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What you need to know.

To maintain accurate control over water, gas and electric expenses, apartment owners and managers must consider the components of a comprehensive utility management program:

* Equipment. Choose proper equipment for the community's infrastructure to ensure an accurate, compliant and reliable backbone for submetering services. And be weary of proprietary equipment; it will hinder the community's ability to change service providers.

* Service. Owners should ensure that the a service provider's level of service, equipment warranties (which vary, widely), face-to4ace community visits, repairs, management training and resident interaction meshes well with the community's needs. Don't hesitate to ask for a customized program.

* Connectivity. Apartment owners should expect online reporting of all billings, past dues and collections--eliminating the need for faxes--and the ability to create and print final bills when residents move out. Also, payment options should be in line with current technology, including credit cards, automatic payment options, interactive voice recording and secure online checks.

Ask service providers about vacant recovery, a process that relieves management from tracking whether or not resident are paying for their utilities for the true period of occupancy. Studies have indicated that a community's income can increase by as much as 4.6 percent with a properly executed vacant recovery feature.

* Management. Because errors can cause water, gas and electric expenses to be within budget and still exceed necessary levels based on consumption and use, ensure that the service provider has a database of rates and tariffs, procurement procedures and options to prevent lost revenue, omissions, incorrect add-ons and overages.

Gerald Baker is President of National Exemption Service Inc. He can be contacted at 800/896-9923 or
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Title Annotation:Utility Management
Author:Baker, Gerald
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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