When a multi-housing manager stopped by our booth at an Apartment Association trade show a few months ago, she asked me, “Why Read/Bill/Collect companies exist? I mean, we visually read our own water submeters and do the billing ourselves.”
Aside from the fact that doing the reads yourself is a great way to open yourself to at least the perception of conflict-of-interest, computing the correct rates (read correct as another way of saying legal) is not so simple.
You see, during our conversation, she mentioned that her property is billed quarterly and she bills residents monthly. Aha!!! I asked for a copy of her last quarterly bill and a sample resident bill that she sends out.
A couple weeks later, I received a copy of a quarterly property-wide bill and a resident bill. Guess what? The property manager wasn’t an expert on rate analysis and so she had been shortchanging the landlord for thousands of dollars per month for years.
How so? Their water and sewer tier structures are based on how many gallons of water the property consumes per quarter – not per month. Since she was billing each resident on what that resident consumed per month, she was billing residents only in the first tiers. And their second water tier was 50% more than their first tier. Their second tier sewer rate was 70% more. And ready for this? Their third tier water – which no resident had paid in years – was 300% of the first tier rate.
This is only one example of many in which what looks like a simple rate question is actually more complicated than it appears. Incorrect and illegal billing of electric, gas and water can result in massive penalties.
CWE is proud to announce a new program – SUBMETERS WITH NO OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSE.
It’s high time that multihousing owners get some relief from the burden of ever-increasing water and sewer costs as well as high electricity and gas bills. Get out from under the burden of high water consumption. Motivate your residents to conserve.
Fill out the blue form to the right. In the blank labeled “Other Description,” write in “no cash.”
Two multi-housing projects – different owners - in Miami-Dade have recently approached us with the same problem. The general contractors of these projects had not budgeted for submeters because in both cases, the MEP had not included submeters in the schematics.
It was not until these properties had displayed mock-up units to their respective Miami-Dade inspectors that they became aware that submeters are required:
Section 5. Section 8A-381 (c) of Miami-Dade County:
The provisions of this article shall apply to multiple unit properties utilizing water services. Effective July 1, 2008, all permit applications for new multi-family residential developments shall be required to include a submeter for each individual dwelling unit.
The vast majority of GCs and multifamily owners in South Florida have been aware of this for years. But in these two cases, the GCs and owners had not previously built multihousing in Miami-Dade.
A number of construction inspectors in various locales are requiring plenum rated water submeters to be installed in multihousing projects. To be more specific, the requirement is applied in cases where the submeters are to be installed in plenum spaces – HVAC closets within the individual apartments.
The smaller problem – there is no such thing as a plenum-rated submeter.
Why isn’t there such a thing? I’m not an engineer but here’s is how it was explained to me:
For a material to be what is typically referred to as plenum-rated,” a material is tested according to a protocol called ASTM Standard E 84-05. The “fire-test-response standard for the comparative surface burning behavior of building materials is applicable to exposed surfaces such as walls and ceilings.”
To be precise, it’s not that there is no such thing as a plenum-rated submeter; it’s that there is no recognized test by which a submeter could be tested. Existing tests are intended for building materials with large exposed surfaces such as walls and ceilings – not for 5.5” to 7.5” long submeters.
The bigger problem– the inspector is requiring “plenum-rated” submeters and you need to either convince him that it is not applicable or you need to offer an alternative. Which solution makes the most sense depends on your situation. Fill out the blue form to the right – we’ll contact you and give you a solution.
All Property Managers and owners fall into one of three categories:
You’re passing off the costs of water and sewer to residents and it’s working well.* Whether you’re submetering, using RUBS or some combination thereof, you’re recovering the vast majority of costs and the system works smoothly. Your bottom line is great! Why are you reading this?
You’re trying to pass off water and sewer costs to residents but you’re not happy with how it’s working. Either the submeter reads seem wacky or the billing company’s customer service isn’t what it should be or something else isn’t quite right. Residents are complaining and you’re frustrated. There must be a better way. Fill out the blue form on the right for a better .
You’re giving away free water and sewer to your residents.** Because your tenants have no vested interest in conservation of water, leaks often go unreported and water use is probably higher than it should be. Oh, and of course, the result is that water and sewer expenses are dragging down your bottom line. Fill out blue form on your right for a better .
