Cold Weather Rule
About the Minnesota Cold Weather Rule
The State of Minnesota set up the Cold Weather Rule to help customers who cannot pay their electric bill in full. It does not completely stop winter disconnections, but provides customers extra protection from October 15 through April 15. The rule defines:
What you can do if your receive a Notice of Proposed Disconnect
What you can do if you have been disconnected and want reconnection of electric service
RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Notice to residential customer
(a) A municipal utility or a cooperative electric association must not disconnect and must reconnect the utility service of a residential customer during the period between October 15 and April 15 if the disconnection affects the primary heat source for the residential unit and all of the following conditions are met:
(1) The household income of the customer is at or below 50 percent of the state median household income. A municipal utility or cooperative electric association utility may (i) verify income on forms it provides or (ii) obtain verification of income from the local energy assistance provider. A customer is deemed to meet the income requirements of this clause if the customer receives any form of public assistance, including energy assistance that uses an income eligibility threshold set at or below 50 percent of the state median household income.
(2) A customer enters into and makes reasonably timely payments under a payment agreement that considers the financial resources of the household.
(3) A customer receives referrals to energy assistance, weatherization, conservation, or other programs likely to reduce the customer’s energy bills.
(b) A municipal utility or a cooperative electric association must, between August 15 and October 15 each year, notify all residential customers of the provisions of this section.
Notice to residential customer facing disconnection
Before disconnecting service to a residential customer during the period between October 15 and April 15, a municipal utility or cooperative electric association must provide the following information to a customer:
- a notice of proposed disconnection;
- a statement explaining the customer’s rights and responsibilities;
- a list of local energy assistance providers;
- forms on which to declare inability to pay; and
- a statement explaining available time payment plans and other opportunities to secure continued utility service.
Restrictions if disconnection necessary
(a) If a residential customer must be involuntarily disconnected between October 15 and April 15 for failure to comply with subdivision 1, the disconnection must not occur:
(1) on a Friday, unless the customer declines to enter into a payment agreement offered that day in person or via personal contact by telephone by a municipal utility or cooperative electric association;
(2) on a weekend, holiday, or the day before a holiday;
(3) when utility offices are closed; or
(4) after the close of business on a day when disconnection is permitted, unless a field representative of a municipal utility or cooperative electric association who is authorized to enter into a payment agreement, accept payment, and continue service, offers a payment agreement to the customer.
Further, the disconnection must not occur until at least 20 days after the notice required in subdivision 2 has been mailed to the customer or 15 days after the notice has been personally delivered to the customer.
(b) If a customer does not respond to a disconnection notice, the customer must not be disconnected until the utility investigates whether the residential unit is actually occupied. If the unit is found to be occupied, the utility must immediately inform the occupant of the provisions of this section. If the unit is unoccupied, the utility must give seven days’ written notice of the proposed disconnection to the local energy assistance provider before making a disconnection.
(c) If, prior to disconnection, a customer appeals a notice of involuntary disconnection, as provided by the utility’s established appeal procedure, the utility must not disconnect until the appeal is resolved.
Application to service limiters
For the purposes of this section, “disconnection” includes a service or load limiter or any device that limits or interrupts electric service in any way.
WHERE YOU CAN RECEIVE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
If you need help paying your gas or electric utility bills, you may qualify for state or federal fuel assistance. For complete qualifications and application information, contact your local county human services office or Community/Citizen’s Action Council (CAC). These organizations may also provide budget counseling.
Becker County Human Services Department
Becker County Courthouse Annex
712 Minnesota Avenue
Detroit Lakes, MN 56501
Mahube-Otwa Community Action
1125 West River Road
Detroit Lakes, MN 56501