Utility Customers Facing Shutdown Can Request Deferred Payment Plan (Your Letters)

For the editor:

Utility bills were unaffordable long before customers were hit by this winter’s ‘bill overload’, and many are now facing imminent termination of service. Today, we want to shed light on Deferred Payment Agreements (“DPAs”), which every utility must offer to residential customers before their service can be legally terminated.

A PAD protects an account from closure and allows the household to pay off their utility debt over time on a schedule that is affordable to them. Customers have the right to negotiate terms that are fair, equitable and reflect their individual financial needs. Depending on the customer’s situation, the terms of a PAD may include a $0 down payment with an additional payment as low as $10 per month plus current charges until the debt is paid off. Once a customer has entered into a DPA, their utility cannot be terminated as long as the customer is able to pay as required by the agreement. And at any time, customers can change the terms of the agreement if their finances change significantly due to circumstances beyond their control.

The New York State Department of Public Service has opened a hotline to help consumers struggling to negotiate an affordable DPA at (800) 342-3377. Finally, the Public Utility Law Project can be reached at [email protected] and can help low- and fixed-income utility consumers.

Therese A. Hotte | Juridical help

Richard Berkley, Esq. | Executive director

New York Utility Law Project

Albany


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Elaine R. Knight