There are acceptable reasons for estimating meter reads and guidelines for best practices. Most commonly, the resident has locked all points of access to the meters. Our policy is to run a daily average to estimate the bill.
In the case of habitual lock outs, our policy is to estimate based on previous usage and provide pictures to management for write ups. Or, you might have a pair of these handy, if that's allowed in your area. Per Weights and Measures we must have a known good read no more than every three months. Property rules and laws spell out guidelines for access to meters, so you can shut off utilities in an emergency. You absolutely can and should write up a resident for blocking access to their meters.
There are new guidelines about estimating water bills. SB7 states that water bills should be estimated at 75% of the average previous three months. If they have not been there for three months yet, then you are to charge them at $0.50 per day that the data is unavailable. You may estimate for 6 months before being required to charge zero usage. We don't recommend letting residents lock you out of their space for six months, though. Be sure you park rules include a clause about access to meters so you are able to write them up as needed.
The other common instance we estimate is when a meter stops working. We may estimate six times, but it is important to process replacement meters as quickly as possible. After the sixth time, we cannot bill usage and you will lose money on the space.
When you replace a meter, we need an ending and beginning read. We will process this in a single transaction on the resident’s bill. We will deduct the ending read from the last billed read (assuming it was not an estimate) and then deduct that usage from the beginning read on the meter. It will often look like a roll over. For example, before you replaced a gas meter, it had 10 units on the billing cycle. The new meter starts at 0. The new meter has a read of 20 on the billing date. The reads on the bill would be 9990 to 20 or 10020, depending on the software. The next month’s bill would start at 20 and continue as usual.
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Would you like to know more about meter reading? Read why photo documenting is the best way to read meters. Want to save time and frustration over the holiday season? Send this article about electric heaters to your residents.