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Tip #103: Money Down the Drain

money down the drainWhether you pay for your tenants’ water, or they pay themselves, it’s important to know if there are water leaks in the property.

The EPA suggests an easy test to see if water is leaking: check the water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.

Another method is to check the water usage during one of the colder months. If a family of four exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, there are serious leaks.

You can identify toilet leaks by placing a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If any color shows up in the bowl after 15 minutes, you have a leak. (Be sure to flush immediately after the experiment to avoid staining the tank.)

Have a quick tip to share with other landlords? Email our editor at [email protected].

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  • cranky landlord

    I have apartments in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. You can tell if water is being used in Los Angeles with the usage indicator on the meter. It’s a little triangle on the meter face itself. If it moves at all, water is being wasted. In Beverly Hills they have real time reporting to the public utility. You can just ask them if there is continuos use. Not sure about other cities.

    One other note, the dye tab method to detect toilet leaks does not always mean the toilet is not leaking. In tank type toilets (which are almost all) sometimes its the fill valve. The water from this goes directly into the toilet bowl bypassing any dye that is placed in the tank. This may be only about one in ten vs. the flapper which the dye does detect.

    A way to check is to take a flashlight and watch if there is any water movement in the bowl. Also, check the sides to see if there is any stream of water. Listen for noises from the fill valve.

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