Author: Attorney Desk Reference Manual; Recent Revisions by Barbara Richardson, Legal Assistance Foundation and Lauren Pashayan, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation
Last updated: July 2015
State Statutes and Regulations
Applicants for Service
Low Income Payment Plans
Budget Payment Plan (BPP)
Deferred Payment Agreements (DPA)
Deferred Payment Agreements (Low Income)
Cold Weather Rules
Unauthorized Service Usage
Payment Avoidance by Location
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Eligibility for Emergency Services
Eligibility Requirements for LIHEAP
Documents Needed for Application
Length of Application Process
Utility services owned by municipal corporations are not covered. They may establish their own (primarily water and sewer utility) service rules. Rural electrical cooperatives are not covered.
Each utility must provide all applicants for service a customer information booklet which explains the utility’s credit and collection practices.
A utility may deny service to applicants if they have failed to pay past due utility service for the same class of service at the same or a different address, unless (at the option of the utility) the applicant:
BUT, if the utility accepted the application by telephone from a third party who was not the customer of the services, and did not obtain approval from the customer, the utility cannot collect from the customer if the customer disputes requesting the service.
Notice must be in writing and include the following:
Residential and small business customer deposits cannot exceed 1/6 of the estimated annual charges for the service.
Non-residential, other than small business, customer deposits cannot exceed 1/3 of the estimated annual charges for the service.
An applicant may be required to submit a deposit before getting service if one of the following applies:
Current utility customers may be required to pay a deposit if both of the following conditions occur:
Residential customers may avoid the requirement to pay a deposit by:
May be required to pay a deposit if there is proof that the customer benefitted from tampering.
Large commercial or industrial customers may be required to pay a deposit for indications of financial insecurity in accordance with the utility's tariffs.
Note: A deposit required under section 280.210 (payment avoidance by location) can be required in one payment before service is activated.
"Interest shall be paid to the customer on all deposit amounts, including installments, held by the utility."
"After 12 consecutive months of accumulated interest, when customer is not entitled to a refund of the deposit, the utility shall automatically credit the customer's account with the interest only. The credit shall be itemized on the customer's next regular bill statement as 'deposit interest'."
Deposits must be refunded with interest (by separate check, not by credit on a future bill) after 12 months if service has not been interrupted or the customer has not paid late four times (monthly billing), two consecutive times or three times (bimonthly billing), or two times (quarterly billing) in the 12 month period.
If service is discontinued, any deposit plus interest in excess of any unpaid bill must be refunded within 30 days.
May be required to pay a deposit if:
Exceptions to 280.40 for low-income customers:
Note: "Deposits collected for any reason other than credit scoring prior to a customer's certification as a low income customer shall remain validly held by the utility until the customer meets the refund conditions found in section 280.40."
Late fees are waived for qualified low income customers.
The utility does not have to waive late fees that were assessed prior to qualification as a low income customer.
Low income customers must re-qualify as a low income customer, or the utility can start assessing late fees on past due amounts. However, no retroactive late fees will be applied for the time when the customer was qualified as low income.
Recipients of TANF, AABD, SSI, Social Security, VA, or unemployment compensation benefits, who receive their monthly benefits within 10 days after the utility payment is due, may ask the utility to:
Note: if the customer pays late more than four times on a preferred payment date, then the customer can be returned to the regular due date.
"A process to equalize payments for utility service, based upon the customer's average bill."
Note: "A customer may cancel a budget plan at any time. A utility may cancel when the customer either pays less than the full BPP amount or payment is 21 days in arrears."
Mandatory offering by the Utility:
Optional offerings by the utility (at utility's discretion):
DPA can only include amounts owed for utility service for which the utility would otherwise be entitled to disconnect the customer's service after proper notice.
DPA default shall not occur as a result of failure to pay non-utility service charges.
An existing DPA shall transfer with the customer to the new premises.
To start the DPA, the customer must pay a minimum of 25% of the past due amount.
"At the utility's discretion, the down payment amount may be decreased."
Utilities must allow a minimum of 4 months to pay the balance, the maximum number of months to pay the balance is 12 months.
At the utilities' discretion, customers can be given more than 12 months to complete their DPAs.
In determining the length of time to offer, the utility shall take into account the customer's ability to successfully complete the DPA.
If the household's income is not sufficient to successfully complete the DPA, then the utility shall advise the customer of the availability of local assisting agencies.
If a customer defaults on the payment plan, but pays the full amount due on the plan before any disconnection, the payment plan must be reinstated, on a one time only basis.
A customer whose financial conditions change during the course of a DPA shall be allowed to renegotiate the length of the DPA with the utility to ensure its successful completion.
A renegotiation is allowed one time during the course of a DPA if:
Through renegotiation, the utility shall not be obliged to extend the term of the DPA any longer than 4 to 12 additional billing cycles beyond the original term of the DPA.
Renegotiation does not preclude a customer's right to reinstate a defaulted DPA prior to disconnection.
Note: the right to establish a Winter DPA under section 280.135 shall be unaffected by any default on a DPA under this section.
Low income customers shall be eligible for all the provisions described in Section 280.120 from April 1 through November 30.
In addition, a low income customer shall be entitled to the altered provisions described in this Section.
A utility may require a maximum down payment of 20% towards the past due amounts
By agreement with the customer, the utility may include current billing amounts with the past due amount as the total balance from which the 20% down payment may be calculated.
Length of DPA Term:
Utility shall offer an amended DPA to a low income customer who is in default on a first DPA if the customer has made at least two consecutive full payments under the first DPA and the customer has not been in default on the first DPA for more than 90 days.
The amended DPA shall be for the same term or longer than the term of the first DPA.
