Landlords! Here’s how to make utility management easy

+ Jess Chai reveals how to smite your utility management woes with an incredibly simple solution

Once upon a time there was a newbie property investor. She loved buying houses and renting them. Every so often an issue would present itself and our sweet naive property investor would freak out! Oft she would scream “Curse you Coventry city tax! What is this bill for?!”, and on occasion “Why are you overcharging me?!” but her refrain was the same: “Who do I call to rectify this injustice?!”

When she wanted to buy another house, a magical mortgage broker requested she present him with details of her current mortgages. She would sulk back to her abode and sob “Oh golly, what on earth is the mortgage account number for 103 unicorn lane?”

As you can imagine dear reader it was quite the stressful time for our sweet newbie property investor. To find the details needed, she would have to rifle through thousands of (ye olde) e-mails or search intensely within property folders. It was very time-consuming. One day she decided she had had enough.

There must be a better way!

castle, fairy tale, utility management
Twas in the tallest room, of the tallest tower, that our fair maiden pondered her utility management woes

Fast forward 30 minutes into the future!

30 minutes of hardcore thinking later, she’d cracked it! The Utility Management Spreadsheet (UMS) was born! She then spent her next few hours filing in her Utility Management Spreadsheet – one for each property) and vowed to always fill it in within the first month of completing on a property:

How to create your own UMS

  • Edit the UMS to suit your needs: If it’s a flat, there may be a management company who replace lost key fobs for you and sort out your insurance. I have found it very useful having their number to hand. You may wish to put on your letting agent’s details on the sheet too.
  • Get the previous owner/tenants to fill in the sheet: Send a blank copy to the estate agent/sourcer/whoever you are buying the property from, and ask them to fill out as much as they can. They may not be able to do it all but it will certainly save you some researching time. The main row you want them to fill out is the utility supplier and MAKE SURE you get the landline number. You will need this if you or your tenants intend on getting Internet services (Otherwise it is a ball ache to obtain if it is not registered on BTs online database).
  • Print off a hard copy and put it as the first page in that property’s ring binder: At the risk of making an ass out of you and me, I am assuming everyone has a ring binder for each property too.
  • Print off another hard copy (without passwords) and give to your tenant: They will love you. In my experience, they will love you even more if you call up all the providers before and put all the bills in their name for them. Personally, I have not understood why they appreciate this but I am not one to query appreciation. Also, if you self-manage your properties, the tenant knows who to call instead of them calling you to sort it out.
utility management, spreadsheets, property
Ah! The ever popular “screenshot-of-a-spreadsheet”, gaze upon it’s wondrous prosaic charm. Download the UMS template here.

And they all lived (something) every after

From then on, if council taxes overcharged her, she had the account number, property reference number and details of the person who could resolve the issue on the UMS. If tenants needed the details of the utility providers and account numbers, it was on the UMS. Finally, she was able to lead and much more peaceful and organised life, all thanks to the UMS!

Once complete, she attached it to the front cover of each property’s folder and she lived happily ever after… until the next crisis.

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