During the winter, the rules apply when a utility company tries to shut off an electric or gas for nonpayment of a bill or deposit where gas or electricity is used operate a heating system.
- At least 6 business days before the scheduled shut off date, the utility must notify you, or an adult living with you, either by telephone, a personal visit, or by first-class mail that your service may be shut off.
- They must offer you a winter deferred payment arrangement.
- They cannot ask you to pay more than 10% of the money you owe as a down payment, and you have at least 4 months to pay what you owe.
- They must offer you a fair and easy payment plan for future bills. Under this plan, the utility calculates a monthly average amount to cover the estimated annual cost of service.
- They have to tell you which government and private agencies can help you pay your bills.
- They cannot make you pay more than 20% down on any deposit it asks for and must allow you an additional 4 months to pay the rest of the deposit.
- They cannot refuse to offer you a deferred payment arrangement (DPA) because you defaulted on another DPA within the past 12 months. However, the utility does not have to offer you a DPA more than once during the winter period.
If you are part of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- The utility may not shut off your gas or electricity for your heating system service for nonpayment of a bill or deposit from December 1 to March 31.
- You can ask the utility company to subtract your LIHEAP grant amount from the balance due under the DPA. This could reduce the amount of your monthly payments.
- You can ask the utility company to set aside your LIHEAP grant from the balance you owe under the DPA and apply the funds to the amount for current usage.
- They cannot shut off your service if you are part of LIHEAP or if you have not defaulted on a DPA.
- The utility cannot disconnect service for nonpayment of a bill or deposit if you are a current member of the armed forces or veteran between December 1 and March 31.
- A utility that served more than 100,000 electric customers shall not shut off electric or gas service for nonpayment between December 1 and March 31.
If the utility did not correctly follow shut off rules, the termination of utility service would be illegal.
Reconnecting utilities after a shut off during the heating season
The heating season is different for low-income customers on LIHEAP than general customers:
- LIHEAP customers: the period between October 1 and the following April 1.
- General customers: the period between November 1 and the following April 1.
If your gas or electric utilities have been shut off, the utility must reconnect you during the heating season if you meet certain requirements:
- You must have been disconnected for not paying a bill or a deposit sometime between December 1 of the prior winter's heating season and April 1 of the current heating season;
- You must not have used the reconnection rules the previous year;
- You must have paid 1/3 of the total bill from the last December 1;
- You must not have tampered with the utility's equipment or enjoyed the benefits of such tampering; and
- You must enter into a deferred payment arrangement (DPA) with the utility where you immediately pay 1/3 of the amount past due, 1/3 of the required deposit, and 1/3 of any reconnection charge.
- If you can show a financial inability to pay the 1/3 down of the past due amount and 1/3 down of any required deposit, the utility must accept a reasonable amount. A reasonable amount is considered at least 20% down of the past-due amount and 20% of the required deposit.
- If you are a qualified low-income customer, you automatically qualify for the 20% financial inability payment.
- You must agree to a payment schedule for the remaining balances where you are given at least 4 months to pay off the past-due balance and at least 3 months to pay off the deposit balance.
If you are low income, you can apply for Reconnection Assistance through LIHEAP and get your utilities reconnected within 48 hours. If you are in a life-threatening crisis, you can get your services reconnected within 18 hours.
Chicago heat ordinance
This Chicago ordinance requires landlords to supply heat to their rental units during cold weather when tenants do not have individual control of their heat.
From September 15 - June 1, the temperature inside a rental residence must be at least:
- 65 degrees from 7:30am to 8:30 am
- 68 degrees from 8:30am to 10:30pm
- 63 degrees from 10:30pm to 7:30am
Landlords can be fined up to $500 per day, per violation, for each day they do not supply adequate heat. The reason for lack of heat does not matter, landlords must follow the law, and apartments must be heated.
If your landlord is not providing adequate heat or no heat at all, contact 311 to file a complaint.