Frequently Asked Questions

Do customers have to be current in their overall bill payments on October 15 to be eligible for Cold Weather Rule protections?

No.  In 2007, the Cold Weather Rule statute was changed to clarify that disconnected customers must be reconnected by October 15 if they meet the eligibility conditions.

What constitutes a “reasonably timely payment”?

This term is not defined in the Cold Weather Rule statute that applies to municipal and cooperative utilities. However, the Customer Protection statute (216B.098, subd. 1) states that municipal and cooperative utilities may establish terms and conditions for payment agreements as well as budget plans.

(Note:  In a separate statute, the Cold Weather Rule for investor-owned utilities defines “reasonably timely payment” as within five days of the due date.)

What does it mean for a payment plan to “consider the financial resources of the household”?

Again, this consideration is not spelled out in statute, so municipal and cooperative utilities may set out what they consider to be reasonable payment amounts in relation to household financial resources.  For clarity and enforceability, this ratio could be set in utility policy with flexibility for special circumstances.

(Note:  In a separate statute, the Cold Weather Rule for investor-owned utilities states that a utility cannot require a residential customer to pay more than 10% of the monthly household income on past or current utility heating bills.)

Does my utility have to notify all residential customers about the Cold Weather Rule every year?

Yes, the law requires that annually between August 15 and October 15, municipal utilities and co-ops must send notice of Cold Weather Rule protections to all residential customers.

What if a customer enters into a payment plan, but fails to make payments?  If the customer faces disconnection, must my utility again provide information on the Cold Weather Rule protection and offer payment plans and opportunities to continue service?

Yes, the statute specifically states that before disconnecting service to a residential customer between October 15 and April 15, the utility must provide the following information to the customer:  disconnection notice, a statement of the customers rights and responsibilities, a list of local energy assistance providers, forms where the customer can declare their inability to pay, and information on available time payment plans and other opportunities to secure continued service.

Does my utility need an appeals process for involuntary disconnections?

The Cold Weather Rule statute directs residential customers to utilize the municipal or cooperative utility’s established appeal procedure to appeal an involuntary disconnection.  It is therefore advisable to have a formal, even if simple, procedure in place.

Does my utility really have to check the property status if a customer does not respond to a disconnection notice?

Yes.  If the property is occupied, the utility must again provide the customer with notice of Cold Weather Rule protections.  If the property does not appear to be occupied, seven days’ notice must be provided to the local energy assistance provider before disconnection occurs.

How long does a customer’s payment agreement need to last?

The payment agreement must remain in effect until April 15, which is the end of Cold Weather Rule protection period.  However, utilities may offer agreements with longer terms.

Is there a list of “medically necessary equipment”?

No, there is not a list of equipment to which the medically necessary equipment statute applies.  The statute applies to “medical equipment requiring electricity necessary to sustain life” which, for people with certain conditions, could include refrigerators or nebulizers for insulin or medications.

Is a certification valid indefinitely?

No.  A utility may require certification renewal as often as every six months at its discretion.

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