How to Deal with Utility Disconnections
Utilities are vital to everyday life. It can be easy to take them for granted, but like other services, you must keep up with payments. If you have difficulty keeping up with those payments, you risk a disconnection.
There are ways to stop or stall a disconnection, and programs designed to help those in need.
Why Would Utilities Get Cut Off?
The most common reason that a utility suspension happens is an unpaid balance. Sometimes bills are not paid due to negligence or financial hardship. Whatever the reason, your power, water, and gas companies will shut off services until you have repaid your utility debt unless you take precautions to keep them on.
What does a Shut-Off Look Like?
Utility companies allow for a grace period before they start their process of collecting payments. Then, they will issue both verbal and written warnings to let you know that you are delinquent on your payments.
Finally, they will send shut-off warnings and forward your balance to a collection agency. If you still haven’t paid an acceptable amount, they will execute a utility shutoff.
Who Oversees Utilities in Ohio?
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) regulates energy and utility companies. PUCO regulates providers of all kinds of utility services, including electric and natural gas companies, local and long-distance telephone companies, water and wastewater companies, rail, and trucking companies. They protect our consumer rights as they are related to utility companies.
Are There Any Exceptions to Shut-Offs?
There are exceptions to most rules, including those that surround utility disconnections. For instance, periods of inclement weather and families with medical conditions can result in extended payment windows for customers. You must contact your utility company and go through the proper steps to qualify for an extension.
How Can I Keep my Utilities Connected?
If you find yourself in a difficult situation and are struggling financially, there are steps for you to take to avoid having your utilities shut off or restarted.
Utility Assistance Programs
A Utility Assistance Program (UAP) is designed to help eligible low-income Ohioans meet the high costs of home heating. These programs are government funded, and you can apply for them through the PUCO page.
By filing for bankruptcy, you create a legal protection where creditors cannot come after you for unpaid bills. A bankruptcy court now handles everything and becomes the main source of liquidation and disbursement of funds. It also means that companies cannot discontinue your service while everything is being settled.
What Happens if My Utilities are Shut Off?
If you have reached the point where your utilities are shut off, check with the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This assists eligible low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs, bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, weatherization, and energy-related home repairs.
Tips to Reduce Utility Use
You can always take steps to keep your utility bills low and affordable:
- Only run your air conditioning during the hottest hours
- Turn down your heat a bit so it is not constantly blasting
- Cut your shower time and do not water your lawn
Get Assistance with Your Utility Debt from Cleveland Bankruptcy Attorneys
If you are having trouble paying your utility bills and facing a disconnection, a Cleveland bankruptcy lawyer can help you. The Cleveland bankruptcy attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates have years of experience helping clients in the same situation.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (216) 586-6600, or through our online form to see what we can do for you.