The owner of a large office building, where the service is supplied free from his own generating plant, voiced the general sentiment on the subject at the convention at Detroit in 1909, by describing the practice as "giving something for nothing which is regarded as of no value."
Since the above suggestion was presented the practice has become general of metering to tenants their supply of electric energy, with advantage to owner and occupant.
The natural question has been asked whether the exclusion of free electrical service would not be necessarily followed by a corresponding or assumably corresponding reduction in rentals; but instances were cited in which the free supply of current had been discontinued, and no loss of rental had resulted.
It may be observed that it is not merely desirable that an owner should be relieved of the expense of the manufacture or purchase of this source of supply for light and minor conveniences or for power in loft buildings, but that he should also be relieved of the responsibility and anxieties attending its supply, as well as the liability toward his tenants in case of failure on his part to maintain such services, if contracted for directly or indirectly in his leases.
In the case of the use of electricity for power and lighting purposes in loft, warehouse, and manufacturing buildings, it is stated by several prominent owners in Manhattan that the elimination of the free service has not only removed a cause of frequent complaint and dispute between landlord and tenant, but has resulted in actual economy to the tenant by inducing greater care in the use of power, and the recent developments of such buildings in this city have established the practice of placing upon the tenant the obligation of securing his own supply of power from a public source.
Opinions thus expressed by men of wide experience and knowledge of conditions in all parts of the country are impressive and conclusive. If owners of other classes of buildings which are similarly burdened, and are found to be unproductive or undesirably lean in their return upon the investment they have involved, should unite in divesting their properties of such uncertain elements of outlay, they would render improved real estate a more attractive because a more definite investment. At present, to a considerable extent, the operation of improved real estate involves the simultaneous conduct of two or more businesses, and a very ancient and trite saying long ago foreshadowed the fate of those who undertake such hazards.
The abandonment of power-generating machinery and high pressure steam with accompanying outlay in fuel, repairs and labor, and many subsidiary expenses, has substantially lowered the operating expense of many buildings.
Steam-heating systems have been reduced to simplest form, with much advantage. The use of gas for heating in buildings of moderate proportions is found to afford superior convenience, and its adaptability to automatic control eliminates the expense of labor and provides a more regular and controllable supply of heat.
The establishment of metered electric service to tenants has enabled the owners of numerous business and apartment buildings to derive a reasonable profit from the purchase at wholesale rates of the total amount of electric energy used in the building and its sale to the tenants at the prevailing public rates. For this purpose the owner usually leases electrical meters and contracts for their maintenance in accurate recording condition. These economic processes, by improving the net income, have not only benefited the owners, but by their effect in stabilizing rentals have thereby benefited the tenant as well.