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Winter Disconnection Rules for Electric, Gas and Steam Customers

During the winter months, there is increased protection for customers of electric, natural gas and steam utilities. While customers can still be disconnected if they fail to make payments on their gas, electric or steam bills, it is more difficult to be disconnected in the winter time.

From November 15 to March 31, an electric utility may not disconnect a customer’s service:

  • If the customer does not use electric service for heating and the balance owed for service provided is less than $225;
  • If the customer does not use gas service for heating and the balance owed for service provided is less than $125;
  • If the customer has electric, gas, or steam heat, the utility may not disconnect service if the balance owed for service provided is less than $450.

Utilities must seek commission approval before disconnecting the service of residential customers known to be 65 years or older and customers with a known financial hardship.

If you think you qualify for financial hardship status as defined below, please contact your utility for further assistance.

Section Puc 1202.10 “Financial hardship” means a residential customer has provided the utility with evidence of current enrollment of the customer or the customer’s household in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the Electric Assistance Program, the Neighbor Helping Neighbor Program, the Link-Up and Lifeline Telephone Assistance Programs, their successor programs or any other federal, state or local government program or government funded program of any social service agency which provides financial assistance or subsidy assistance for low income households based upon a written determination of household financial eligibility.

In addition to the protections described above, no residential customer can be disconnected during the winter period for non-payment of a deposit or portion of a deposit.

If you are having difficulty keeping up with your bills during the winter months, please contact your local utility. Balanced billing or budget billing arrangements are available from most utilities, and payment arrangements are available from all utilities.


PART Puc 1204 WINTER RULES

          Puc 1204.01  Scope of Winter Rules.  Puc 1204, Winter Rules, shall apply only to public utilities providing gas, electric and steam service to the public in the state of New Hampshire excluding limited electrical energy producers as defined in RSA 362-A.  The requirements of this section shall be in addition to those disconnection provisions of Puc 1203.11 and Puc 1203.12.   Where the circumstances triggering the application of Puc 1204 and Puc 1205 occur concurrently, the provisions of Puc 1205 shall govern. 

Source.  #6245, eff 5-14-96; ss by #8075, INTERIM, eff
4-29-04, EXPIRES: 10-26-04; ss by #8192, eff 10-22-04; ss by #9990, eff 9-16-11

          Puc 1204.02  Applicability of Winter Rules.

          (a)  The provisions of Puc 1204 shall apply only to residential customers of gas, electric, and steam utilities.

          (b)  Arrearages existing on customers’ bills prior to the winter period shall not make a customer eligible for disconnection during the winter unless the arrearages exceed, either singly or when added to winter arrearages, the amount noted in 1204.03 below.

Source.  #6245, eff 5-14-96; ss by #8075, INTERIM, eff
4-29-04, EXPIRES: 10-26-04; ss and moved by #8192, eff
10-22-04 (from Puc 1204.01); ss by #9990, eff 9-16-11

          Puc 1204.03  Protection from Disconnection.

          (a)  An arrearage resulting from non-payment of bills for service rendered during the winter and non-winter period shall exceed the following amounts before a notice of disconnection for a primary residence can be sent:

(1)  For gas non-heating customers, $125;

(2)  For electric non-heating customers, $225; and

(3)  For electric, gas and steam heating customers, $450.

          (b)  Notwithstanding (a) above, during the winter period utilities shall seek commission approval before disconnecting the service of residential customers known to be 65 years or older.

          (c)  No residential customer shall be disconnected during the winter period for non-payment of a deposit or portion of deposit.

Source.  #6245, eff 5-14-96; ss by #8075, INTERIM, eff
4-29-04, EXPIRES: 10-26-04; ss and moved by #8192, eff
10-22-04 (from Puc 1204.02); ss by #9990, eff 9-16-11

          Puc 1204.04  Payment Arrangements.

          (a)  During the winter period, the requirements of Puc 1203.07 relative to payment arrangements shall be replaced by the following:

(1)  For non-financial hardship customers, the payment arrangement shall include a promise to pay the current bill on or before the due date and permit repayment of the arrearage in equal installments over the winter period and the 6 months following the conclusion of the winter period; and

(2)  For financial hardship customers, the payment arrangement shall consist of monthly payments equal to:

a.  10% of the monthly total balance due for the duration of the winter period; or

b.  10% of the total balance due and the projected future monthly bills.

          (b)  Notwithstanding the provisions of (a) above, no utility shall be required to change the terms of existing payment arrangements to comply with the provisions of (a) above unless so requested by the customer.

