Student Housing Business

MAR-APR 2018

Student Housing Business is the voice of the student housing industry.

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SMARTER OPERATIONS March/April 2018 123 Fostering Responsibility & Reaching Residents Management teams and vendors are creating positive, efficient billing and collections practices by promoting personal responsibility and clear communication. By Amy Bigley Works F For the student housing industry, billing and collections are standard operating practice, but that doesn't mean it has to be dry or bor- ing. Management teams can use the process as a way to foster responsibility and reliance in residents, especially first-time student renters. Cultivating a culture of responsibility and reaching student residents through their pre- ferred method of interaction are keys to creat- ing a successful billing and collections envi- ronment. Operators and third-party vendors are implementing programming that allows residents to interact and pay monthly bills or past-due notices via online platforms acces- sible through computers or mobile devices. Reaching Residents: Collections From monthly bills to collections, it's evi- dent that today's residents rely on mobile devices and online interactions. Hunter Warfield, a third-party collections agency with an active client base of more than 2 million units, revamped its online offerings to be mobile friendly over the past year. The com- pany has experienced a more than 300 percent increase with online client interactions since the re-launch. Offering residents the ability to pay bills online, whether monthly expenses or past-due bills, creates a positive and familiar user expe- rience for students and guarantors, and these are key elements to getting accounts paid quickly. "Many students are accustomed to mobile bank- ing and bill pay, so BYL provides them with an easy- to-use, mobile- friendly website," explains Ryan Howard, vice president of busi- ness development with West Chester, P e n n s y l v a n i a - based BYL Collections, which provides com- pliant debt collection services nationwide. "Students are able to view open balances, review charge details and schedule payment options." When it comes to reaching residents and guarantors for collection issues, user-friendly payment options help achieve quick payment, but gathering and passing along accurate and complete data and contact information is essential. For successful collections, it is cru- cial that this information and data be collected upfront and verified so contact with residents and guarantors can be made if issues arise. "Data and document deficiencies in the accounts we receive from com- munities are one of our biggest challenges in liq- uidating student debt for our cli- ents," says Drew Masten, of Denver- based RD Fuller Company, which provides accounts receivable man- agement solutions to multifamily operators. "When accounts are miss- ing essential information and documentation like social security numbers, signed leases or security deposit dispositions, it can make it a lot more difficult to locate past residents or overcome account disputes." While incomplete or inaccurate data is a big obstacle in reaching residents, the push toward electronic submission of collection files, which is familiar territory for both man- agement teams and residents, may offer a positive impact for the whole industry. Most collections vendors are integrated with property management software, such as Yardi, OneSite, RealPage and Entrata, and, when accounts are submitted electronically, it not only streamlines the submission process, expedites placements and maintains commu- nity accountability for clients, it also gives col- lectors access to a greater set of resident data that the company can use to best service each account, explains Masten. For the generation of early adopters in the student housing realm, LeaseLock offers an alternative to traditional collections. The nationwide insurance program shifts the pos- sibility of collections into a low monthly pay- ment that is paid by the renters, eliminating the need for a property to collect a security or damage deposit or require a guarantor on a lease. The program eliminates the use of deposits and allows operators to move to a pure claims-based insurance program. RYAN HOWARD Vice President of Business Development, BYL Collections DREW MASTEN President, RD Fuller Company " Data and document deficiencies in the accounts we receive from communities are one of our biggest challenges in liquidating student debt for our clients. — Drew Masten, President of Denver-based RD Fuller Company

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