Discontinuation of Residential Water Service

Purpose

It is the intent of the State Legislature to minimize the number of Californians who lose access to water service due to inability to pay.  Compliance with State Bill 998 (SB 998) requires an urban and community water system, defined as a public water system that supplies water to more than 200 service connections, to have a written policy on discontinuation of water service to certain types of residences for nonpayment available in prescribed languages to be effective February 1, 2020.

Policy

The implementation of SB 998 prohibits the City from discontinuing residential service for nonpayment until a payment by a customer has been delinquent for at least 60 days.  The City is required to contact the customer named on the account and provide the customer with the City’s policy on discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment no less than seven (7) days before discontinuation of residential service.  The City is required to provide information to the customer on how to restore service in the event of a discontinuation for nonpayment and limits the amount of a reconnection service fee imposed on a residential customer who demonstrates their household income is below 200% of the federal poverty line.  The City is required to have a policy that allows for a plan for deferred or reduced payments, alternative payment schedules, a formal mechanism for a customer to contest or appeal a bill, a telephone number for a customer to contact the City to discuss options for averting discontinuation of residential water service for nonpayment and must make a copy of this policy available on the City’s website. 

This Policy was approved by Council February 4th, 2020, Resolution number 2020-065.

Notification

By Phone

Pursuant to SB 998 Chapter 6 (Water Shutoff Protection Act), Section 116908 (B), when the City contacts the customer named on the utility account by telephone it shall offer to provide in writing to the customer the City’s policy on discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment.  The City shall offer to discuss options to avert discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment, including, but not limited to, alternative payment schedules, deferred payments, minimum payments, procedures for requesting amortization of the unpaid balance, and petition for bill review and appeal.

By Mail

Pursuant to SB 998 Chapter 6, (Water Shutoff Protection Act), Section 116908 (C), when the City contacts the customer named on the utility account by written notice, the written notice of payment delinquency and impending discontinuation shall be mailed to the customer of the residence to which the residential service is provided.  If the customer’s address is not the address of the property to which residential service is provided, the notice shall also be sent to the address of the property to which residential service is provided, addressed to “Occupant”.  The notice shall include, but is not limited to, all of the following information: (a) the customer’s name and address, (b) the amount of the delinquency, (c) the date by which payment or arrangement for payment is required in order to avoid discontinuation of residential service, (d) a description of the process to apply for an extension of time to pay the delinquent charges, (e) a description of the procedure to petition for bill review and appeal, (f) a description of the procedure by which a customer may request a deferred, reduced, or alternative payment schedule, including an amortization of the delinquent residential service charges, consistent with the written policies.  In the event the City is unable to make contact with the customer or an adult occupying the residence by telephone, and written notice is returned through the mail as undeliverable, the City shall make a good faith effort to visit the residence and leave, or make other arrangements for placement in a conspicuous place of, a notice of imminent discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment and the City’s policy for discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment.

Conditions

Pursuant to SB 998 Chapter 6, (Water Shutoff Protection Act),  Section 116910 (a), the City shall not discontinue residential service for nonpayment if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The customer, or a tenant of the customer, submits to the City the certification of a primary care provider (as defined in Section 14088 of the Welfare and Institutions Code) that discontinuation of residential service will be life threatening to, or pose a serious threat to the health and safety of, a resident of the premises where residential service is provided.
  2. The customer demonstrates that he or she is financially unable to pay for residential service within the City’s normal billing cycle.  The customer shall be deemed financially unable to pay for residential service within the City’s normal billing cycle if any member of the customer’s household is a current recipient of CalWORKS, CalFresh, general assistance, Medi-Cal, Supplemental Security Income/ State Supplementary Payment Program, or California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or the customer declares that the household’s annual income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.  The customer shall complete the City’s Affidavit of Indigence Application Form with the attached documentation to meet the above qualifications. 
  3. The customer is willing to enter into an amortization agreement, alternative payment schedule, or a plan for deferred or reduced payment, consistent with the written policies with respect to all delinquent charges.

If all of the conditions listed above are met, the City shall offer the customer one or more of the following options:

  • Amortization of the unpaid balance
  • Participation in an alternative payment schedule
  • Temporary deferral of payment

Pursuant to SB 998 Chapter 6, (Water Shutoff Protection Act), Section 116910 (D) (2), the City     may choose which of the payment options described above the customer shall undertake and may set the parameters of that payment option.  The repayment option offered should result in repayment of any remaining outstanding balance within 12 months.  The City may grant a longer repayment period if it finds the longer period is necessary to avoid undue hardship to the customer based on the circumstances of the individual case.

Contest of Appeal

If an adult at the residence appeals the water bill to the City or any other administrative or legal body to which such an appeal may be lawfully taken, the City shall not discontinue residential service while the appeal is pending.  A customer may complete a Request for Review form and submit it to the City to contest or appeal the utility bill. 

A Request for Review appeal form may be requested online, by visiting the office of the Utility Billing and Collections Division located at 1010 10th St., Suite 2100 in downtown Modesto or by phone at 209-577-5395.  The Request for Review must indicate the customer meets all of the following conditions and is willing to enter into (a) an amortization of the unpaid balance, (b) participation in an alternative payment schedule, or (c) temporary deferral of payment with the City choosing which of the payment options the customer will undertake and setting the parameters of that payment option.

  1. The customer, or a tenant of the customer, submits to the City the certification of a primary care provider (as defined in Section 14088 of the Welfare and Institutions Code) that discontinuation of residential service will be life threatening to, or pose a serious threat to the health and safety of, a resident of the premises where residential     service is provided.
  2. The customer demonstrates that he or she is financially unable to pay for residential service within the City’s normal billing cycle.  The customer shall be deemed financially unable to pay for residential service within the City’s normal billing cycle if any member of the customer’s household is a current recipient of CalWORKS, CalFresh, general assistance, Medi-Cal, Supplemental Security Income/ State Supplementary Payment Program, or California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or the customer declares that the household’s annual income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.  The customer shall complete the City’s Affidavit of Indigence Application Form with the attached documentation to meet the above qualifications. 
  3. The customer is willing to enter into an amortization agreement, alternative payment schedule, or a plan for deferred or reduced payment, consistent with the written policies with respect to all delinquent charges.

Default on Approved Payment Options

Amortization, Alternative Payment Schedule or Temporary Deferral of Payments

In the event the customer fails to comply with one of the approved and accepted payment options listed above or does not pay his or her current residential service charges for 60 days or more, the residential service may be discontinued no sooner than five (5) business days after the urban and community water system posts a final notice of intent to disconnect in a prominent and conspicuous location at the property.