Opening the mail to find a disconnect notice from your electric company is stressful for anyone, but particularly so when the household budget is already strained to the limit. Since many homes rely on electricity for not only lighting, but heat, hot water, safe food storage and cooking, keeping the power on is extremely important for the health and comfort of the entire family. If you have received a disconnect notice from your power company and are unsure what to do, here is some advice that may help.
Verify the Information on the Disconnect Notice
The first thing to do with any disconnect notice is to verify the accuracy of the information. While utility companies use advanced billing technology, mistakes do happen. Check the last few months of payments to ensure that all were credited correctly. Look, also, for any spikes in the amount of usage recorded for your home that may be inaccurate and the cause of the problem.
While it is possible to do this type of verification online, it is often better to ask questions or point out inconsistencies by contacting their billing department over the phone or in person. If the information is deemed to be accurate, ask to speak with a manager or someone with the authority to help you find a solution that will avoid the disconnection.
Request an Extension
Even if you find that there is no problem with the billing amount, utility customers can sometimes request extensions to give them more time to pay the bill and avoid disconnection. In many cases, the utility company will agree to a payment plan that spreads the past-due amount over several months. When discussing any payment plan, however, make sure that you will be able to meet all the terms of the agreement, because many of these plans give the power company authority to disconnect service immediately if any terms are not met during the payback period.
Know the Law
Most power companies are required to work with customers who are financially unable to pay their bill in certain circumstances. In most cases, power cannot be disconnected for nonpayment during hours in which the company's offices are closed, or during periods when the temperature drops below freezing. In addition, customers who require electrical power for medical care cannot be disconnected without following special guidelines.
Find Emergency Money
If all attempts to extend the time frame for paying the bill or arranging a workable payment plan have failed, the next step is to find the funds you need as quickly as possible. Here are some readily available possibilities that can help.
- Borrowing from a friend or family member is often the easiest way to get the money quickly. When choosing this route, make sure that you will be able to repay them promptly or offer to work off the debt by helping with cleaning chores, lawn care, child care, cooking or using a particular skill to provide a valuable service for them, such as fixing their car, computer or painting their home.
- Pawning jewelry, electronics or other high value items will often give you enough money to catch up on utility payments. Remember to read the terms of the pawn agreement carefully and make sure that you will be able to meet the deadline to redeem the items you are pawning before agreeing to the offered terms from the pawn broker.
- Take advantage of a payday loan arrangement, like one from 1st Choice Money Center. While this type of loan is not meant to be used to meet long term financial needs, a reputable payday loan provider can help you get the funds to help prevent utility disconnections or meet other emergency needs. Remember to read the loan agreement carefully before signing to make sure that you understand the repayment terms and will be able to pay back the loan as agreed. This will help you avoid extending the loan for long periods and accruing additional interest costs or fees.