That's Cold: In Sweltering Summer, NYC Rental Apartments With Utilities (Read: AC) Included Become Hot Commodity

As a general rule, a luxury rental apartment in Manhattan is something of a prize. Some Manhattan rental apartments are more prized than others, and more prized by some NYC dwellers more than by others -- no fee NYC rental apartments are both rare and money-saving, which gives them some obvious value; the appeal of green rental apartment listings is no less obvious. But with New York City sweating out what is turning out to be one of the hottest summers on record, a new type of Manhattan rental listing has surged to the top of the list of most desirable NYC rental properties. In the New York Times, Sam Dolnick describes the appeal of the ultilities-included rental apartment, in which the absence of apartment-specific electricity monitoring enables round-the-clock air conditioning blastage. So, is the utilities-included rental apartment the new holy grail of Manhattan rental listings? Or is it just an especially inefficient way for some NYC dwellers to create a huge, 66-degree carbon footprint for themselves? Who says it can't be both?

Forget round-the-clock doormen or views of Central Park. This sweltering summer, the most coveted New York real estate amenity is two little words that in other times can go unnoticed: 'utilities included,' Dolnick writes. "[It's] a more-common-than-you’d-think arrangement caused by old-fashioned wiring in which a building has a single 'master meter' tracking power use rather than individual meters tied to each tenant. They can blast their air-conditioners all summer long without paying a dollar extra. Con Edison counts about 250,000 apartments across the city, not including public housing projects, that do not have individual meters tracking electricity consumption, compared with roughly 1.75 million that do. One large management company, Cooper Square, estimates that these units expend at least 30 percent more electricity year-round than their counterparts."

After a few minutes walking around midtown Manhattan, all that air conditioning sounds pretty heavenly, honestly. But while this may be just another example of humans behaving exactly as economists predict -- when air conditioning is free, there's no reason to turn it off -- it's also not a victimless affair. For one thing, all that AC usage is pretty bad for the environment from an emissions standpoint. For another, al lthat air conditioning use is hard on landlords -- not the easiest demographic to feel sympathy for, obviously, but also the demo that has the power to raise rents to make up for the bath they're taking on keeping all those units a frosty 66 degrees. As appealing as the utilities-included Manhattan rental apartment might seem -- and they're out there in our NYC apartment listings, although we don't have a special searchable category for them -- they're really perhaps most useful as an argument for submetering. Most NYC apartments (but not most NYC office spaces) have individualized metering, and while advanced submetering is a good idea that's off to a bumpy start, Dolnick's article makes it tough to argue that submetering's time hasn't come. We at Luxury Rentals Manhattan are strongly pro air-conditioning -- you should check our office out sometimes; I type writing mittens some days -- but it's worth remembering that someone's paying for all that AC, even in utilities-included rental apartments.