Basement as common area

Ok so i have a duplex where i inherited a washer/dryer in the basement, I’m trying to give access to both upper and lower tenants to do laundry but the problem is that the whole basement is wired to the first floor (a couple of lights and an outlet) ,If the tenant in the second floor uses the basement then it will be using the first floor electricity.If anybody here came across this situation how did you solve it???

I was thinking about putting a keyed switch right in the basement entrance, feed the switch from both panels and then power to the basement. When tenant A put the key in the switch and turns to the left then the basement will be using power from his meter and after he is done he can just turn the switch back to middle position , then when tenant B is going to use the basement just insert his key and turn right (each key just turn one way either left or right.

Does such switch exist???If so where to get it from???

I belive another way would be to use a low voltage keyed switch with a relay but that would be more work.

That is a lot of complicated wiring and switching you are contemplating doing just to handle this one small matter. Sure you could do that or you could do something simpler like the following:

  1. Rent the lower apartment (with the basement wiring) with a slightly lower market rent to compensate for the laundry electrical/water use. The difference could be made up by a slightly higher market rent on the upper apartment to pay for that extra electric and water usage.

  2. Require the upper apartment to pay the lower apartment a small fee for the use of the laundry, for its electric and water usage.

  3. Install coin-op machines and share the money collected with the lower tenant to compensate for the electric and water usage. The rest goes to you for maintenance and repairs.

  4. If you really want to be absolutely anal about the usage you can install separate machines, with each set with some sort of lock, and with sub-meters installed on the upper unit’s set.

I’d recommend #3 as you would get compensated for maintenance and repairs as well or #2 so you can stay almost entirely out of the laundry situation. And none of these require any complicated new wiring and switching.

Approximate amounts for electrical and water usage could be calculated by finding out each machine’s water and electrical usage per wash and then (if not a coin-op) making an approximation of how many washes/dries the upper unit will do.

Put in a house meter for the basement, and that bill goes to you.

I don’t know about your tenants, but many of mine would switch that switch so their neighbor would pay for their electricity-- which would balance out, because their neighbor would be turning it so the other unit paid for theirs. (Never count on the honesty of tenants)

You can get into legal trouble if a tenant is paying for common area electric. It can cause serious problems if you have to evict.

Use a house meter for the common areas. Some states won’t let you make tenants responsible for utilities unless that meter serves their unit exclusively.

Definitely install coin-ops. One potential issue with free laundry is that your unit becomes the neighborhood laundromat.