Overview

Typically, a landlord will use a master meter to measure all the natural gas and electricity used by a whole apartment building. It does not measure the amount used by each rental unit.

A sub-meter measures the natural gas and electricity for a rental unit. Landlords may install a sub-meter for all rental units in a building.

These meters tell the landlord exactly how much energy each tenant uses. The landlord can bill each tenant for their own consumption.

Sub-meters:

  • help landlords to fairly and accurately divide the costs among their tenants.
  • allow tenants to pay for the energy they actually use
  • allow tenants to benefit from their own energy conservation efforts
  • encourage tenants to cut energy costs and usage, which helps the environment
  • shift energy price changes from the landlord to the tenant

For more information, read the Sub-meters for rental units tip sheet.

Energy providers

Tenants using a sub-meter cannot choose their energy provider. Only customers who have master utility meters (such as landlords and commercial customers) can choose which retailer they use.

Introducing a sub-meter

A sub-meter can only be introduced for a month-to-month renter with their consent. For month-to-month tenants with utilities as part of their rent, the landlord and tenant can both agree to use a natural gas or electricity sub-meter. The tenant is then responsible to pay for the utilities separately from their rent.

For a fixed-term renter, a sub-meter can be introduced once the lease expires and a new lease is introduced. At that time a tenant has choices.

A tenant can:

  • agree to pay for utilities separately from their rent
  • negotiate different terms and conditions with their landlord
  • choose to rent elsewhere

What tenants will have to pay

Either the landlord or sub-meter company can issue the utility bill. They both use a mathematical formula to calculate how much each tenant pays. Tenants have a right to know this formula and should insist that it be in their sub-meter contract.

Tenants can see what rates other Albertans pay for utilities by comparing prices on the Office of the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) website.

Deposits and fees

Tenants may have to pay a deposit for heat or natural gas and/or electricity. The amount of the deposit and how long the landlord or sub-meter company will hold it should be in the sub-meter contract.

Sub-meter contracts often include administration fees. These fees are applied to each bill to recover the cost of the equipment and the costs associated with collecting the data and producing bills.

Commons areas of a building

Tenants should ask the landlord how common area utility costs are handled in their building. Practices will vary from one landlord to another.

Resolving disputes

If tenants have a dispute with their landlord about their sub-meter bill, tenants should first review their sub-meter contract and then talk to their landlord or sub-meter company. Minor problems can often be easily solved.

If the issue isn’t resolved, tenants can call the Office of the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) toll free at 310-4822. The UCA can explain how sub-meters work and how sub-meter bills are calculated.

Tenants can also apply to the courts or Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service for a civil remedy.

Contact

To connect with the Consumer Contact Centre:

Phone: 780-427-4088 (in Alberta)
Toll free: 1-877-427-4088
Email: service@gov.ab.ca