I received this recipe from a seasoned housing operations professional who was tired of the same old meat and potatoes approach to damage billing. I have placed the ingredients in order of priority to achieving a well-balanced damage billing process. Serve this to you students and staff as a main course to evaluating or reinvigorating your student damage billing process. Bon appetite!
INGREDIENT ONE – 2 pounds of PROCESS (mix carefully into students and staff)
Defining and documenting your process is the main ingredient to a smooth and efficient damage billing process. Here are some questions to consider when evaluating your process and procedures:
a. Are your damage procedures carefully documented?
b. Are your damage procedures included in your staff manual or student handbook?
c. Are your damage procedures included as part of your staff training program?
d. Can any student at your college explain how the damage billing process works?
e. Are students not held accountable because your damage process is too cumbersome?
INGREDIENT TWO – 3 cups of COMMUNICATION
1) First cup – Mix very well and pour it throughout student community.
Communication is critical to responding to acts of community vandalism in a proactive manner. One of the easiest approaches is to post damages on floor/hall bulletin boards as they occur. You might also consider including damage billing information in hall newsletter or hall closing information. Maintaining a damage billing log in a central location or office is also helpful for students and staff that have questions.
2) Second cup – Mix well with housekeeping and service staff.
Communicating damages with housekeepers and facilities staff can be very helpful in identifying problem areas as they occur. Conducting regular building tours with facilities staff can be helpful in distinguishing vandalized items from items that are damaged due to wear and tear.
3) Third cup – Stir occasionally and save for staff meetings or one on one’s.
Including damage billing as an agenda item during staff one on one’ s or meetings can be helpful in discussing the underlying issues that are causing the damages. Frontline staff have a vested interest in knowing when acts of vandalism occur and its impact on their student community. The timeliness of these discussions can vary a great deal depending on the size of the staff. Ultimately what you want to avoid is waiting until a semester is over to address damage concerns that had occurred weeks earlier.
INGREDIENT THREE – 2 cups of STUDENT PARTICIPATION
Include building damages or acts of vandalism as an agenda item for your hall government or RHA meetings. Student leaders can have an important voice when discussing hall damage concerns and proposing solutions. Involve student leaders in building tours, floor meetings or damage inspections whenever possible.
INGREDIENT FOUR – 2 slices of DOCUMENTATION
Limit your check in and room condition to one or two forms at most. Having forms that are annually updated and easy to use makes processes easier for students and front line staff. Consider using carbon copy forms to allow students to receive a copy of their room condition after check out. Let students know at their point of check out if they will be charged for room damages. This can help eliminate phone calls when a student receives a damage bill from your institution.
INGREDIENT FIVE – 2 tablespoons of TECHNOLOGY
Do you make your staff shuffle through reams of damage charge forms and invoices to bill students? You might want to consider using email or spreadsheet software to report and process damage billings. There is also housing software systems designed to do everything from damage billing to housing assignments. Use information technology to help make your damage billing process easier and efficient.
INGREDIENT SIX -A dash of RECOGNITION
Damage billing processes are often punitive by nature. Have you also considered offering rewards for community’s where damages and vandalism are minimal? Rewards such as organizing a floor picnic, special dinners, floor amenity upgrades such as televisions and recreational equipment, are all ways of recognizing a community’s positive behavior over the negative. Ideally the best rewards are those that can benefit all students in a designated community.
Submitted by Chris Knoth