Electric submetering

Electric submetering is generally prohibited in Massachusetts because it is the resale of electricity. Read the information on this page to learn more.

Table of Contents

Submetering overview

Electric submetering is when an owner or landlord (owner) of a multi-unit property uses a single meter to serve the entire property’s electricity usage.  The owner, and not the electric company, bills the tenant for his or her share of the total electricity costs.  The tenant is not a customer of the electric company.  Submetering does not occur, however, when the tenant’s unit has a separate meter that is installed, maintained, and read by an electric company.

In Massachusetts, electric submetering is prohibited because it is the resale of electricity.  Residential property owners are required by the state Sanitary Code to pay for electricity for each unit unless the unit has a separate meter that is installed, maintained, and read by a utility company and a written rental agreement between the owner and the tenant provides for payment by the tenant in rent.

Although submetering is prohibited, owners of a multi-unit property with a single meter may recover utility costs from a tenant by including electricity in the tenant’s rent.  Rent inclusion is permitted if the owner does not measure the tenant’s electricity use or separately charge the tenant for electric service based on usage.  Apartment buildings, shopping malls, marinas, and mobile home parks are examples of properties that have been submetered.  Additionally, Section 335 of the Restructuring Act  grants owners of residential properties the right to submeter if they do so through a single meter installed before July 1, 1997.

The Department of Public Utilities does not adjudicate complaints of submetering.  If you suspect a violation, we recommend the following steps:

  1. Contact your local board of health.  You can request an inspection by your local board of health to investigate your complaint of illegal submetering.  To request an inspection, contact your local city or town hall.
  2. Contact your electric company.  The electric company serving the property may be able to inform you if a meter was installed prior to July 1, 1997.
  3. Contact the DPU’s Consumer Division.  The Consumer Division of the DPU can explain the best steps to resolve your concerns.

Laws, regulations, and cases on electric submetering

Massachusetts law

Massachusetts regulations

Massachusetts cases

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