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Prepaid meters eliminate electricity risk for owners and tenants

Finding fair ways to pay for shared utilities in multi-tenanted properties is a perennial headache for everyone, from property owners and facility managers to body corporates and tenants. “Lack of clear information leads to a lack of trust on all sides,” says Citiq Prepaid managing director Michael Franze. “Disputes over electricity bills are a major problem in the property sector, with massive costs in time, money, and frustration.”

The root of the problem, says Franze, is that councils are normally only prepared to provide one electricity meter per property, regardless of how many dwellings there are. “This leaves landowners, tenants and body corporates with a very limited set of options when it comes to managing billing and payments. They can agree to split the municipal bill pro rata, which encourages overuse and almost invariably leads to conflict; or they can install their own extra kwH meters and read them every month, which is administratively costly and also leads to disputes if tenants don’t trust the readings.”

Franze says Citiq Prepaid’s research confirms that utility billing issues are a major headache. “Owners, developers and builders alike have told us that non-payment of utility bills is a substantial risk they face, especially given the high costs involved.  Some people also find that the lack of transparency, not knowing what their bill is likely to be or which tenants are the highest users, makes their operations much more difficult. We’ve had a lot of interest in switching to prepaid systems — and our existing customers say prepaid eliminates a lot of problems.”

Citiq Prepaid’s prepaid submetering system provides transparency and reduces risk for everyone involved, adds Franze. “For tenants, prepaid makes their own electricity consumption more visible and ultimately more manageable. If you only get your bills a month or more in arrears, it’s easy to forget that day you accidentally left the heater on and wonder if the landowner is overcharging you. When you can track your consumption from day to day, it’s much easier to budget.”

For landowners, body corporates, facilities managers and managing agents, he says, the benefits are equally tangible. “With Citiq Prepaid, we collect money from tenants and other end users upfront and keep it in a trust account. The only charge is an 8.75% handling fee which is completely transparent to all users. At the end of the month, the money is transferred to the landowner and they pay the municipal bill directly. This enables the landlord to stay in control of the billing relationship with the municipality, but with no collection issues.”

The no-admin element of Citiq Prepaid’s system has proven to be one of its strongest drawcards, says Franze. “We provide a full management and information system, not just a meter. All our users get access to an online portal with a range of usage and payment reports — and we know that complicated information leads to disputes, so we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure the reports are easy for everyone to understand. Tenants can easily access their payment history and see exactly what they paid for,  and property owners can see information for all their properties and quickly identify discrepancies, over-use or pilferage. It also makes it possible to predict municipal bills more accurately. If there are problems, our call centre is open seven days a week.”

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