There is GOLD in Your Association’s Utility Bills!
Property managers must approve dozens of bills for payment daily. Of these bills, the majority are almost always utility bills!
Trying to intelligently decipher and understand a utility bill is like trying to read Latin when you don’t have a translation book. Terms like TOU-GS-1, GMC, CONST, KW, EST, ACT, SSC, acreage allocation, climate zones, billing factors and energy adjustment factors are common place on each of the bills sent by utility companies. In addition, who can keep up with the constant stream of new rates, tiers, smart meters, rate changes, billing seasons and prorated fees?
Try to call the customer service departments of these utility companies to actually ask what these terms mean! After being transferred 5 times and 30 minutes later, you might find someone in some obscure department who will call you back after he “researches your account.” Of course, you never receive that call!
About the best that any property manager can do to ease his or her mind when they authorize the payment of these utility bills is to check last year’s usage as compared to this year’s usage. If the two figures are within 20 percent of each other, that bill is usually processed for payment!
However, what happens when you receive a whopping $2,000 bill on a meter that is generally $200.00 each month? Well… you probably call the utility company and demand an explanation. Of course, they cannot provide you with an explanation. However, after 10 minutes of listening to you screaming, they agree to send out a meter reader (probably the same one who made the mistake) and call you back. When they don’t call you back, you call them only to find out that the reading is verified and “although this is an unusually high bill for you, you must pay for the service or it will be turned off.” Now, try explaining to 200 residents why their spa is not hot, or the elevator is not working or there is no air-conditioning….!
Have you actually ever gone out and physically checked each of the meters that you are paying for each month? With the number of units and/or properties that most managers are responsible for, this would be almost impossible, and who would know what they were looking for or at anyway? This would be like opening the hood on your car and explaining what each part you are looking at is for and its purpose!
The bottom line is this: There are certified public accountants that are hired to file taxes and audit financial statements, there are attorneys are hired to review legal issues, contracts and leases, there are reserve companies that are hired to perform annual reserve studies, consultants of all types that are hired to research roofs, soil compaction, construction defects, etc., and there are engineers that are hired to write reports on the physical components of buildings. These are all areas of expertise that require experienced professionals.
Managers are not asked to perform any of these duties. However, for some strange reason, managers are supposed to audit the association’s monthly utility bills, explain higher-than-normal utility bills, and know how to deal with the utility companies???
A manager can spend hours and hours dealing with a single high utility bill and still not get the issue resolved, or be able to explain the reason for the unusually high bill. And, try explaining why the water budget has been exceeded by 25% this year!? The answer to that question could take weeks to answer!
Utility bills are no different. They are confusing at best, and, if you say the wrong thing to the utility companies, you have a good chance of being retroactively billed for undercharges, and the bills will be even higher in the future!
Utilities are almost always among the TOP THREE budget expenses…don’t leave them to a non-professional! This is an area of expertise that should also be handled by a professional!
Many times overcharges are found, resulting in refunds and credit adjustments, and you receive a Utility Audit Analysis Summary report from a utility professional, so you know that your utility bills are correct, which is why we say: “There’s gold in your utility bills!”