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GWP Has Standards Despite Few Rules

Article originally published in The Columbus Dispatch [View Original Article]

In the early 1980s, Harry Apostolos looked at the way apartment owners paid for utilities and he saw a textbook case of market inefficiency.

Most owners paid tenants’ water bills as part of the rent, and that left the residents with no incentive to conserve. Apostolos, who had just earned a master’s degree in economics from Ohio State University, decided to start a business that would provide what he saw as a better option.

“We were able to transmit a price signal that elicited a change in behavior that resulted in a drop in consumption,” he said.

In 1983, he co-founded the company now called Guardian Water & Power. He sold property owners on the idea of “submetering,” which meant he would install meters and handle billing, shifting the cost of the resource to the end user.

Guardian has 40 employees at its Grandview Heights offices and customers in 30 states. It is a family business, with Patricia, Harry’s wife, serving as the company president.

The company is one of about 50 businesses in the mainstream of the submetering industry in the United States, many of which are members of the Utility Management and Conservation Association. These businesses have models that are in contrast with two other central Ohio submeter companies, American Power & Light and Nationwide Energy Partners, that make a profit by marking up the cost of electricity or water. Such markups are against the law in most states, but not in Ohio.

Guardian is an example of how a typical submeter company makes its money. About three-fourths of Guardian’s annual sales come from a service fee of about $3 per customer bill, Apostolos said. The other one-fourth comes from selling and installing metering equipment.

“We don’t make a profit off of commodities,” he said. “We’re a billing service.”

For submeter companies such as Guardian that operate in multiple states, one of the most-complicated parts of doing business is following a multitude of state and local rules.

For example, North Carolina says a submeter company can charge a billing fee of no more than $3.75 per month; in Connecticut, submeter companies must register with the state utility commission; and submetering is essentially banned in North Dakota.

Apostolos and his colleagues in the trade association would prefer it if there were few, if any, regulations and if the companies were allowed to police themselves.

But this only works if everyone is meeting some basic industry standards, said Arthur Blankenship, president of the trade group and owner of a submeter company in the Atlanta area. One of the most-important rules is that the submeter company must pass through costs to the consumer, with no markup other than the billing fee.

Blankenship said he expects that market forces will eventually weed out the companies with less consumer-friendly business models. “If you mark up your utilities too much, the competition uses that against you and your occupancy rate drops,” he said.

Apostolos is confident that his business model would not have to change much if Ohio responds to the markups here by passing new rules.

But that is not a top concern. He is much more focused on the mechanics of metering and how to improve it.

“There is a never-ending challenge of technology changes, to adapt our business to that technology,” he said.

dgearino@dispatch.com

@dispatchenergy

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2013/10/20/business-has-standards-despite-few-rules.html

An Update On Our Services – October 2014

Take Control of Your Utilities

Our website portal serves as a an extension to your property management software.  Use it to report changes in occupancy, access daily meter readings by apartment and keep tabs on resident utility payments.

Property managers can prepare and print final bills for vacating residents at the touch of a button.  By entering a move out date, our portal creates a final bill to print form the convenience of your leasing office.  The move out read on the final bill is taken by radio frequency that day.  The vacating resident is automatically moved out of  the apartment in our network once the final bill is printed.

Tired of keying in countless lines of utility payments into your property management software’s utility ledger? If you are using programs such as Yardi Voyager, RentManager or RealPage, we can provide integration solutions ranging from flat line export files to more advanced XML transfers and complete two-way synchronization.  This service known as GuardianLink+ ensures data accuracy and allows on-site staff to focus on what they do best – managing apartments!

Contact us for more information on our website portal or to schedule your on-site staff for training with a Guardian team member.

New Mobile App Makes Resident Utilities Easy

Designed with the resident in mind, the GWP Mobile App allows for easy viewing and payment of Guardian utility bills.  Residents can download the app on both the Google Play and iTunes stores.  The new app is for collection accounts only.  It was designed and developed in-house by the Guardian IT team.  Look for updates within the next year.

Check out the app on Google Play or iTunes.

New Construction Submetering

Guardian works directly with builders and developers during the construction of new properties.  Our utility services provide cost effective solutions to meet the growing demand for new construction submetering services.  Our developer friendly, resident friendly solutions incorporate proven measurement and utility management technologies.

To keep pace with construction, we typically “pre-ship”  spacer bar inserts and couplings for installation by the plumbing contractor.  At the developer’s option, Guardian technicians perform    final meter installation and radio frequency network assembly.  Billing services commence about one month after the apartments are occupied.

