HOUSTON - Many people are at risk of having their electric and water services turned off during this extreme heat. Shutoffs can resume June 29 as the Texas Public Utility Commission ended a moratorium on shutoffs for non-payment.
The February power shortage and Big Freeze left many people with extremely high electric and water bills. But the PUC says it decided to end its moratorium on shutoffs due to a proliferation of financial assistance available.
Here is what you need to know from the PUC:
- Before a utility can shut off your power or water, it must notify you in writing first and give you ten days to pay.
- If you can't pay the bill, you should contact your electric or water provider to ask for assistance or a deferred payment plan.
- You can also contact the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
- Renters can get utility help through TexasRentRelief.com, and homeowners can get help through the TDHCA's Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program.
- You can also seek utility help from community assistance, such as BakerRipley at (713) 590-2327.
- Call 211, the United Way Helpline, which can direct you to sources of utility assistance.
If you receive a deferred payment plan for an electric bill, the first payment cannot be more than half of what you owe, and you must be given at least five billing cycles to pay it all off.
You can receive a deferred payment plan for late water and sewer bills, if you owe more than three times your average monthly bill, and haven't been issued more than two disconnection notices in the past 12 months. You can be charged a finance charge of no more than 10% simple interest.
These rules do not apply to municipality-owned utilities or electric coops not under the PUC's jurisdiction.
And beware that scammers know people are worried about losing power or water.
A Houston woman tells FOX 26, her mother received a call from someone pretending to be CenterPoint Energy, threatening to disconnect her electricity if she didn't pay nearly $500 right away through Zelle.
She says her mom paid it, but later learned it was a scam and can't get that money back.
CenterPoint says it will never call threatening to disconnect you or demanding payment through a pre-paid card or payment app.