Utility Payment Plans
Some people have trouble paying their utility bills because it's not easy to predict how much they will be. They often fluctuate with the seasons. Fortunately, most public utilities understand this and offer consumers the choice of paying their bills through a budget plan.
Utility budget plans can vary from company to company, but they all feature a predictable monthly bill that is easier to budget. The way the payments are calculated can differ, but your monthly bill will be based on your average usage. For example, if you have used $1,200 of gas over the past 12 months, the gas company may simply charge you a set amount of $100 per month ($1200 ÷ 12 months in a year = $100). If your usage changes over an extended period of time, usually a year, your billing amount would be adjusted to make up for the overage or deficit.
Enrolling in a budget plan is usually as simple as calling your local utility providers. You may even be able to enroll through their websites.
If you're considering setting up a utility payment plan, there are a few things to consider. Will you be charged a fee for setting up a paymenet program? Many companies offer the service for free, but some charge a fee.
Be sure to pay attention to your monthly bills because they will continue to report your actual energy usage. This will help you track your usage and make adjustments as needed. If you manage to cut back on your energy usage, your monthly payment can actually go down the next year. This is quite an incentive to become more energy efficient.
Plans to Avoid a Shut Off
Paying utilities should always be a top priority. However, if you suffer a severe financial hardship and are having problems paying your utility bills, there are some steps you can take to avoid a possible shut-off.
First, contact your utility company and explain your situation. Many companies offer short-term payment programs that can help. Some of these programs are for low-income families, and other programs are for all income levels. If you don’t contact the utility company, you will never know what programs they offer.
You also may consider seeking assistance from your church, a local charity, or your local town, city, county or state. The United Way (dial 2-1-1) can direct you to assistance that may be available in your area.
Keep in mind that special programs may be available for seniors, active military personnel or people suffering from certain medical conditions.
Shut Off Policies
Utility shut off policies vary from company to company, but service may typically be shut off for:
- Unpaid past-due utility bills
- Failure to pay a requested security deposit
- Unauthorized energy use that includes tampering with a meter
Service typically cannot be shut off if a customer:
- Is enrolled in a Winter Protection Plan
- Has notified the utility of a qualifying medical emergency in the home
- Has advised the utility that an unpaid bill is in dispute