Minnesota gets cold in the winter, so cold that people need heat in order to survive.
So what happens if you can’t afford your utility bills?
Luckily, the Minnesota legislature has created something called the Minnesota Cold Weather Rule to help protect people in Minnesota from utility shutoff in the winter months.
The Cold Weather Rule says that if you can prove to your utility company that you are making less than half of the median income in Minnesota, they cannot shut off any utility that you use to provide heat.
Learn more about the Minnesota Cold Weather Rule and see how you can benefit.
WHEN DOES THE COLD WEATHER RULE COME INTO EFFECT?
- You can only use the Cold Weather Rule in Minnesota between October 15th, and April 15th
WHO CAN USE THE COLD WEATHER RULE?
- Anyone who lives in Minnesota and makes less than half of the median income for the state
Currently this is
- $25,000 for a household of one
- $32,962 for a household of two
Minnesota Energy Resources has more information about the income guidelines, and your utility company will provide more information when you ask it.
As of November 2017, according to the Department of Numbers, the median household income was $63,488 in 2015.
WHAT UTILITIES ARE COVERED UNDER THE COLD WEATHER RULE?
- The cold weather rule in Minnesota stops shutoff of any utility that you use as the primary source of heat for your home
For most people, this is natural gas.
If your furnace relies on electricity for ignition, then it also stops the utility company from shutting off your electricity.
Most modern furnaces rely on electricity to ignite the gas, and are therefore covered by the Cold Weather Rule in Minnesota.
- It does not cover fuel that must be delivered, such as propane stored in a tank at a house, or heating oil
Because these are delivered by truck, the fuel company is not required to continue delivering them to you by the Cold Weather Rule.
DOES THE COLD WEATHER RULE STOP THE SHUTOFF AUTOMATICALLY?
- No, you must take action to use the cold weather rule in Minnesota
- You need to contact your utility company and say that you want to apply for the cold weather rule
- You will then need to give them documents proving that your income is less than 50% of the median income
Until you do this, you will not be protected by the cold weather rule, and they will shut off your utilities.
- You will know that they want to shut off the utilities because they must send you a letter stating when they will shut off the utility.
You must also make a payment arrangement with the utility to keep the service going.
The monthly payment cannot be more than 10% of your income.
This means that:
- If you are making $25,000/year, your maximum monthly payment would be $208
- If you are making $12,000/year, then your maximum payment is $100/month
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER APRIL 15?
- After April 15th, the utility company can shut off your service unless you make a new payment plan that will be sufficient to pay off the balance completely
Filing bankruptcy discharges debts to utilities, and prevents them from shutting off your service.
If the utility company has already shut off your utility service, then they must turn it back on immediately.
It is common for a number of Minnesotans to contact me about filing for bankruptcy as the April 15th deadline approaches.
This is because bankruptcy is often the best way for them to move forward from a time of financial hardship.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
I offer free conferences and will always set up a payment plan for the attorney’s fees.
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