Rules Protecting N.H. Residents From Winter Utility Disconnection Kick In Today

Concord Monitor
Published: 11/15/2018 12:32:18 AM
Modified: 11/15/2018 12:32:28 AM

Winter may be here by Friday with a few inches of snow in the forecast, and families struggling to keep up with their utility bills have options to avoid a shutoff.

The rules surrounding utility disconnections change slightly in the winter months to allow more protection for consumers that may be behind on their bills.

The winter period begins today and continues through March 31.

“The big benefit of the winter rules is the requirement that utility companies make extra flexibility in their payment arrangement systems,” said Stephen Tower, a staff attorney in New Hampshire Legal Assistance’s Concord office.

“In order to maintain service, (financial-hardship customers) are only required to pay 10 percent of the monthly balance during the duration of the winter period, or 10 percent of the total balance due in future projected monthly bills.”

Customers may qualify for financial-hardship status if they are enrolled in a financial assistance program through state or local government or a government-funded agency, according to the New Hampshire Public Utility Commission.

These are the rules for all residential customers where an electric utility may not shut off their service during the winter period:

■ If the customer has electric, gas or steam heat and the balance owed is less than $450.

■ If the customer does not use electricity for heating and the balance owed is less than $225.

■ If the customer does not use gas for heating and the balance owed is less than $125.

Utility companies are required to seek approval from the PUC before disconnecting service to a residential customer that is known to be 65 or older or has a known financial hardship.

In order to be disconnected, the utility first has to make contact in person or by phone with an adult member of the household at least two days before the shutoff, Tower said.

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