Can An Electric Company Cut Off Power During Winter Months If A Customer Cannot Pay All Their Bill

Most states have policies regarding what their electric companies can do to you if you can’t pay your bill. Some base their disconnection rules on temperature and others base them on dates and seasons. A few do not provide customers with much protection at all. In most circumstances, a utility company cannot disconnect your power if you cannot pay your bill in full without warning you first and offering you options for payment.

Dated-Based States

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 32 states will not allow your electric company to turn your service off for nonpayment in the winter, as long as you enter into some kind of payment arrangement with them to catch up any past due amount. This protection period begins on Nov. 1 in Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. In Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Washington, it begins on Nov. 15. If you live in Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania or West Virginia, protection begins on Dec. 1. Minnesota’s protection period begins on Oct. 15. Depending on where you live, you’re covered until at least Feb. 28 and no later than May 1.

Temperature-Based States

Some states will protect you from service interruption depending on the weather, either in addition to the winter months or in lieu of them. Utility companies in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Washington, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Wyoming can’t turn your electric off if the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In Iowa, you can’t lose your power if the temperature drops to 20 degrees or lower. Kansas’ limit is 35 degrees and Nevada’s limit is 15 degrees. Vermont prohibits disconnection below 10 degrees. Montana protects only the disabled, the elderly and those receiving public assistance if the temperature is below 32 degrees.

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States with Few or No Restrictions

Kentucky does not allow power interruption from November through March, but only if you’re receiving public assistance. Alaska only protects disabled citizens and those who are seriously ill. California, Colorado, Oregon and Tennessee will work with you if you have a doctor’s note confirming a medical condition. Florida, Hawaii and Virginia do not offer electric customers any protection at all. Louisiana will only delay disconnection for 63 days if you or a family member has a condition that would be endangered without the power, and North Dakota will give you 30 days to come up with the money if you’re elderly, disabled or ill. New York will not allow the electric company to disconnect your service during a two-week period covering Christmas and New Year’s, or if there’s a life support system in your home. Ohio electric companies will allow you to pay a minimal amount to avoid disconnection in the winter.

Options and Loopholes

The electric companies in most states will not turn your service off if you call them, explain your problem and work out payment arrangements. As of 2009, you could pay only 25 percent of your total bill to avoid disconnection in New Jersey. Connecticut won’t allow your power turned off if the electric company is not open for business the next day.

Warning

The Department of Health and Human Services indicates that government policies might not restrict all electric companies in every state. If you get your power from a rural cooperative or municipality, those companies might be exempt from state policies.

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