State-regulated utility companies will provide a customer information packet for you. This explains the terms of service, reasons for cutting off service and ways to renew service.
You can call the public utility regulatory commission in your state to see what rights you have. For instance, in some northern states, there are “cut-off” laws that prevent a utility or other heating-energy provider from stopping service during the cold months.
See if your gas or electric company has a “level payment plan” that keeps your bill the same each month. This makes it easier to plan your monthly expenses, before you get behind.
The utility company is not required by law to offer you a budget repayment plan if you are a delinquent customer. So before you get behind on the bill, discuss your plan with the customer service representative.
Plan conservation measures with your family. Decide how you can do it safely and still cut your costs.
Some steps you can take to conserve on energy costs:
Some steps you can take to cut your telephone costs:
Call, then write, the utility company immediately, before the due date for payment. Explain the reason for your inability to pay.
If a family member relies on an electric medical appliance, be sure the power company is aware of the medical danger of a service cut-off. In general, the power company will not cut off service to a household where a cut-off would pose a life-threatening danger.
Suggest a payment plan based on your current ability to pay. If you don’t have a plan, or if your plan is not acceptable, develop one with the company.
Once a customer has filed for bankruptcy, a utility company can’t change, refuse or stop service just because the customer can’t pay the bill. However, the customer must reapply for service within 20 days after filing with the bankruptcy court, or service may be stopped.
Telephone service may be disconnected if your bill is not paid within one week of notice of delinquency. Depending on your prior record and at the discretion of the company, a payment plan may be set up where you will not have service interrupted.
To get your telephone service again once you have been disconnected, you may be required to:
Your county agricultural agent has free information on wood-burning stoves, solar energy, portable kerosene heaters and weatherizing your home at low cost.
You may be eligible for financial assistance to weatherize your home. Check with your local community action agency for details.