What is cross-metering?

In Massachusetts, in general, a landlord is required to pay for a tenant’s electric and gas utilities unless, there is a separate meter which serves only the dwelling unit or other areas that a tenant uses exclusively and a written lease which states that the tenant is responsible for those utilities. If a tenant is paying for electricity or gas other than the electricity he or she is using in the unit, then, often times, one uses the term cross-metering.

Because of the way the Sanitary Code regulations are worded, if you are renting and paying for more than just your unit’s electric or gas, you should not be paying any of it. The remedy is not to figure out what percentage of the bill is from your electric use. Rather, the remedy is that you are entitled to reimbursement from the landlord for the entirety of those utility bills.

Further, the Consumer Protection Statute regulations, Section 3.17 that it is an unfair practice for an owner who is obligated by law to provide gas or electric service and fails to provide such service. As we have noted previously, when a defendant engages knowingly or willfully in unfair or deceptive acts or practices, they can be subject to punitive damages.

If you own a building, particularly a small building (2-3 family unit), take care to ensure that the units are each only paying for their own utilities. If you cannot make the determination, then prior to renting the unit, adjust the rent to include utilities to avoid any issues with your tenants.