Table of Contents:
Know thy Reader
As a owner or manager of a property you should get to know the actual person servicing your property, Reynolds Metering Services will take extreme steps to keep you from communicating with their contractors, we feel you should know the people that are working on your property. Why? Well the biggest reason liability. The person that actually visits your property most likely NOT A REYNOLDS METERING EMPLOYEE. This means you could have liability and insurance issues should that person be injured while working on your property or damage something on your property. If the person doing work on your property is not an employee of Reynolds Metering Services they can shift liability to their “contractor” who in many cases may not understand that they are in fact a contractor and may be under the impression they are an employee with Reynolds Metering. Even if they are fully aware they are a contractor it has been our experience that they do not have proper insurance or fully understand what the designation of “contractor” means to them legally. For the record we feel they should (and would be) classified as an employee under IRS Guidelines, but officially Reynolds Metering calls them “contractors”. This is why you should have a relationship with the actual person performing the services, not just the middle man, in this case Reynolds Metering Services.
Further many Meter Readers and Service Techs have reported that Reynolds Metering often pays their invoices every late, and in some cases not at all, this could be a liability for your property as Reynolds Metering’s sub-contractor (the person that is visiting your property) may be able to file a lien against some or all of your property until their services are paid for. Keeping a good working relationship with the person visiting your site every month could help avoid these headaches. Reynolds Metering will be more likely to treat their contractors honestly if they know they risk losing your property permanently if they behave in a dishonest manner. Reynolds Metering can and does replace Meter Readers and Service Techs regularly, so you the property owner have all the leverage whereas the meter reader has almost no leverage other than legal actions such as a lien, it is your best interest to let Reynolds Metering, and the Meter Reader / Service Tech know that you want all parties to be treated fairly and honestly.
Keep a Log
You should also obtain a copy of the written log from the Meter Reader / Service Tech every time they read, compare this written log with what is reported by Reynolds Metering. We have been told by other property owners that have done this that Reynolds Metering will alter readings to make them “look ok” and so as not to alert anyone of any problems There is a variety of reasons they will do this but one reason could be because they have such a high turn over rate that they will estimate entire reading cycles (or multiple reading cycles) with out telling the property they were given estimated readings, then when actual reads are obtained they “adjust” the actual readings so they appear normal because their estimated reads were soooo far off. So obtaining a written log is VERY important if you have been given a new reader.
Obtaining a copy of the written log also ensures you know that the meter reader was actually on site, if Reynolds Metering can not find a meter reader to service a property will the often estimate also known as “curbing” the readings with out telling the property or your billing company, this mean your residents could very well be paying MORE or LESS than they should, and you (or your billing company) will still be charged for the services even if they did not perform the service you contracted them to (physically reading the meters). We think this is fraud, but I doubt any prosecutor will press criminal charges so it is up to YOU the property owner to protect your residents from inaccurate utility bills based on curbed reads.
Keeping a Log of the time in, and time out will also give you a good indication if the Meter Reader is faking anything. Reynolds Metering pays very low wages, and does not appear to have any safe guards in place to prevent a meter reader from just making things up, if a reader check out 5 mins after arriving on site and claims to have read 300 meters I would strongly suspect something is amiss
Trust but Verify
At a minimum of once ever quarter you should have a member of your staff go around to audit the readings. You should do it on or as close to the same day as the day Reynolds Metering should be reading. 10% to 15% of the meters should be checked to ensure Reynolds Metering and/or the electronic equipment (if meters are read Electronic) are working properly. This will ensure you catch any curbing that may be occurring on your property, protect your residents, and yourself from liability. In most regions billing for utilities is highly regulated, and it will not be Reynolds Metering the government fines, it will be YOU being proactive in monitoring is the best way to keep your residents happy, and the government at bay.
If your having service work done, send a member of your staff to verify that everything appears to be in working order, ensure there are no leaks in water meters, etc. Often time Reynolds Metering “technicians” just answered an ad from craigslist or ebay and have no experience working on utility meters, they will often get over the phone instructions or emailed instructions on what to do from the Reynolds Metering offices in Indianapolis. While you might be able to get damages out of Reynolds Metering or the person that did the work chances are that will be a long legal battle, it is best to PREVENT the damage in the first place by having someone inspect the work that was completed.
You can also request to know the experience of the person they are sending as well as if they are Licensed and bonded to do the work in your state, Chances are the answer to that question is no. We have information that indicated Reynolds Metering pays its service techs a very low wage compared to that of a normal plumber or electrician would receive to do the same work. Chances are the person servicing your property is just someone that as suffered some bad luck in this economy and happen to be unlucky enough to answer a Reynolds Metering “employment” ad.
Insurance is King
Make sure you have a current Certificate of Insurance, the coverage are enough to cover any damaged you feel might be incurred.
You also need to contact the listed insurance company YOURSELF to verify the insurance police is active AND that is covers independent contractors, we have been told that is possible that Reynolds Metering is issuing COI’s on policies that are not active, and even if they are active is does not cover any contractors that would be doing work on your properly, so in effect the COI’s are worthless to you. It is imperative that any person doing work on your property have liability insurance, we do not believe Reynolds Metering extends any liability insurance to their contractors nor do we believe Reynolds Metering requires or even encourages their contractors to obtain liability insurance. This is a major problem for YOU the property owner, not for Reynolds Metering.