by Daryl Thompson, Hotline Attorney
Winter might be coming to an end, but please keep in mind that if you are a senior citizen, you have the right to keep your heat on or get your heat turned on. All you have to do is ask.
The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) regulates all the utilities except those owned or operated by government bodies. MPSC regulates most of the electric companies and gas companies that provide energy for heat during the winter.
From November 1st to March 31st of each year, gas and electric utilities must allow senior citizens to have heat. This means that they must not shut off your gas or electric. This also means that they must turn on your gas or electric, even if they had shut off the utilities earlier for nonpayment.
The regulations call this period of the year “the spaceheating season.”
Some important things to remember about the Winter Protection Plan:
- Eligible senior citizens are those age 65 or over who have told the utilities that they qualify;
- The spaceheating season runs from November 1st to March 31st;
- Gas or electric bills cannot be turned off if the customer is an eligible senior citizen;
- Even if a senior citizen has had the gas or electric shut off earlier in the year, at the customer’s request, the utility must restore service without payment of the amount due, deposits, reconnection fees, or other charges.
Once the space heating season is over:
- The utility can then demand payment;
- But the utility must allow the senior citizen to pay in equal monthly installments between April 1 and October 31.
Although it is important to pay your bill, and you are accountable for it, staying warm in the winter is more important. These protections against shutoffs are protections for you.
Daryl Thompson started as an attorney with Elder Law of Michigan in January of 2015. He counsels clients on a broad variety of legal issues including estate planning, wills and trusts, consumer law, landlord/tenant, civil rights, and Medicare/Medicaid.