What To Do If Your Utilities Are Disconnected

Final Termination Notice

If you fail to pay your bill, service is terminated only after required notice is given and a deferred payment arrangement is offered for your overdue bills.

Final termination Notice - Before service can be terminated for an overdue bill or deposit, you must be:

  • Sent a Final Termination Notice. That notice is not sent until you have failed to pay a bill more than 23 days after it was mailed to you. Once you receive a Final Termination Notice, you have 15 additional days in which to pay the bill, arrange for payment, or contact the BPU about it before service can be turned off. If you think a mistake has been made in your account, please call the utility. The matter will be checked and disconnection of your service will be postponed while the matter is under question.
  • The utility will offer you a deferred payment agreement at least five days before turn-off unless it is determined that you have the financial resources to pay the amount owing. If you sign a deferred payment agreement, service cannot be disconnected. If you are unable to reach an agreement with the BPU, the PSC staff will help you to make such an agreement.
  • Unless you qualify for special protections described for "Hardship Procedures", your services will be turned off if:
    • You fail to pay the amount due as shown on the Final Termination Notice, or
    • You do not work out a deferred payment agreement with the utility.

Time of Termination

The BPU may turn off electric utility service for nonpayment between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Tuesdays through Thursdays only. Electric service cannot be terminated on a holiday, the day before a holiday, any day the business office is closed, or the two-week period during the Christmas-New Year season. Electric service can be turned off without notice any time there is a safety problem, with service being restored as soon as the problem is corrected.

Landlord Problems

If you live in an apartment building or a two-family house and the landlord fails to pay the electric bill for the building, you may be able to have the service kept on by joining with the other tenants to pay the bill. You have only to pay current charges and can deduct the utility payment from your rent. The BPU will notify you if the landlord has failed to pay by posting notices on the building and giving you a separate notice at least 15 days before termination. The BPU will also tell you whom to call to work out the problem.


Reconnection of Service

If your electric service is disconnected, it can be reconnected within 24 hours if:

  • You have either paid the amount due, or signed a special payment agreement and made the down payment;
  • The Public Service Commission directs the BPU to reconnect service, or;
  • You face a serious threat to health or safety.

If the BPU fails to reconnect your service within 24 hours, except for circumstances beyond its control, the utility must pay you $25 or $50 for each additional day you are without service.

If you receive public assistance, the BPU will schedule a reconnect if it receives a commitment of payment from the social service agency assisting you.

The BPU has the right to charge a fee of $30.00 plus tax to reconnect electric service during normal work hours (7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday); or $70.00 plus tax outside those hours and days.

The BPU has the right to charge a fee of $50.00 plus tax to reconnect water service during normal work hours (7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday); or $175.00 plus tax outside those hours and days.


Hardship Procedures

In accordance with Public Service Commission rules, the BPU will continue electric heat related service if a person's health or safety is threatened by the lack of heat. The utility will also refer health or safety problems to the Department of Social Services. In the following hardship cases, the BPU will NOT turn off service.

Medical Hardship

If you or a family member is ill, has a medical condition or uses a life support device, the BPU can help you. If you file a medical certificate from your doctor with the utility, the BPU will continue your service for 30 days. The BPU will tell you how the certificate can be renewed.

Briefly, to renew the certificate, your doctor must explain the medical emergency or why service is needed and you must explain why you are unable to pay your utility bills. The BPU will not shut off your service during the emergency, but you are still responsible for your bills.

If you need utility services to operate a life-supporting device, the certificate will remain in effect as long as the device is needed, but you must tell the BPU every three months that you are unable to pay. The BPU will also code your account to assure you added protection from your service being disconnected.

Elderly (62 or older), Blind, or Disabled

If you are 62 years of age or older, blind, or disabled, and all those living with you are too, (or not over 18 years old), the BPU will make a special attempt to maintain your utility service. The BPU will attempt to contact you by phone or in person at least 72 hours before turn-off is scheduled to try and work out a fair payment plan.

If arrangements cannot be made, the BPU will notify the Department of Social Services of the possible turn-off and will continue service for 15 days. If the BPU ultimately turns off service, it must, within 10 days after that, attempt to reach you and devise a plan for restoring service. If you qualify for protection under this section, notify the BPU at 661-1660 immediately.

Public Assistance and SSI Recipients

If you receive public assistance, you may be able to prevent your service from being turned off by contacting the BPU and your local Social Services office. Your Social Services office may be able to make payment arrangements to keep your service on.

Registration for Special Protection and Request for Information

If you have a medical hardship, need electric service to operate life support equipment, are 62 years of age or older, blind or disabled, receive public assistance, or wish to sign up for third party notification, please call the BPU Customer Service offices at 661-1660 and request that your account be coded for special protection from disconnection.


