Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 55.1. Property and Conveyances [Effective October 1, 2019]
Chapter 12. Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
3/30/2020

§ 55.1-1212. (Effective October 1, 2019) Energy submetering, energy allocation equipment, sewer and water submetering equipment, and ratio utility billing systems; local government fees.

A. As used in this section:

"Energy allocation equipment" means the same as that term is defined in § 56-245.2.

"Energy submetering equipment" has the same meaning ascribed to "submetering equipment" in § 56-245.2.

"Local government fees" means any local government charges or fees assessed against a residential building, including charges or fees for stormwater, recycling, trash collection, elevator testing, fire or life safety testing, or residential rental inspection programs.

"Ratio utility billing system" means a program that utilizes a mathematical formula for allocating, among the tenants in a residential building, the actual or anticipated water, sewer, electrical, oil, or natural gas billings billed to the residential building owner from a third-party provider of the utility service. Permitted allocation methods may include formulas based on square footage, occupancy, number of bedrooms, or some other specific method agreed to by the residential building owner and the tenant in the rental agreement or lease.

"Residential building" means all of the individual units served through the same utility-owned meter within a residential building that is defined in § 56-245.2 as an apartment building or house or all of the individual dwelling units served through the same utility-owned meter within a manufactured home park as defined in § 55.1-1300.

"Water and sewer submetering equipment" means equipment used to measure actual water or sewer usage in any residential building when such equipment is not owned or controlled by the utility or other provider of water or sewer service that provides service to the residential building.

B. Energy submetering equipment, energy allocation equipment, water and sewer submetering equipment, or a ratio utility billing system may be used in a residential building if clearly stated in the rental agreement or lease for the residential building. All energy submetering equipment and energy allocation equipment shall meet the requirements and standards established and enforced by the State Corporation Commission pursuant to § 56-245.3.

C. If energy submetering equipment, energy allocation equipment, or water and sewer submetering equipment is used in any residential building, the owner, manager, or operator of such residential building shall bill the tenant for electricity, oil, natural gas, or water and sewer for the same billing period as the utility serving the residential building, unless the rental agreement or lease expressly provides otherwise. The owner, manager, or operator of such residential building may charge and collect from the tenant additional service charges, including monthly billing fees, account set-up fees, or account move-out fees, to cover the actual costs of administrative expenses and billing charged to the residential building owner, manager, or operator by a third-party provider of such services, provided that such charges are agreed to by the residential building owner and the tenant in the rental agreement or lease. The residential building owner may require the tenant to pay a late charge of up to $5 if the tenant fails to make payment when due, which shall not be less than 15 days following the date of mailing or delivery of the bill sent pursuant to this section.

D. If a ratio utility billing system is used in any residential building, in lieu of increasing the rent, the owner, manager, or operator of such residential building may employ such a program that utilizes a mathematical formula for allocating, among the tenants in a residential building, the actual or anticipated water, sewer, electrical, oil, or natural gas billings billed to the residential building owner from a third-party provider of the utility service. The owner, manager, or operator of the residential building may charge and collect from the tenant additional service charges, including monthly billing fees, account set-up fees, or account move-out fees, to cover the actual costs of administrative expenses and billings charged to the residential building owner, manager, or operator by a third-party provider of such services, provided that such charges are agreed to by the residential building owner and the tenant in the rental agreement or lease. The residential building owner may require the tenant to pay a late charge of up to $5 if the tenant fails to make payment when due, which shall not be less than 15 days following the date of mailing or delivery of the bill sent pursuant to this section. The late charge shall be deemed rent (i) as defined in § 55.1-1200 if a ratio utility billing system is used in a residential multifamily dwelling unit subject to this chapter or (ii) as defined in § 55.1-1300 if a ratio utility billing system is used in a manufactured home park subject to the Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act (§ 55.1-1300 et seq.).

E. Energy allocation equipment shall be tested periodically by the owner, manager, or operator of the residential building. Upon the request by a tenant, the owner shall test the energy allocation equipment without charge. The test conducted without charge to the tenant shall not be conducted more frequently than once in a 24-month period for the same tenant. The tenant or his designated representative may be present during the testing of the energy allocation equipment. A written report of the results of the test shall be made to the tenant within 10 working days after the completion of the test.

F. The owner of any residential building shall maintain adequate records regarding energy submetering equipment, energy allocation equipment, water and sewer submetering equipment, or a ratio utility billing system. A tenant may inspect and copy the records for the leased premises during reasonable business hours at a convenient location within or serving the residential building. The owner of the residential building may impose and collect a reasonable charge for copying documents, reflecting the actual costs of materials and labor for copying, prior to providing copies of the records to the tenant.

G. Notwithstanding any enforcement action undertaken by the State Corporation Commission pursuant to its authority under § 56-245.3, tenants and owners shall retain any private right of action resulting from any breach of the rental agreement or lease terms required by this section or § 56-245.3, if applicable, to the same extent as such actions may be maintained for breach of other terms of the rental agreement or lease under this chapter, if applicable. The use of energy submetering equipment, energy allocation equipment, water and sewer submetering equipment, or a ratio utility billing system is not within the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services under Chapter 56 (§ 3.2-5600 et seq.) of Title 3.2.

H. In lieu of increasing the rent, the owner, manager, or operator of a residential building may employ a program that utilizes a mathematical formula for allocating the actual or anticipated local government fees billed to the residential building owner among the tenants in such residential building if clearly stated in the rental agreement or lease. Permitted allocation methods may include formulas based upon square footage, occupancy, number of bedrooms, or some other specific method agreed to by the residential building owner and the tenant in the rental agreement or lease. Such owner, manager, or operator of a residential building may also charge and collect from each tenant additional service charges, including monthly billing fees, account set-up fees, or account move-out fees, to cover the actual costs of administrative expenses for administration of such a program. If the building is residential and is subject to (i) this chapter, such local government fees and administrative expenses shall be deemed to be rent as defined in § 55.1-1200 or (ii) the Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act (§ 55.1-1300 et seq.), such local government fees and administrative expenses shall be deemed to be rent as defined in § 55.1-1300.

I. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit an owner, manager, or operator of a residential building from including water, sewer, electrical, natural gas, oil, or other utilities in the amount of rent as specified in the rental agreement or lease.

1992, c. 766, § 55-226.2; 2003, c. 355; 2005, c. 278; 2010, c. 550; 2012, c. 338; 2014, c. 501; 2015, c. 596; 2017, c. 730; 2019, c. 712.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of this section may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.