February 11, 2015 6:43 pm

Can’t Pay Your Utility Bills? The Government Has Your Back!

Paying utility bills is expensive. Aside from a rent or mortgage payment, utilities are usually the most costly obligations each month, many times with them exceeding the former when combined together.

This is exacerbated even further by the incredibly-cold winter we just came out of. In fact, demand for natural gas alone, the substance used to heat around 50 percent of the homes in the United States, as well as generate around 27 percent of our nation’s power, has caused its price to skyrocket, smashing records from Los Angeles to New York.

As a result of these excessive resource requirements, many citizens have been unable to meet their obligations in terms of payment. For example, this year more than 50 percent of Detroit customers are unable to afford their water bill, due primarily to an average monthly cost that stands head and shoulders above what the rest of the nation pays. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated issue, with much of the nation struggling with exorbitant utility costs


So what happens next? If you cannot afford to pay your bill, do you have to suffer?

Fortunately, most states have legal provisions designed to cover those who are unable to pay their utilities. These include:

  1. Cold Weather: Most states have cold-weather provisions, preventing them from turning off utilities during the winter months. These include date based, temperature based and seasonal policies.
  2. At-Risk Residents: Virtually every state has safeguards against shutting off utilities to those who are most at risk. These include the elderly, disabled or anyone suffering from a severe illness. These safeguards can only be activated with a note from an attending physician.
  3. Forced Eviction: Attempting to force a tenant to leave the premises by shutting off landlord-paid utilities is illegal in all states.

One of the most effective ways to avoid getting your utilities shut off, if you find yourself behind during months excluded from the cold weather policy or you do not have a qualifying medical condition, is the federal LIHEAP program. LIHEAP, which stands for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, is available in every state, under one name or another. Find the specific program your state has available here.

Having your utilities shut off, for whatever reason, can be traumatic and exceedingly difficult to handle. By researching the individual programs offered by you state and federal governments can ensure that you never have to experience it.

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