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John Souerbry's Blog

By John Souerbry | Broker in Palo Alto, CA

Home Owners: Five Reasons To Keep Utility Bills

When it comes to keeping copies of their utility bills, property tax bills, or even mortgage statements, homeowners run the full range from tossing the bills when they pay them to keeping them for many years past when they need to.  Here are five reasons why homeowners should keep copies of their utility bills on file for a reasonable period of time.

1.  Dispute Resolution.  If the paper trail you keep for home expenses consists of a box of cancelled checks, you have proof of payment but no information to back up why your bill is the amount you’re being charged.  If you’re being charged for excess usage that wasn’t yours or being charged a commercial rate when you should be charged the residential rate, it’s better to have a copy of your bill in hand rather that than to rely on the utility company to admit their mistake based on their own records.

2.  Rate Change Comparisons.  A couple times per year, compare recent bills with a few that are six to twelve months old to see if rates have changed drastically.  Utility companies are supposed to announce rate changes well ahead of time, but those notices can slip by us.

3.  Usage Change Comparisons.  Track changes in usage based on seasons, the purchase of new appliances, or other influences.  Understanding how you use energy and other utilities can help you control household spending.

4.  Proof Of Residency.  There are times when we’re asked to show proof of residency for one reason or another, whether we rent or own our home.  The most common documents requested for this purpose are recent or current utility bills, property tax bills, and leases.  An example in my area is use of the local trash dump operated by the city for the sole use of city residents.  A driver license is not considered proof of residency.

5.  Disclosure At Time Of Sale.  A frequent question asked by potential buyers is “what are current utility rates and how much is your typical bill?”  Usage will obviously vary based upon seasons, family size, lifestyle, intended use of the property, etc., but it is customary to provide anywhere from three to twelve months of utility bills to buyers during the inspection period.

Filing utility bills doesn’t have to be time-consuming or take up a lot of space.  Simply write the date and check number on the bill and slip it into a pocket folder or small box, then shred bills more than twelve months old every few months.  Save even more space by scanning bills onto your computer hard drive and shredding as you go – just remember to back up your hard drive on a regular basis!

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John A. Souerbry & Associates (DRE 01370983)  Northern California Real Estate

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