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How Automation is Changing the Utility Game (and more) for Property Managers

Automation has made daily life more convenient, whether it’s programming your coffeemaker so your first cup is ready to go when you wake up, or using the self-service checkout at the grocery store so you can avoid the long lines. We’re seeing automation everywhere and the property management industry is no exception. Setting up recurring auto-payments ensures your rent always gets paid on time, helping the renter and the property. Historically, the utility management portion of a property manager’s job has been largely manual – an area where automation hasn’t quite caught up yet. But advances in technology integration are changing the game, simplifying tasks, reducing errors and saving property managers time and money.

Consider the end-to-end process of resident utility billing, which has improved considerably. Here’s a walkthrough of this process before and after automation. For sake of simplicity, we’ll assume that the property manager is working with a third-party vendor for utility charge calculations and billing.

Utility Bill Retrieval: Without automation, property managers need to download or copy their utility bills and manually share with their vendor. Thanks to automation, this process happens automatically. A secure automated data feed retrieves the bills for the vendor. This not only saves property management staff time, it also decreases the risk for human error and shaves time off of the entire process, resulting in quicker resident billing and payback for the property.

Pre-Billing Review: In the manual world, property managers receive the resident pre-bills for review in an Excel spreadsheet. They need to sort through it to confirm completion and accuracy before approval for billing. Again, more manual intervention means more time wasted and more chance for errors. With automation, property managers receive their pre-bills via a simple automated file, which can quickly be reviewed and approved, without the need for manual reconciliation.

Payment Management and Reconciliation: Once the bills have been sent, property managers are in the throes of payment collection and reconciliation. This can be a highly manual process, sorting through checks and money orders, reconciling payments with their accounting software and balancing rent and utility ledgers. Fortunately, automation has changed the game here too. With automated payments, residents can choose to pay online or via e-check, eliminating the messiness and risk of theft and fraud associated with checks and money orders. Plus, auto-payments can integrate with a property’s accounting software, savings loads of time for property managers, eliminating the need for manual reconciliation and reducing the risk of human error.

Move-out Billing: Closing the loop, when a resident moves out, the property manager must determine any final utility charges that need to be billed. This process has been improved with technology as well. Automated move-out calculators quickly figure out final utility balances and generate resident bills, simplifying what can be an otherwise time-intensive and hectic process.

We are all interested in saving time on manual tasks and spending time on more value-added activities. Automating the utility billing, payments and reconciliation process results in measurable time returned to property managers that can be spent on attracting and retaining residents or other more valuable projects. Read our latest white paper, Easily Recoup Utility Expenses and Increase Net Operating Income, to learn more about how much time properties can save by automating their resident utility billing processes.

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