The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

Winter Moratorium Protection Against Shutting Off Heat

Date: 
11/27/2012
Author: 
MLRI

From November 15 through March 15 (sometimes extended into April), Massachusetts state law prevents utility companies from terminating service that is used to heat homes if the household is suffering financial hardship.  See M.G.L. 164, section 124F220 CMR 25.03

A household suffering financial hardship must contact the utility company directly, and will usually be required to complete the company's financial hardship form.  (Financial hardship is defined as a household who is unable to pay a bill and meets the income guidelines for LIHEAP, 220 C.M.R. 25.01(2), currently 60% of the state median income.)  A consumer can make an initial claim for protection by telephoning the company, so long as the financial harship form is submitted within seven days. 220 CMR 25.03(2)  The signed form should be considered presumptive evidence of financial hardship, unless otherwise determined by the Department of Public Utilities.  220 CMR 25.03(3)

Also, if a utility company received fuel assistance payments on behalf of a customer during the prior winter season, the company must presume that there is financial hardship and cannot shut off the account until January 1.  This is to give the customer enough time to apply for fuel assistance again. 220 CMR 25.03(3)

Note that even if service is not shut off during the winter moratorium, the bills will continue to accrue, and if payments are not made towards the bills, the household will face a utility shut off for nonpayment once the winter moratorium is over. 

For more information, including links to utility company websites, see MassResources.org and MassLegalHelp.org.