UNDERSTANDING ELECTRICITY DISCONNECTION RULES IN TEXAS
When you enter into a contract with your local Texas electricity company, both parties are responsible for holding up their end of the agreement. Electricity providers must give reliable electric service, and customers must pay their bill in a timely fashion for this utility service. If the customer is unhappy with the service they are receiving, they may seek out other retail electric providers in the area. And if a customer cannot pay their bill on time, amongst other violations of their service contract, the provider has the right to shut off their electricity service. Payless Power offers insights regarding electricity shut off laws in Texas so that customers can avoid the burden and cost of electricity disconnection.
UNDERSTANDING ELECTRICITY SHUT OFF LAWS IN TEXAS
As a customer, are you aware of the rights you have under your utility service contract? The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) is responsible for protecting electricity customers and ensuring that they have fair treatment from retail electricity providers (REPs). In compliance with the Public Utility Commission of Texas, your retail electric provider is required to adhere to the following:
-Give the utility customer at least 10 days’ notice before sending a disconnection notice.
-Allow the customer to make a payment arrangement if they are qualified or offer a deferred payment plan during summer or winter weather moratoriums.
-Following an electrical disconnection notice, provide information on energy assistance provider organizations that can help pay the energy customer’s overdue energy bill.
Learn more about when your Texas utility company does and does not have the right to service disconnection, and how to get electric service reconnected below.
HOW LONG UNTIL MY UTILITY COMPANY SHUTS OFF MY ELECTRIC SERVICE?
Before an electricity provider can disconnect a customer’s utility service, the Public Utility Commission of Texas rules requires the REP to mail a written disconnection notice no earlier than the first day after the bill’s due date. Additionally, the disconnection date must occur following a required 10-day period from the date the notice was issued and it may not fall on a holiday or weekend unless the REP is available to take payments, make payment arrangements, and service can be reconnected on those days. This notice must provide details on the following:
-Why a utility customer’s service is being shut off, how they can avoid disconnection, the charges that will be incurred for both disconnection and reconnection, and the total balance that is overdue.
-How the customer’s deposit will be applied to your overdue changes.
-How the customer can make payment arrangements for your overdue bill.
-Government relief program(s) that assist low-income customers.
-How the provider will go about collecting customer’s unpaid charges if they don’t pay the overdue bill or the deferred payment arrangement before the electricity shut off date.
Disconnecting Electric Service with Prior Notice
The Public Utility Commission of Texas will authorize an REP to send a utility customer a disconnection notice and shut off electricity service in the following cases:
-The customer’s failure to pay utility bill on time or contact provider about making a deferred payment by the date of disconnection.
-The customer does not keep the payment agreement commitment for making a deferred or other payment arrangement made with the utility company.
-There is non-payment of a required deposit.
-The use of electricity service in a way that interferes with the service of others or the operation of nonstandard equipment.
-If the customer’s guarantor does not pay the amount guaranteed when the electricity provider has a written payment agreement, which was signed by the guarantor, the provider can disconnect the guarantor’s service.
Disconnecting Electricity without Notice
In contrast to the reasons above, a Texas utility company is authorized to disconnect electric service without prior notice under any of the following circumstances:
-If there is an immediate safety issue. The utility company, within reason and given the nature of the hazardous condition, may post a notice of disconnection and the reasons why at the place of common entry or on the front door of every affected residential unit as soon as possible after the electric service has been disconnected.
-If the service is unauthorized or connected without a service contract or after it has been disconnected for nonpayment.
-If the power company’s equipment has been tampered with.
-If there is evidence of service theft.
WHEN AM I PROTECTED FROM ELECTRICITY DISCONNECTION?
Remember, it’s imperative that you know your rights as a Texas utility customer to make sure you are protected from disconnected electricity. The state’s electricity disconnection rules dictate that the provider is not authorized to disconnect electric service under these circumstances:
-Non-payment, prior to the disconnection date stated on the notice, if it has been established with the utility company that you or another resident on the premises has a critical medical condition and will become seriously ill or more seriously ill if electric service is disconnected.