For those of you that fall into categories 2 or 3, fill out the blue form to your right to receive free SUBMETERING vs RUBS vs FLAT FEE vs HYBRID. It addresses some of your most important questions:
How do you compare solutions and determine what’s best for your property and residents?
What are the pros and cons of the different solutions?
What solutions do residents typically prefer?
How to find out what is even possible at your property?
Fill out the blue form to your right for free Property Manager’s Guide to Utility Cost Recovery.
·* It’s also possible that your residents are individually metered by the utility provider. In this case, the residents directly pay the utility. If that’s your case, you’ve got nothing to worry about – why are you reading this?
·** If you are charging a flat fee for water and sewer, don’t kid yourself. In reality, you are giving away free water and sewer to your residents – it’s just that you’ve chosen to label part of the rent as “water and sewer charge.” You have the same problem that you would have had if you had simply included water and sewer with a higher rent – the residents have no motivation to conserve water and to quickly report leaks.
Most developers of apartment rental and condominium projects are requiring submeters. But all too often, submeter specs included in schematics are inadequate or contradictory.
We’re not sure why but a number of online plans are requiring a laundry list of hardware requirements that simply do not exist in any one set of hardware. For example, one list being used has 16 requirements. Just a few problems with the list:
Measuring chamber and measuring element must be easily removable from the main case without removal of meter from the line.
Water meter must have a tempered glass lens.
Water meters shall have battery operated transmitters with a minimum 5 year average battery life. Battery shall be replaceable without removing water meter from service or replacing transmitter unit.
The first requirement, if understood to mean that the meter must be removable from the flow tube, is a standard feature for some submeters.
Master Meter FAM is removable from flowtube but the register is not glass.
The second requirement is standard on a number of submeters. The third requirement is a standard feature of the industry’s most popular remote read system. But there is no one combination of submeter and transmitter that meets all three of the criteria.
Another list of requirements that we’ve come across requires a specific submeter that is proprietary to a particular Read/Bill/Collect company. If the owner doesn’t mind the potential problem that in the future, only one Read/Bill/Collect company might have access to repair parts, that’s fine. But the specifications state that the owner wants competitive bids from Read/Bill/Collect companies. The requirements are contradictory.
The above are some of the reasons why we thought it would be a good idea to publish a set of manuals for the multihousing and commercial construction industry. On the right of this page is a blue form – fill it out and we’ll email appropriate brochures.
Josie yelled at me, “$3.25 a month per unit? Are you crazy?”
Wanting to set her mind at ease, I looked her straight in the face and said “No, I don’t think so.” Probably because my retort was no different than what a crazy person would have said, Josie looked even more convinced that I am one crazy dude.
But I should probably start from the top. Josie manages 3 small apartment complexes that are submetered for water – cumulatively 206 units. She was telling me how displeased she was with the company that was providing Read/Bill/Collectservice. Being the salesman that I am, I offered to give her a proposal to take over the RBC service.
When she saw my price, that’s when she yelled at me, “$3.25 a month per unit? Are you crazy?” After my less than clever defense, “No, I don’t think so,” she said “The billing company we use charges only $2.50 per unit. I thought that was expensive. But you want even more. You’re crazy!”
Some guys have a positive effect on women without even trying. Not me. I explained:
“The RBC company that you are doing business with is cheap. $2.50 per unit per month is a great price. But they aren’t performing. Billing is not going out promptly and your residents cannot reach the RBC company’s customer service. Bottom line is that due to poor service, you’re recovering only 62% of water and sewer costs.”
Josie was listening. Maybe I’m not so crazy.
“Your average unit is being billed about $55 per unit per month. If you were recovering 80% instead of 62% of your communities’ water and sewer costs, you would be collecting $9.90 more per unit per month. We charge $.75 more per unit because we invest the necessary money to maximize collections.”
I had her ear. Like I said, I don’t exude an aura that causes women to agree with me. I use reason. It works.
“We spend extra money to properly staff our bilingual customer service department with professionally trained professionals. We also spend time and money on the hawkeye system – this means that we photo-capture the date/time stamps of all outgoing bills. That way, when certain habitual late payers claim that they never got the bill, we can prove that it entered the mail stream.”