Utility Assistance to Prevent Shut Offs and Handle Overdue Bills
In Wisconsin, a winter utility shut off is banned between November 1st and March 31st. Utilities banned from disconnection include water, electricity, sewer, gas and phone.
Electricity and natural gas in particular cannot be turned off between Nov 1st and April 15th.
How Chapter 7 can Help
Filing for Chapter 7 can offer immediate relief if you’re facing a utilities shut off (in winter or any other time of the year). If you file bankruptcy in part to prevent utility shut off, you may need to file an emergency petition.
This petition allows you to start the process and stop the utility shut off process with the ability to file the rest of the forms within 14 days.
If you do not file the rest of the forms within that 14 day period you could risk the bankruptcy court dismissing your case.
Chapter 7 Process for Utility Shut Off & Past Due Bills
You will need to make sure that unpaid utility bills are listed within your bankruptcy debts. Then, the bankruptcy court will inform the utility company of your bankruptcy filing to help ensure that your services are not shut off.
Once you have filed bankruptcy, the utility companies cannot try to collect any past due bills – either by mailed statements, phone calls or filing lawsuits. However, you will have to pay new utility bills after filing for bankruptcy, as filing for bankruptcy only protects you from previous debts.
Typically. if your bankruptcy case moves forward without issue, your overdue utility bills can be paid by the bankruptcy trustee or be discharged by the bankruptcy court.
Utility Assistance Programs (Non-Bankruptcy)
If you choose not to file for bankruptcy there are a few other protective plans in place.
Aside from the utility shut-off ban designated during the specified winter months, utility shut-offs can still be prevented if the temperature falls below 32 degrees F or is predicted to. If this happens outside of the designated winter months span, utility companies cannot disconnect your service for 24 hours or until the temperature is warmer than 32 degrees F.
However, if your utilities have been turned off prior to Nov 1st and no payment arrangement has been made, Wisconsin utility companies are not required to restore service that was already turned off for nonpayment. If this happens, you may qualify for the Wisconsin Winter Protection Plan.
Wisconsin Winter Protection Plan
This plan protects senior citizens and low-income customers from having their utilities from being shut off. It also protects these eligible customers from high utility bill payments during winter.
If you qualify for Wisconsin’s Winter Protection Plan you must pay at least 7% of your estimated annual bill each month and 1/12 of any past due bills.
When the protection plan ends on March 31st you must pay the full monthly amount moving forward, plus a portion of the amount you built up during the winter months.
How Credit Solutions can Help
If you feel like you’re drowning in debt and are worried about keeping your utilities on and paying past due and future bills, Credit Solutions can help.
Our bankruptcy lawyers specialize in Chapter 7, Chapter 13 and Chapter 128 (a bankruptcy alternative for Wisconsin residents).
Every day, we help people find the best solution for their debt problems – whether that’s filing for bankruptcy or a different solution.
We are an experienced bankruptcy law firm with extremely talented and compassionate lawyers who know how to navigate all of the ins and outs of bankruptcy.