Public Utilities: Deposits, Shut offs, and Reconnections

Last Updated On: 4/23/2015 5:54:14 PM

This article provides general information about the rules that apply for electric, gas and water service. You should talk to the Public Service Commission (PSC) of West Virginia at 1-800-642-8544 or a lawyer if you have specific questions about your situation.

Who regulates public utilities in West Virginia?

The Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates utilities in West Virginia. The PSC has the responsibility for regulation of the rates and services of electric, natural gas, water, telephone, wastewater and solid waste disposal utilities.

Does the utility have the right to request a deposit from me?

Yes, you may have to make a deposit when turning on your service. They are not required to supply you with service until the deposit is made. They can cut off your service if the deposit is not paid when it is required.

After you have paid your bill for 12 straight months and were not late for any of the payments, you will have your deposit returned to you.

What if I cannot afford to make a deposit?

If you cannot afford to make the deposit, you may ask to have a guarantor. A guarantor is a person that will also be held responsible if you do not make your payments. After 12 months of you paying your bill on time, you will not have to have a guarantor.

What if I want to disconnect my service?

If you want to have your service disconnected, you must contact the utility company during regular business hours to give them notice. Until the utility has the notice, you are required to pay any charges that might happen. Unless you and the company come to a different agreement, the service will be terminated by the end of the next business day for water service. Three days notice is required for gas and electric service.

Is there a penalty if I disconnect my service, but want to reconnect it at the same address?

If a service is disconnected by the customer, the utility has the right to deny that same customer service at the same address for 8 months unless you pay a reconnection charge as provided for in an effective tariff of the utility on file with the PSC.

When can my electric, gas or water be cut off?

Your service can be cut off when:

  • Your bill is 10 or more days late;
  • You lie or provide false information to the utility;
  • If you break one of the utility’s rules; or
  • You don't allow the utility to come onto your property.

Will the utility contact me before turning off my service?

Generally, the utility has to follow these steps to turn off your service:

  • They must send you a letter 10 days before they turn your service off AND
  • They must make 2 attempts to call OR visit your house 24 hours before they turn your utilities off.

If the utility conditions on your property are hazardous the utility may shut off service without advance notice.

When can’t the utility turn off my service?

Generally, the utility cannot turn off your service if:

  • They are working on fixing a wrong charge on your bill;
  • Cutting off your service would be dangerous to someone in your house; or
  • You pay the bill, even if it is when the utility worker is there to cut off your service.

Also, if you have filed a complaint with the PSC before the utility terminates your service, you may be able to keep your service while the PSC deals with your complaint. However, you will still have to make current payments for this continued service to be an option while your complaint is pending. Keep reading this article for information about how to file a complaint with the PSC.

Can the utility still cut off my service if it’s dangerous to someone living in my house?

For gas and electric, generally, they cannot cut off your service when you provide a note from a doctor saying that it would be especially dangerous to the health of a member of the household.

For gas and electric, they cannot cut off your service from the first day of December through the last day of February (gas and electric).

For gas and electric, they cannot cut off your service if it is being used to run equipment that is keeping someone in your house alive, like kidney dialysis machines, iron lungs, etc.

What can I do once the utility has notified me that they are going to cut off my service?

After receiving notice that your utilities will be cut off, you should contact the utility company to see if you can work out an agreement. Give the company the information they ask for. The company will look at your issue and tell you what they are willing to do.

If talking to the company doesn’t solve the problem, then you may want to file a complaint with the PSC. Keep reading this article for information about how to file a complaint with the PSC.

Can I set up a payment plan with the utility if I cannot afford to pay for my entire bill?

If you can prove that you can pay your bill, but not in its whole amount, you may ask to set up a payment plan. If you cannot agree on a payment plan with the utility company, you may want to file an informal complaint with the PSC to see if they can provide assistance.

What are the conditions if I miss a payment plan payment?

If you miss a payment plan payment, the utility can cut off your service. They will mail you a letter 5 days before they cut off your service, or they will visit you or call you on the phone.

What happens if I lose my job, have a child, or start supporting someone else and can’t make my payment plan payments?

You should contact the utility as soon as possible to ask to change your payment plan. You still have to pay your current bill and make some effort to pay on your current payment plan. If you cannot agree on a payment plan with the utility company, you may want to file an informal complaint with the PSC to see if they can provide assistance.

What if I’m a senior citizen? Can they still cut off my service?

Yes, however, if you are 65 or older, the utility has to contact a near relative or other responsible person before cutting off your utilities.

Are there any special rules that apply to people who have mental or physical problems?

Yes, the utility has to contact a near relative or other responsible person before cutting off your utilities.

What days and times can my service be cut off by the company?

They can cut off your service at any time except:

  • When their office is not open;
  • The day before the office is not open;
  • Friday, Saturday, or Sunday; or
  • Before 8:00 am or after 4:00 pm.

If I had paid my payment after the utility has cut off my service, how long will it take for me to get my service turned back on?

They will turn your service back on within eight hours (gas and electric) or twenty-four hours (water) after you pay your bill.

When should I file a complaint with the PSC?

If you have tried to work with the utility company, but you can’t resolve the problem, are being treated unfairly, or have a dispute about your utilities, you may want to contact the PSC and file a complaint.

How do I file a complaint with the PSC?

There are two types of complaints you can file with the PSC. The easier option is an “informal” complaint. To do this, you can call the PSC at 1-800-642-8544. Or you fill out a complaint form online at the PSC web site here. Or you can mail a written informal complaint letter to the PSC. Someone from the PSC will contact you and the utility company and try to work out a solution to your problem. The PSC tries to deal with informal complaints pretty quickly, typically within 30 days.

If the informal complaint doesn’t solve your problem, then you can file a formal complaint. This is a more detailed and complicated process. It may involve PSC attorneys and engineers and a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. There is a specific form to complete to file a formal complaint. You can print the form from here. You can also call 1-800-642-8544 to ask for a formal complaint form to be mailed to you.

IF YOUR UTILITIES ARE GOING TO BE CUT OFF and you can’t work it out with the utility, make sure you file your complaint BEFORE the cut off. The PSC has more options if service is still on. This may mean that you get to keep your utilities connected, while the PSC tries to deal with your complaint. You will still have to make your current payments for continued service to be an option.

This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.