The Dangers of DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Utility Auditing
You’d think that finding utility overcharges would be simple enough — just take a close look at your HOA or business’s utility bills, right?
Not exactly. Do-it-yourself (DIY) utility auditing can backfire if you don’t know what you’re doing, as one property manager learned the hard way.
This person managed an association that was always very concerned about their gas utility bill. They had good reason for this concern, as they used their gas for cooking, space heating, and water heating for all 200 condominiums on the property, as well as their two recreation areas, and the gas bill always seemed high.
At the board’s request and insistence, the property manager called the gas company to try and determine why their gas bill always seemed so high. They told her that they would send someone out to reread the meter. This happened for many months.
Do you know what to look for?
On the day of the next board meeting, the property manager decided that she could not give the same “I don’t know” answer for the board for the fifth month in a row! She cleared her desk and stared at the association’s gas bill, hoping for a miracle. Suddenly she noticed some small print on the utility bill: “serves 300 baseline units.” But the association had only 200 condominiums. The property manager was elated — she had found the billing error!
Right away, the property manager called the gas company and told the representative what she had discovered. The rep was silent for a moment, then delivered unexpected bad news: “The association has been undercharged. We will correct the billing and send you a retroactive gas utility bill for the difference in costs for the last three years. They will be allowed to make payment arrangements if they cannot afford to pay the full amount, as it will be substantial.”
Leave utility auditing to the experts
Needless to say, the property manager did not have the same conversation with the board at that night’s meeting, and the association received a retroactive billing adjustment of approximately $6,000.00, in addition to even higher monthly gas bills afterward.
The moral of the story: Call a professional utility auditor BEFORE you call your utility provider!!!