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Can my utilities be shut off?

Authored By: Nassau Suffolk Law Services
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Contenido

Introduction

 

Utility companies must follow proper shut-off procedures. If you are having trouble paying your utility bills or your gas or electric has been shut-off, this resource is for you. 

 

Click to expand the boxes in the FAQ to learn more about utility shut-off procedures.

 

FAQ

When can my utilities be shut off? +

 

  • In most cases, your utilities can only be shut off if the utility company sent you a Termination Notice at least 15 days before.
  • Termination notices may not be sent until you are at least 20 days late on your bill.
  • If you receive a Termination Notice, you can pay the overdue bill or make a payment arrangement to keep your utilities from being shut off. 
  • Your utility company can shut off your service only between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm from Monday through Thursday.
  • Your utility company can never shut off your service on a Friday.
  • Your service cannot be shut off on a public holiday, the day before a holiday, the week between and including Christmas and New Year's Day, or on any day before your utility business office closed.

Can my utilities be shut off because I owe the company a deposit, equipment or installation fee? +

 

Yes, if you are more than 20 days late to pay for equipment or installation charges or a lawfully required deposit, your utilities could be shut off 15 days after you receive a Termination Notice. 

When is the utility prohibited from shutting off service? +

 

If you have not received a Termination Notice or it has not been 15 days since you received the final Termination Notice, the utility company cannot shut off service.

 

If a doctor has certified to your utility company that you or someone in your household is experiencing a "medical emergency", the utility company cannot shut off service. See medical certification.

 

If you do not agree with the bill and you are in the middle of a formal complaint process concerning the amount owed on the bill, the utility company cannot shut off service.

 

If you pay the bill in full when the company comes to shut off your service, the utility company cannot shut off service.

If you make a payment agreement with your utility company that will cover the amount owed, the utility company cannot shut off service.

My landlord pays the utility bill. Can my utilities be shut off if they don’t pay the bill? +

 

Yes, but you have to be notified first and given an opportunity to prevent the shut off.

There are rules about notification and there are rules about what is considered an opportunity to prevent the shut off. Most of the rules are below. 

The company must:

  • give a written notice of termination to the owner or person in charge of the building at least 15 days before the shut off date.
  • give notice of heat-related service termination at least 30 days before the shut off date if between November 1 and April 15
  • post the notice in a place everyone in the building can see at least 15 days before the shut off date or 30 days before the shut off date if notice is given between November 1 and April 15 for heat-related service. 
  • mail written notice of termination to each occupant at least 18 days before the shut off date or 30 days before the shut off date if notice is given between November 1 and April 15 for heat-related service. 

If you make arrangements with PSEG to pay your landlord's current bill or open a new account in your name the utility should not shut off utilities because the landlord failed to pay.

PSEG cannot require you to pay the landlord's back payment in order to keep your service, as long as you stay current on the bill.

 

If you have an agreement with your landlord that your rent includes utilities, you may decide to subtract your utility payments from your future rent. It is strongly suggested that you consult with an attorney before you decide to do this.

Can my utilities be shut off if I have a medical condition? +

 

There are special safeguards for people who have certain medical conditions or are facing a health emergency.

You are still responsible for paying your bill. You can make a payment arrangement with your utility company.

You can also submit a medical certification letter to your utility company to prevent a shut off if a shut off would make your medical condition worse.

 

What can I do if I can’t pay my bill? +

 

You can call your utility company to make a payment plan that will prevent them from shutting off your service.

The utility company is required by law to offer a "fair and equitable" deferred payment agreement (DPA) based on your financial situation.

Under a DPA you agree to pay current bills plus the DPA amount to pay back what you owe over time. 

Ask for the Determination of Customer Resources form.

Once complete you complete this financial questionnaire, you must be considered for the lowest down payment (as little as $0) and monthly arrears payment (as low as $10).

 

If the DPA offered to you is not affordable, you do not have to sign it. You can appeal to PSEG by calling 800-490-0025 and then to the PSC (See Utility complaints procedure) to ask for a "fair and equitable" plan.

If you file an appeal, the utility cannot shut off your service until the complaint is resolved.

 

If after signing a DPA, your financial situation changes, call PSEG to let them know. You can ask for an updated payment arrangement. 

 

If you fail to pay as you agreed on your DPA, you will face another shutoff.

  • Read more about DPA and your rights in this FAQ resource from the Utility Project

 

 

Can I get public assistance to help pay my bill? +

 

If you have received a Termination Notice, you or someone who you have chosen to represent you can take the shut off notice to the Department of Social Services (DSS) for help. If your service is scheduled to be shut off within the next few days (72 hours), tell DSS.

 

If you have an open DSS case which gives you financial assistance and/or rent payments, you can ask your worker to stop the shutoff and guarantee future utility payments.

To do this you will have to sign a form asking DSS to "restrict your utility allowance."

This means DSS will pay and guarantee your future utility bills for you, but you will get less in your biweekly public assistance payments. This is usually the quickest solution.

 

If you are not on public assistance and need assistance now, going to the DSS office in person will be the fastest way to get help. Bring your shut off notice and apply for emergency assistance.

If the PSEG bill is in the name of an SSI recipient, there is no repayment agreement required.

If you qualify for HEAP, no repayment agreement is required. All other emergency grant require a two-year repayment agreement.

You can read more about applying for HEAP on NY.gov

What if I have an emergency? Where can I get help? +

 

For utility, food and housing emergencies, visit your local DSS office in Nassau or Suffolk. After 4:00pm the emergency number for Nassau is 516-573-8626. After 4:00pm the emergency number for Suffolk is 631-854-9100.

I need more information. +

 

If your question was not answered in this resource, find more answers in the Utility Project FAQ.

 

If you need to reach the Public Service Commission, visit the New York Department of Public Service website or call the PSC hotline.

The PSC hotline number is 1-800-342-3355 and is open from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm

 

If you have difficulty getting your utility problem addressed, call Nassau Suffolk Law Services at 516-292-8100 or 631-232-2400 to see if you are eligible for free legal services.

Last Review and Update: Dec 20, 2018
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