only supports tenants paying for their water usage if they have their own water meters.

"I've been supportive of individual meters so individuals could track their own use," Garcetti said.

As KPCC reported, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles is lobbying the city to allow landlords to change the lease terms for renters currently covered by L.A.'s rent stabilization ordinance. In exchange for tenants paying for water usage, landlords would agree to reduce rent. Currently, landlords can only change those terms with a new lease, and the majority of renters in L.A. don't currently pay for water.

The landlords' plan does not call for individual meters. Rather, residents would collectively pay the building's water bill. A third-party group would create a formula to determine how the bill would be split, so that larger units, and/or units with more occupants, paid more.

Councilman Mike Bonin questioned whether using formulations like that would be fair.

"The only way to do it is with individual meters," he said, echoing Garcetti. "As a drought-fighting tool, you need to have the use tied directly to the cost.

But installing thousands of water meters in L.A.'s apartment buildings would be a costly endeavor. The LA Department of Water and Power says one meter on a ground floor apartment can cost approximately $2,000. It gets progressively more expensive the higher you go, and does not include labor costs.

Jim Clarke of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles claims that some landlords have been quoted upwards of $10,000 by the LADWP to purchase and install a metering unit.

Garcetti said that some action needs to take place so renters assume their share of water conservation.

"I agree with the landlords, right now: there's unaccountability," he says, "You can let the faucet run, and somebody else pays for it."