How late can you be on your electric bill before they shut the electricity off?
Do utility companies have the right to disconnect the supply on your meter? Or are their certain considerations and conditions that would help you keep the supply on without paying, especially with the current economic conditions?
What will happen if you don’t pay your electricity bill, and would it have future effects on your finances and or hurt your credit score?
And what can you do if you can’t pay your bill?
These questions and more, I will be answering in this short article.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
How Late Can You Be on Your Electric Bill before They Shut it Off?
Normally, your electric bill would be due within 21-28 days of its issuance depending on the country or state you live in. After that period passes without paying your bill, the utility company might have the right to disconnect your electricity supply after taking certain steps in regard to contacting you to try and solve this matter.
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What Happens When You Don’t Pay Electric Bill?
If the due date passes and you don’t pay your electricity bill, the electricity company might disconnect your electricity supply until you have paid the full amount, or agreed on a certain payment plan where you might be able to pay your electric bill debt in installments.
Some countries have programs that prevent energy companies from cutting off the power supply in extreme weather conditions, or under certain conditions like having a serious illness that requires the use of a medical device that needs electricity to work, or in case of having a financial hardship, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that is available in the US.
However, due to the financial difficulties many consumers faced during the pandemic, which led to many losing their jobs and thus, their ability to pay their utility bills, some governments issued laws that prevent the utility companies such as electricity, gas, and water from cutting off their services due to late due bills under any circumstances.
But this moratorium might have ended and now electricity companies and consumers have to refer to the original laws and regulations in order to deal with late utility payments.
And please, notice that these laws and regulations do not mean that your late utility bills are cleared, but rather, they are just deferred, and you will need to pay the full amount that was accumulated some day, in order not to have an account in collection opened for you later on.
Can Energy Companies Shut You Off Anytime for Due Bills?
As I mentioned earlier, some states have laws that prevent energy companies from shutting down your supply during extreme weather conditions.
Also, there are laws and programs in almost all states that might help you keep the power connection in certain cases like having a financial hardship, infants at home, or in case you were a pensioner who lives alone or with children under a certain age.
You need to check out the local programs and laws for each state.
But there are some national programs like the LIHEAP that helps low-income households keep the connection to the different utilities even if they are unable to pay their bills.
But normally, in case that you are not covered by any program that prevents them from cutting off the power supply, they shall take certain steps before they disconnect your meter, such as:
- Sending you a notice around 10-days before the cut-off.
- Trying to contact you in person three days before the cut-off and on the same day of the cut-off.
What to Do if You Can’t Pay Your Electricity Bill?
There are some steps that you can take in order to prevent the disconnection of your power supply in case that you can’t pay the due electricity bills, such as:
- Contact your electricity supplier before they send you a shut-off and tell them that you will be late on the bill and request an extension. Depending on the state and the company, you might need to provide a proof of hardship in order to get the extension.
- Ask for a payment plan where you can divide the amount due over the bills of the following twelve months.
- In case if you, or another person in your house have a serious illness and needs to use a life-saving medical equipment, provide the necessary information to prove this situation as the electricity company might not be allowed to disconnect the supply in this case.
- See what other laws (Disconnection Policies) in your state might help you prevent the power disconnection for late payments.
- Apply for the LIHEAP program through the local office in your state if you fall in the category of low-income households.
- Explore other programs that offer help with utility bills such as: HUD Utility Allowance, The Slavation Army, Home Weatherization Assistance, …etc.
Can You Pay the Electric Bill in Installments?
Depending on the state laws and the energy provider, you may be able to negotiate your due electricity bills that you can’t pay and agree on a payment plan so that you pay the debt amount in installments over the next twelve months.
In order to increase your chances in getting approved to pay electric bill in installments, you better contact your supplier in advance to notify them about the fact that you might be late on the bill, and explain that you are having hard time in terms of finances, or that you need the connection to remain in place if you have infants, seniors or any person with a serious health condition that requires medical equipment to survive.
You may be able to get a plan to divide the due energy bill over the following months and keep the connection.
Other Effects of a Late Electricity Bill
One of the negative effects of not paying your electricity bill on time is that the company might send the bill debt into a collection agency, which might open an account in collection, leading your late electric bill to affect your credit score.
An account in collection might remain in your credit report for up to seven years, and that’s why it is better to communicate with the utility company once you feel that you would be late on the bill, before they send you the shut-off notice, and try to reach an agreement on a certain payment plan, or apply for one of the programs that can help you with utility bills if you were eligible.
Conclusion – Don’t Ignore Late Electricity Bills
Not paying your electricity bill and not taking action to resolve the issue might lead to disconnecting the power supply and cause problems and inconvenience to you and your family, in addition to opening an account in collection that might hurt your credit score.
You better take the initiative to solve this issue by saving on other non-critical expenses and pay your electric bill, ask for help from someone you know, apply to the available utility assistance programs, or contact the energy company to agree on a payment plan that would guarantee their rights and keep you connected to the grid.
And to avoid causing the problem to happen again in the following months, you may start adopting good habits that would help you save energy, especially by focusing on saving on the loads that cost the most on electric bill.
And if you live in a home that you own, you may consider installing a solar energy system that might help eliminate your electric bill, especially that there are funding programs that can help you build the entire system without paying any down payment.
I hope that my article was helpful for you in knowing how late can you be on your electric bill before the company shuts it off.
If you still need any help or have other questions that I didn’t answer, please, let me know in the comments’ section below, and I will do my best to help you out