          (c)  At the end of the winter period, customers having arrearages shall be provided an opportunity to make a payment arrangement pursuant to Puc 1203.07 and the following requirements:

(1)  The payment arrangement shall permit repayment of the arrearage in equal installments over the 6 months following the conclusion of the winter period; and

(2)  The payment arrangement shall establish arrearage payments which shall be in addition to payment of current bills.

          (d)  Customers claiming financial hardship under this section shall provide evidence of financial hardship to the utility on an annual basis.

Source.  #6245, eff 5-14-96; ss by #8075, INTERIM, eff
4-29-04, EXPIRES: 10-26-04; ss and moved by #8192, eff
10-22-04 (from Puc 1204.03); ss by #9990, eff 9-16-11

          Puc 1204.05  Winter Period Notice of Disconnection.

          (a)  In addition to the notice of disconnection required by Puc 1203.11 and Puc 1203.12, during the winter period notice shall be provided to an adult who occupies the affected residence in the following manner:

(1)  In person or by telephone; and

(2)  A minimum of 2 business days but no more than 8 business days prior to the date of the proposed disconnection.

          (b)  If the utility is unable to notify an adult occupant of the affected residence pursuant to (a) above, the utility shall seek commission approval pursuant to Puc 201.05 before disconnecting service.

          (c)  When seeking commission approval, pursuant to (b) above, the utility shall inform the commission of:

(1)  Customer's age or estimate thereof;

(2)  The number of children in the household under the age of 5, if known;

(3)  The number of household members over the age of 65, if known;

(4)  Amount of the customer's arrearage;

(5)  Date and amount of the last 3 payments;

(6)  The existence of any current or prior medical emergency certifications for the customer or household members; and

(7)  The existence of any financial hardship, if known;

          (d)  The commission shall not approve disconnection of service to customers when the following conditions exist:

(1)  The customer has financial hardship; and

(2)  The customer has made a good faith effort to make payments towards the utility bill.

          (e)  Customers claiming financial hardship under this section shall provide evidence of financial hardship to the utility on an annual basis.

Source.  #8192, eff 10-22-04 (from Puc 1204.04); ss by #9990, eff 9-16-11

          Puc 1204.06  Review of Pre-Winter Period Disconnections.

          (a)  For customers disconnected for non-payment from April 15 through October 15 and whose account remains inactive as of November 1, the company shall send a letter via first class mail no later than November 7 to the last known customer of record for that service address.

          (b)  The letter shall include the following:

(1)  The customer’s name;

(2)  The service address;

(3)  A statement that the utility’s records show the customer was disconnected for non-payment and the date on which the disconnection occurred;

(4)  A statement directing the customer to contact the utility to arrange to have utility service restored;

(5)  The utility’s toll free customer service telephone number; and

(6)  The toll free telephone number of the commission’s consumer affairs division.

          (c)  In addition to the letter described in (b) above, electric, gas and steam utilities shall place no fewer than 2 advertisements in newspapers with a circulation covering the majority of their franchise area during the month of October which:

(1)  Explain the reconnection policy for financial hardship and medical emergency customers;

(2)  Provide the utility’s toll free customer service telephone number; and

(3)  Provide the toll free telephone number of the commission’s consumer affairs division.

          (d)  Customers who contact the utility shall be offered a payment arrangement where 10% of the outstanding balance shall be sufficient to restore service where the customer provides evidence that a financial hardship exists.

          (e)  The utility shall provide the names, addresses and telephone numbers of social service agencies in the customer’s vicinity known to the utility as providing possible assistance with the payment of utility bills to customers who contact the company and are unable to make the minimum payment.

          (f)  Where a customer indicates that a household member has a medical emergency as defined in Puc 1202.12, the utility shall inform the customer of his/her rights as detailed in Puc 1205 and service will be restored upon:

(1) Receipt of a licensed physician’s, advanced practice registered nurse’s, physician’s assistant’s  or mental health practitioner’s certification of medical emergency; and

(2)  Establishment of a payment arrangement in accordance with Puc 1203.07.

          (g)  Annually, the utility shall submit a report to the commission no later than December 10 summarizing:

(1)  The number of letters mailed;

(2)  The number of letters returned;

(3)  The number of customers whose service was restored;

(4)  The number of customers whose service was not restored; and

(5)  The reasons why service was not restored, if known.

Source.   #8192, eff 10-22-04; ss by #9990, eff 9-16-11