Special Payment Agreement

In order for any customer owing arrears of any kind for electric service to obtain service or continue service, the customer must either pay the arrears or enter into an agreement with the utility to pay. These arrangements give rise to payment agreements. As a regulated electric utility, the BPU is obliged by law to make payment agreements available to customers whose payments are in arrears to help them get up to date. The agreement must be fair and must be based on your ability to pay.

The standard payment agreement is arrived at when the customer completes a financial statement. The usual agreement calls for a down payment of 15% of the amount considered in arrears and then monthly payments of one-tenth of the balance

To keep the payment agreement, the customer must make the agreed upon payments and pay all current amounts. Any account with a payment agreement that has a current amount due go into arrears is in default and may be disconnected

If the customer should default, the payment agreement may be reinstated by paying the current charges that have gone to arrears and making the payments agreed upon in the original agreement.

The agreement can be changed if you can show the utility that there are significant changes in your financial condition beyond your control.


John Alfred & Oscar Johnson Memorial Trust/BPU Good Neighbor Fund

Unexpected situations can make it difficult to pay utility bills.

For this reason, in 2003, the BPU set up a fund, now known as the John Alfred & Oscar Johnson Memorial Trust/BPU Good Neighbor Fund. In 2015, the fund was expanded to help customers of any income level who:

Receive no Social Services assistance for utility bills.

Maintain or attempt to maintain a regular bill payment record.

Who experience a sudden hardship.

Examples of hardships (not limited to these examples):

An unknown leak in your plumbing that results in a high water bill quickly.

An accident or sudden illness that could tie up your regular income for a period of time.

Sudden unemployment that could prevent you from paying BPU bills right away.

Immediate house repairs that leave you with utility bills you can’t pay on time.

How to apply?

Call the Salvation Army at 664-4108 to make an appointment. The Salvation Army is located in Brooklyn Square at 81 South Main Street, Jamestown. A very short simple form is required stating your hardship with a copy of your BPU bill. The process is quick and easy.

The Salvation Army verifies your hardship, then the BPU qualifies your consistent payment record before final approval is made.

How can the fund help?

The fund can provide up to a one-time $250 payment on your bill, limited to one payment a year.

Aid is one a first-come, first-served basis. At any time, income from the Fund may be depleted and assistance may not be available.

Who were John Alfred and Oscar Johnson?

John Alfred Johnson immigrated to Jamestown from Sweden to live near his brother Oscar who worked as a contractor in our area. John worked for a local manufacturer in the day and for Oscar at night.

Although he became an American citizen, John was proud of his Swedish heritage and thought of himself and his friends as the “working man.” He labored hard, saving and investing his money. To take effect upon his death, he created the Johnson Foundation which Jamestown Swedish Consul and Attorney John Sellstrom and his wife Carole, operated in accordance with Johnson’s wishes. They endowed the John Alfred and Oscar Johnson Memorial Trust/BPU Good Neighbor Fund in December, 2014, to be held in perpetuity at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.

The Salvation Army – one of John Alfred Johnson’s favorite charitable organizations –verifies your hardship.

Fixed Income Waiver

A Fixed Income Waiver extends the penalty grace period from 2 days to 7 days after the due date of your utility bill. You will still receive a disconnect notice and all shut-off dates will continue to apply if your payment is not received by your disconnect date. In order to qualify, the customer must receive their money/check once a month. If there is more than one source of income, all must be received approximately at the same time of the month.


Cold Weather Protections

November 1 to the following April 15

If you pay the utility directly for your heat, the BPU cannot turn off your service until it has tried to determine if a serious problem with health or safety would result because of the service disconnection. The BPU will try to contact you by telephone or in person at least 72 hours before service turn-off is scheduled. The BPU will try to contact you during business hours, and again at the time of your disconnection. If the utility finds that service disconnection might cause serious harm to your health or safety, it must ask the Department of Social Services to investigate and the utility must continue service for at least 15 business days.

For the cold weather protections, the BPU considers "heating" to include utility services needed to provide heat. It may include direct electric space heating, electric service needed to operate a furnace, or, if you notify the BPU in writing, a safe electrical heating device.

If you pay for your heat in your rent, the BPU cannot disconnect heat-related electric service to your dwelling without giving a written 1-day notice to each tenant to determine whether any tenant has a medical or other problem that could be worsened by a heat disconnection. If the BPU finds a tenant with such a problem, it must refer him or her to the Department of Social Services and continue to provide utility service until the hardship is removed.


If you cannot reach an agreement with the BPU, the PSC will help you.

You can write to:

Public Service Commission
Consumer Services Division
Three Empire Plaza
Albany, NY 12223

Or call the PSC HELPLINE at:

1-800-342-3377
Business days 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Visit their web site at http://www.dps.state.ny.us or http://www.AskPSC.com

The PSC also has a special emergency HOTLINE for residential customers for matters concerning the turn-on or turn-off of electric service. PSC toll-free HOTLINE number is

1-800-342-3355
Business days 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.





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