By Ian M. Marlow
August 17, 2015
Utility costs are high and tracking tenant billbacks is a job in itself. Without automated utility billing, the property owner must manually go through the bills, figure out each tenant’s gas, electric and water bill, then enter those amounts into the system in order to make sure tenants are being correctly charged for their consumption. At times, tenants may also ask for a reconciliation of their usage which further induces additional resource allocations to the project.
Smart utility meters are changing the way landlords and property owners are billing and collecting for tenant utilities. This is especially true for those organizations with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems for their computing and lease administration, and submeters installed for each unit. The automated capabilities are the key to streamlining operations.
With smart submeters and the proper billing and tracking modules integrated into an ERP, this item truly becomes both a productivity booster by ensuring that landlords and owners are not losing time spent doing things manually, and a revenue generator by ensuring they are capturing every billable gallon, BTU or Kw hour.
If you have not done so already for your property, Step 1 is to install smart submeters for every unit, which are connected to wireless devices that transmit the readings to the installer.
Step 2: install integrated tracking, billing and collection modules into your ERP to completely automate your processes, enabling you to allocate man hours elsewhere and streamline your operations.
Smart meters and tracking/billing software save time and guarantee accuracy.
Once you choose a smart meter installer, you’re on your way to a better utility tracking and billing system. The company that installs these meters will provide automatic monthly readings. There’s no need to enter the property to get a reading—it’s converted into a digital signal and transmitted to a central location controlled by the meter company, so you never miss a month. Then, depending on your particular system integration, the meter company will transmit that data directly into your ERP system on a pre-selected day—and automatically enter this information onto each tenant’s ledger.
This third party can create a bill including your utility fees, broken down by unit, and send this data to your accounting system. What’s more, these meter companies usually offer collection services as well, that can also be fully integrated into your computing system. They collect rent and/or utility bills and send it to you, taking your office out of the process completely. The whole billing and payment process is handled through your integrated system.
Another money-saving benefit of smart meters: they can also track water leaks because they have the ability to detect unusual water usage levels and will alert you to possible problems.
Smart meters integrate with leasing modules for cost recovery. With a fully-integrated system, the smart meter “knows” when a unit is vacated and when a new tenant’s lease goes into effect. That’s because the lease administration module is communicating with the billing and utility modules, which saves landlords and property managers additional time and expense in terms of unit cost recovery. Both MRI Software and Yardi, leaders in real estate software and systems, offer products or partners that do this, which can be integrated into the ERP systems that we design for our clients at FITECH.
When a tenant vacates a submetered, connected unit, the system can retroactively bill that former tenant for utility usage from the time of vacating to the start date of the lease (when the next tenant becomes responsible for utility costs). Landlords are relieved of this recovery period responsibility; the system automatically calls up the lease information and puts the utility in the name of the new tenant for you. By relieving either the tenant or the landlord of the responsibility of putting the utility in the new tenant’s name, landlords or owners never lose out on recovering utility costs during that lag period between tenants. The lease administration, billing and tracking tools are all fully- integrated and it all happens automatically.
Looking to fully integrate your energy management, lease administration and billing tools? As part of our partnership with Studebaker Submetering, Inc., a provider of leasing Smart submetering, FITECH can help you save time and recoup energy costs seamlessly with a properly designed and integrated ERP system.