-Non-payment of electric service by previous occupants of the premise if they are not of the same household.
-Failure to pay any unrelated electric service charges.
-Failure to pay a different type or class of electricity service that wasn’t included on the account’s bill when service was originally initiated.
-Failure to pay under-billed charges that were more than 6 months prior to current billing (excluding cases of meter tampering or theft of service).
-Failure to pay disputed charges until your provider or the Public Utility Commission of Texas determines the dispute has settled in favor of the provider.
-Failure to pay an estimated bill unless it is part of a pre-approved meter-reading program, or if the provider can’t read the meter due to circumstances out of its control.
-Failure to pay during an extreme weather emergency. Upon request, the utility company must offer deferred payment plans for electric bills during the weather emergency.
-If the electric provider is notified by the final due date listed on the disconnection notice that an energy assistance provider is forwarding sufficient payment on the customer’s account, and they have paid or made a payment arrangement for any outstanding debt not covered by the energy assistance provider’s payment.
HOW DO I GET MY ELECTRIC SERVICE RECONNECTED?
If you receive a disconnection notice from your electricity provider, there is no need to panic. Remember that you have 10 days from the stated due date on the notice to pay your bill. These options exist to help you avoid disconnection of your lights and electricity.
Immediately Make a Payment
Everyone forgets to pay their utility bills every now and then. If at all possible, immediately pay your utility bill online or call your electric provider to pay over the phone. Make sure you note your confirmation number. To ensure that your electricity will not be shut off, call your provider’s customer service number to inform them of your payment.
Can’t Pay Now? Negotiate Deferred Payment Plans
If you are not in the position to pay your electric bill at the moment, the first thing you should do is get your electricity provider on the phone to set up a deferred payment plan instead of simply ignoring the bill. If you do not have a history of making late payments, your provider will likely try to help you make an arranged payment plan for your past due balance. It is best to contact your REP over the weekend and make a minimum payment at this time since your utility company will not likely process a disconnection over the weekend, choosing to wait until Monday morning.
How Quickly Will My Electricity Be Reconnected?
Reconnection is typically automatic and should take place within minutes and up to 48 hours of your payment of all overdue charges, disconnection and reconnection fees, and potentially an additional deposit. Other providers may need you to call and provide your payment confirmation number prior to reconnecting your electric service.
AVOID DISCONNECTION OF ELECTRICITY WITH A PREPAID TEXAS ELECTRICITY PLAN
If you are continuously finding that you are unable to pay your electricity bill on time or have trouble budgeting for the amount of electricity you use each month, you may want to consider switching to a prepaid Texas electricity plan. These pay-as-you-go plans, like those offered via Payless Power, only allow you to use as much electricity as you have already paid for. At your request, you can receive daily text or email alerts for how much electricity you use and how much you have left to use before you need to add funds to your balance.
Additionally, these plans often do not require a deposit up front, allowing you to get electricity as soon as you need it, with no barrier to entry. When customers have the opportunity to pay in predetermined increments, they can be mindful of their energy use, ultimately resulting in reducing the total cost of electricity and the risk of disconnection.
Prepaid electric companies provide alerts of your use and low-balance warnings one to seven days before your balance drops below $0. Because you’re getting frequent alerts, the notice before disconnection is not 10 days like traditional postpaid plans. Most prepaid electric companies provide a simple path to reconnect service within only a few hours during weekdays, without hidden fees (each prepaid utility company’s set fees are outlined in their plans). The balance required to reconnect applies toward future electricity use on these prepaid plans.
–Reliant: The customer must pay the overdue payment and bring the account balance to at least $30. Reconnections only happen Mondays-Fridays (excluding holidays).
–TXU Energy: The customer must pay the past-due amount and re-establish a balance of at least $50.
–Pulse Power: The customer must pay the overdue amount to bring the past-due balance to $0, plus 5% of the past-due amount.
–Payless Power: The customer must pay the past-due amount, plus establish a $20 balance to trigger reconnection. Service is typically restored within 2 hours during regular business hours, which includes Monday-Saturday for Payless Payless customers.