Apartment Economics

I’ve lived in one apartment or another for several years now, and for the most part I like it.  I get a place to live without having to commit to a 30-year mortgage or a lot of extra space I won’t need, I’m responsible for furnishings and the owners are responsible for maintenance, and if I want to move I just have to start paying someone else for their space instead of selling and buying my own–overall, it seems like a pretty decent arrangement.  There is one convention of apartment ownership, however, that continues to bug me.  Why aren’t the owners expected to pay a share of the utilities?

Obviously, tenants should be held at least partially responsible.  The major deciding factor in utilities cost is usage, and that is something that is mostly within the tenant’s control.  Mostly, but not entirely.  Doesn’t it seem strange that under the conventional model, apartment owners have almost no incentive to invest in decent insulation, efficient appliances and fixtures, or other energy-saving features?  It takes a minimal investment to make sure that doors and windows are properly sealed and hot water pipes are insulated, and energy-efficient appliances generally pay for themselves within a couple of years.  Yet if the long-term cost for inefficient appliances and poor insulation is shuffled off onto the tenants, what motivation do the owners have to invest in these things?  This is particularly troubling to me because energy efficiency has a direct impact on global warming emissions.  If profit is the only incentive corporations have to reduce emissions and boost efficiency, shouldn’t we be making sure that their profits are at least related to their efficiency?

What do you think?

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