Farming out Utility Fee Management

by Katie Sloan

Utility partners can free up leasing and management personnel to focus on residents.

Managing a student housing community is a complicated business. That’s why many communities find it effective to partner with a utility management expert. These companies provide programs and solutions that are designed to free student housing communities from the burden of managing complicated utility programs and services.

When the leasing office personnel can focus on taking care of students rather than managing utility bills and expenses, both the students and the employees have a better overall experience.

When utility experts manage utilities, student housing communities no longer have to worry about receiving, processing, and paying utility bills. The utility management partner instead receives the utility bills directly from the service provider. The bills are then processed and paid on time, avoiding late fees and disconnects. Some companies will also audit the bills for accuracy and contact the utility provider directly to resolve any billing anomalies.

While staff members can rest assured that the utility partner is taking care of the utility management process, they can also retrieve any utility invoice image online when needed. Because the utility management company enters all the provider bill information into a database accessible online, a number of reports and budgeting resources are also available that otherwise would take countless hours to produce.

Many student housing communities have found it effective to bill students for their utility usage to offset the rising cost of utility expenses. Utility management companies can easily help in this process. By taking the provider bills they have already processed for the community, they can calculate utility charges for the students. Utility statements can be sent to each individual student, rather than the entire apartment. This makes it easy on both the students and the leasing office. E-bill, online account access, and other services are also offered to add convenience for the students.

Some communities use a resident utility billing program to encourage students to conserve energy. The program can be set up so that the community covers a moderate portion of the energy costs for an apartment. Individual students are then billed for any usage that exceeds the predetermined amount.

For example, a community may decide to cover $40 per student for electricity, but any charges exceeding that amount should be billed out to students. If a student uses $55 of electricity, he or she would be billed $15 for the month. If the student only used $30 of electricity, he or she would not be billed that month. This method allows communities to better prepare for their utility budget without allowing high-usage users to adversely increase their already rising utility costs.

Other student housing communities find it effective to bill students for all of their utility usage. This allows communities to recover more of their utility expenses while still encouraging student conservation. Students are sent a bill each month that reflects their utility usage.

Some utility billing companies offer bills that include rent charges, discount credits, facility charges, and balances. Often communities find it easier to collect from students when all their charges are included in one concise statement.

Reputable utility management partners are mindful of providing outstanding customer service to student residents. Many students receiving their first utility bill understandably have some questions.

The utility management partner should provide an avenue for students to have their questions answered by utility experts quickly and accurately. A reliable utility partner will provide an in-house call center staffed with utility experts during extended business hours.

Rising operating costs at student housing communities are a concern for many in the industry. Utility management and billing solutions are designed to reduce these costs and simplify operations.

— Cary Brzezinski is the vice president of strategic partnerships and student living with Conservice, a utility management company specializing in the practices and services detailed above. To reach him, e-mail [email protected].


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