Special Rules for the Winter Months

Special Rules for the Winter Months

Last updated: December 2004

Winter re-connection rules

If your utility service has been disconnected for non-payment of a bill or deposit at any time since December 1 of the prior winter, you can get service turned back on between November 1 and April 1 of the current heating season, if you satisfy special winter re-connection rules.

To qualify, you must not have used the special winter re-connection rules the previous year. Also, you must have paid at least 1/3 of all utility services charged since December 1 of the prior winter. You cannot qualify for special winter re-connection if the utility can prove you benefitted from any tampering with its equipment.

If you qualify in this way, then the utility company must reconnect your service as soon as possible, provided you enter into a deferred payment agreement with the utility company, pay 1/3 of the amount past due and pay 1/3 of any required deposit. If you can show the utility company that you cannot afford to pay those amounts, you can get reconnected upon paying 20% of the amount past due and 20% of any required deposit.

Can the utility shut-off my service during the winter month? 

A utility company may shut-off your service for a variety of reasons. However, where gas or electric service is necessary to heat your residence, shut off is prohibited on any day when the National Weather Service forecasts, for the area of your residence, that the temperature will be 32 degrees or less at any time during the following 24 hours. Likewise, shut off is prohibited on any day before a weekend or holiday if the forecast indicates that the temperature will be 32 degrees or less during the weekend or holiday.

Also, shut off is prohibited for up to 60 days whenever the shut off will aggravate an existing serious illness of any person living in the residence. You must have a doctor or local board of health certify the illness.

During the winter months, (December 1 through March 31) the electric and gas utilities are prohibited from shutting off service necessary to heat the residence unless the utility has first offered the customer a deferred payment agreement and a levelized payment plan. The maximum down payment which the utility can demand for a deferred payment agreement in this situation is 10% of the amount due. In a levelized plan, the customer pays for current service in approximately the same dollar amount every month. In addition, the utility must provide the customer threatened with shut off with names and numbers of agencies that help people pay their utility bills.

If you receive a winter shut off notice, you have six business days from the date of the notice before the utility company can act. You must move quickly. Talk to the company about it. If you get no results, contact an attorney immediately. Don't wait until your utilities are shut off. You have more rights before your utilities are shut off. If your utilities have been shut off, you may have to pay the entire charge to be reconnected, unless you qualify for the winter re-connection rules.

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