I was surprised to learn that some owners object to the whole idea of having washing machines in their rental property. When we asked how much trouble it would be to install a hookup in an otherwise-appealing property, wondering if we could pay for a minor improvement to the place and solve the problem that way, the realtor explained. That landlord owns several buildings and feels strongly about not having washing machines in any of them. One of his tenants once did too much laundry, and ran the water bill up, and he's never letting that happen again. (So there, apparently.) According to the realtor, he's far from the only landlord with that kind of categorical objection to washing machines.
It was a different realtor who found us the Somerville apartment we're moving into now. We looked at the place when the realtor was uncertain about the laundry situation, and said we'd be interested IF there was laundry in the building. So the realtor went off to phone the landlord* and negotiate. According to the realtor, the landlord was reluctant to put in washing machines, because he was concerned that a couple of girls would do too much laundry. (This is the same realtor who had been telling the landlord, minutes earlier, that we were good girls who would be very clean tenants. Go figure.) The realtor assured him we weren't that kind of girls--that we were very responsible, and would share rather than each insisting on washing her own laundry.
I don't know how much of this sexist nonsense came from the landlord's actual concerns, and how much came from the realtor's own ideas. In any case, the landlord agreed to let us have a washing machine in the basement, and we decided to rent the apartment. (And I am about to do vast quantities of laundry, because linens get dirty when you wrap them around fragile stuff for packing.)
Because I thought it was a funny story, I told it to my mother on the phone. "He wants clean tenants, but not TOO clean." And I added, "And he really did call us 'good girls' and 'responsible girls,' even though I'm 44 and overdue to dye my hair." She said, "Back when I was young, some places used to say they didn't want to rent to women because they'd run up the water bill washing their hair. That was silly because so many women have short hair..." That was when I started laughing. I didn't disagree with the point she was trying to make, that landlords should not be allowed to refuse to rent to somebody just because she's female. It's just funny to think the realtor might not have noticed our hair** (neither of us had it pinned up when we were apartment hunting.) It's possible that he just saw enough clues to fit us into his pattern of "respectable girls, not students, not a married couple," and then he stopped seeing us...he just saw his own expectations every time he looked towards us.
I haven't measured, but I suspect washing my hair does use more water than washing my clothes in a modern high-efficiency washing machine. (Though not, of course, than washing my clothes by hand in the sink. I do a lot of that when it's hard for me to get to a washing machine.) If the landlord was really concerned about the water bill, he would have put a coin-operated*** washing machine in the basement rather than trying to have the realtor judge by eye who would do an appropriate amount of washing.
*This is one of many things that annoy me about the modern business of renting apartments. The realtor insists on being a go-between for all communication with the landlord, even where direct communication would be much more helpful.
**Most of you have seen me, and know my hair is moderately long. Sovay's is quite a bit longer.
***Or card reader, so they don't have to send somebody to empty out the coins. When my current landlord raised the cost of the coin-operated washing machines, the coin boxes had to be emptied so much more often I suspect they are not actually making more money.