Throughout the winter families are forced to dig into their pockets for additional expenses. Among those expenses are rising utility bills. When facing the cold weather Wisconsin residents should know that they are legally protected against winter utility shutoffs. According to the Wisconsin Administrative Code customers may enter into a deferred payment plan that allows customers to avoid service disconnections. Under this plan utilities cannot be shut off when a customer pays a reasonable amount of the balance in installments.
Even when a deferred payment plan cannot be maintained certain circumstances prevent a utility company from disconnecting a customer’s utility service. The following are examples.
- When a customer is unable to pay between November 1st and April 15th if the utility is necessary for a heating system.
- During a heat advisory declared by the National Weather Service.
- When the shut-off would cause a medical emergency or interfere with protective services.
- When the disconnection is a result of a utility company knowingly assisting a landlord in the removal or eviction of a tenant.
Customers who are involved in a dispute with their utility company can file a complaint with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (“PSC”). The PSC assists residents who are unable to directly resolve disputes with their utility company by allowing them to file a complaint with a Consumer Specialist. The complaint may be filed by telephone, letter or through a form that can be found on the PSC website.
If you do not fall into one of the exceptions above and are facing a utility shut off you may be able to keep your power on by filing bankruptcy. The balance owed on the day you file bankruptcy will be discharged in the bankruptcy. You however are responsible to pay for any services after that time. Most utility companies will turn your power on and then require that a deposit be paid within 20 days to keep the service on. The deposit can be as high as two or three months of peak service.