How to Keep Your Lights on with a Utility Deferred Payment Agreement

If you are finding it difficult to pay your utility bills because of the increasing energy costs, because you have lost your job, or because you are having financial difficulties and are facing a termination of your utility services, then this article may be able to help you. One of the options that the utility company must offer you before they terminate your utility service is a deferred payment agreement. This agreement can keep the power and heat on in your home while you are experiencing financial difficulties. However, to protect yourself from unfair business practices by your utility company, you will need to understand what a deferred payment agreement is, what fair terms are, and what alternatives are available to you before you enter into this type of agreement.

How to Qualify for a Deferred Payment Agreement

To qualify for a deferred payment agreement your financial situation will be examined. You will probably be asked by your utility company to provide support for your claims of hardship including financial documents, income statements, medical bills, etc. If it is determined that you are experiencing financial hardship then a deferred payment agreement will be offered to you. However, if you are unable to prove your need, alternative solutions may be suggested at the utility company’s discretion.

Terms of a Deferred Payment Agreement

The terms of the deferred payment agreement will vary based on your circumstances and the preferences and standards of the utility company. However, whatever the case may be, the utility company is required to present a fair and equitable contract, based on the facts of the case. In most cases the utility will ask that you make a down payment of 15% of what you owe or 50% of your average utility bill. If your financial circumstances are dire, then a no down payment offer may be made. The remaining balance of your agreement will be paid in equal monthly installment. The lowest possible monthly payment will be $10 per month, however, you may be able to negotiate with your utility company on this point. Each of these payments must be made within 20 days of the due date, or the utility company will be forced to take further collection actions.

If you are finding it difficult to make your deferred payment agreement installments as well as paying your current utility bill, you do have the option of renegotiating your terms. You should contact your utility company as soon as possible after determining that you won’t be able to meet your utility payment obligations. This will not only help you to avoid negative confrontations and collection activities, but it will also help to establish yourself as a responsible client who is trying to pay their bill. The utility company will be more willing to work around your difficulties if you stay on top of things, then if you let them go past due.

Alternatives and Where to Turn for Help

If the utility company presents terms that seem unfair, if they try to get you to pay a monthly installment that is too high, or if they seem to be unwilling to negotiate there is help available. The Public Service Commission is one official office that you can turn to for help in negotiating your terms, or to help mediate the situation. You should be able to find their phone number in the government section of your local phone book.

If the deferred payment agreement doesn’t fit your situation you can also turn to alternative energy assistance programs that are offered by local governments, state governments, and local charities. Contact the Department of Social Services, or your state government for more information about the energy assistance programs that are available in your area.

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