Click here to download a copy of our Developer’s Guide to Submetering.

Submeter Maintenance Alerts

Properly functioning meters maximize recovery of utility expenses and protect your bottom line. To ensure these problems are not overlooked, we send out email alerts spotlighting meters requiring service.  The alert includes information on how to schedule service with a Guardian technician.  Contact us for more information on Submeter Maintenance Alerts.

For more information contact National Sales Manages, Sean Dicks.

Guardian to Service Winter Park Village

Guardian Water & Power, a leading provider of utility submetering and billing services recently contracted with Casto to service Winter Park Village, a luxury urban lifestyle center just north of Orlando, Florida. Guardian is currently servicing the high-end retail stores and restaurants at Winter Park Village as well other Casto projects around the country.

Guardian is using Inovonics Wireless TapWatch 3 technology to obtain meter readings remotely and will be providing complete utility billing and payment processing for the community. In addition, Casto management will have access to daily water consumption figures by apartment to pinpoint leaks using GuardianScan+. Residents at Winter Park Village will enjoy the convenience of managing their utility accounts at the new GWPMobile app available on the iTunes and Google Play stores.  For more information on this project contact Guardian representative, Branham Stovall at 877 291 3141 x 113 or bstovall@guardianwp.com.

About Casto

Casto has more than 80 years of success in the management of commercial, industrial, and residential real estate. They have long been recognized as a leader in the development of neighborhood and community centers. The utilization of design/development strategies by Casto exemplifies the management company’s ability to create value for the communities they serve. More information at castoinfo.com.

About Guardian

Guardian Water & Power is a leading provider of submetering products and utility cost recovery services with over 30 years of experience in the multifamily industry. Headquartered in Columbus, Guardian maintains regional offices in Raleigh, Seattle and Ann Arbor. For more information visit guardianwp.com.

Compare Guardian Billing Summaries to City Utility Bills

Guardian Water & Power, a leading provider of utility submetering products and billing services provides a billing method which is designed to pass through charges equal to that of the property’s municipal billing provider. While Guardian makes every effort to keep billing rates current for the property, it’s a good practice for the property manager to compare city utility bills  to their Guardian billing summaries. While many municipalities change their rates only once a year, certain factors can change including impervious area of a property or new charges established by the city. Billing formats and schedules can change too and it’s important to be familiar with the city’s billing method in order to ensure the property is billed correctly.

Billing discrepancies between the city bill and what Guardian is billing to residents could mean rate differences, equipment problems, or possible  indication of a leak. Close monitoring of the Guardian statement and the city bill may prompt the property manager to inquire about utility usage amounts and schedule service if needed. When comparing the Guardian billing summaries to the city bill, make sure to compare similar billing periods. Avoid the hassle of tenant complaints of high bills and lost money due to a leaks, by monitoring your Guardian billing summary on a regular basis.

If you are questioning a charge appearing on the city bill or need help understanding your billing summary you may contact Guardian Rates Analyst, Sara Robinson at 614 388-6015 or srobinson@guardianwp.com.

About Guardian

Guardian Water & Power is a leading provider of submetering products and utility cost recovery services with over 30 years of experience in the multifamily industry.  Headquartered in Columbus, Guardian maintains regional offices in Raleigh, Seattle and Ann Arbor.  For more information visit guardianwp.com.

Guardian contracts with Astora Devlopment of Seattle, WA

Guardian Water & Power, a leading provider of submetering products and billing services, recently contracted with Astora Construction & Development of Seattle, WA. Guardian Water & Power will provide it’s new construction submeter installation and project management services for the new LaVita Apartments in the University District of Seattle.  In it’s final stages of construction, LaVita Apartments will achieve four-star Built Green status with it’s recycled material structural components, superior insulation & air quality, energy efficient fixtures and individual utility metering.

Guardian installed VersaMag water submeters equipped with Tehama Wireless monitoring equipment.  This state-of-the-art submetering system enables management to track water consumption data by apartment to pinpoint leaks and manage utility expenses once billing services commence this autumn. Residents of the new LaVita Apartments will have the convenience of managing their utilities at the new Guardian Water & Power mobile application.

About Guardian

Guardian Water & Power is a full-service submetering and utility billing company with over 30 years of experience in the multifamily industry.  Headquartered in Columbus, Guardian maintains regional offices in Raleigh, Seattle and Ann Arbor.  For more information visit guardianwp.com.