As a condition of entering the amended DPA, the utility may require the customer to participate in the payment option described in Section 280.80. (Budget Bill)
A utility may disconnect service when a customer fails to:
Other reasons for shutoff include:
No utility shall disconnect gas or electricity at the residential premises that was the primary residence of a service member immediately before the service member was assigned to military service. 220 ILCS 5/8-201.5(b).
The utility must give written notice to the customer of a shutoff. The utility cannot act on a notice after 45 days without issuing a new notice. At the time of shutoff the utility must attempt to contact the customer to inform him of the shutoff.
Shutoff cannot occur after 2:00 p.m. unless the utility agrees to reconnect that same day for a standard charge. Shutoff cannot occur on weekends or holidays unless reconnection is also available on those days.
The ICC rules include the required form utility shutoff notice.
220 ILCS 5/8-201: It is the public policy of this State that no person should be denied essential utility service during the winter months due to financial inability to pay. It is also the public policy of this State that public utilities and residential heating customers deal with each other in good faith and fair manner.
Gas or electric service providing the primary source of heat may not be shutoff on any day that the National Weather Service forecasts that the temperature will be 32 degrees or below, or on any day preceding a weekend or holiday, where the weather Service forecasts 32 degrees or below during the holiday or weekend.
The utility cannot disconnect service of a service member or veteran December 1 through March 31. 220 ILCS 5/8-206(1).
From December 1 through March 31, gas or electric service providing the primary source of heat may not be disconnected at any residence for non-payment of a bill or deposit unless:
A utility may not require a down payment for a deposit from a residential customer greater than 20% of the total deposit requested from December 1 through March 31.
Utility shutoff is prohibited for up to 60 days after receiving a valid medical certificate where shutoff would aggravate existing serious illness of a "permanent" resident of the premises.
The illness must be certified to the utility by a registered physician or a local board of health. The certification must be in writing and state:
Initial certification may be by telephone if written certification is followed within seven days.
If service is disconnected but illness certification is made during 14 days within the disconnection, service must be restored. Service can be restored after 14 days at the utility's discretion.
A medical payment arrangement automatically starts after 30 days. You must continue to pay your current bill.
It depends on whether your valid medical certification was received by the utility before your service was disconnected.
Medical payment arrangements prior to disconnection:
Medical payment arrangements after disconnection:
One, unless you pay off the total account balance. After 12 months, you may get a new medical certificate and medical payment arrangement.
Any former customer who used gas or electric as the primary source of heat, but whose service was disconnected due to nonpayment of a bill or deposit from December 1 of the prior winter's heating season through April 1 of the current heating season is eligible for reconnection and a deferred payment arrangement, subject to the following limitations:
The customer must pay 1/3 of the amount past due and 1/3 of any deposit required by the utility to obtain reconnection.
A customer may demonstrate to the utility (or by filing a complaint to the ICC) that s/he does not have the financial ability to pay 1/3 of the amount past due and the deposit. The customer may be reinstated upon a payment of a "reasonable amount." 220 ILCS 5/8-207. The ICC has interpreted by rule a "reasonable amount" to be 20% of the amount past due and 20% of the deposit. 83 Ill. Admin. Code 280.180. This rule may be subject to challenge as unrelated to the ability of the customer to pay. Note that low income customers automatically qualify for financial inability standing.
Prior to October 1 of the year, utilities that provide the primary heating service to a residence must notify customers whose service has been disconnected due to nonpayment of a bill from the previous December until September 15, how they can have service restored.
Note: The Illinois Commerce Commission adopted a resolution, urging local utilities to impose a moratorium on disconnections during the winter for certain eligible persons, and proposed more favorable winter reconnection rules for certain eligible persons. Clients should be referred to their local utility to determine if the utility has implemented the ICC resolution.
Once you are eligible for reconnection, the utility must turn on your service within specific time limits.
You are eligible for reconnection if you have provided a valid medical certification, or have taken care of the reason your service was cut off and have given the utility all required applicant information.
If the utility does not meet the time limits it may not charge you a reconnection fee. If the delay is for 2 or more calendar days and was not your fault, the utility shall credit your account 2 non-prorated monthly customer charges, 3 if the disconnection was in error.
Reconnection time limits vary depending upon on your situation.
The reconnection time limits do not apply if:
Utility shall investigate high bills resulting from an abnormal or unexplained increase in consumption when a customer makes such a complaint within 30 days of receipt of a utility’s bill. The utility may collect from the customer who benefitted from, cooperated in or acquiesced to the tap.
The utility has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that tampering has occurred with the utility's wires, pipes, meters or other service equipment, that the customer has benefitted from the tampering, and that the utility's billing is reasonable.
Allows utility to seek payment from persons seeking to use a pattern of action to avoid payment for service used at a specific service location.
There are very specific requirements to apply PAL, all must be met. PAL applies when: new application from service location; former customer who was disconnected for non-payment at the same service location still resides at the service location; and, the new applicant occupied the service location during the time the previous customer's debt accrued.
Utility must demonstrate with evidence that a pattern of payment avoidance is occurring by a person or persons at a location.
There are very specific notice requirements. Notice shall include a detailed description of the problem and the facts and evidence that the utility has to support the PAL allegation.
When the utility has proof that PAL is occurring, it can request 1/3 of the estimated annual charges for the premises to be paid in full prior to service.
Burden of Proof: It shall be the sole responsibility of the utility to prove with evidence that PAL has occurred. The person accused of PAL shall have the right to the full evidence possessed by the utility and the opportunity to present information to refute the allegations.
Customers may dispute bills. Utilities must have a local and/or toll-free telephone number in each office transacting business with the public available to hear applicant/user/customer disputes. Where possible, they should also have a means of electronic receipt of customer complaints. The utility company must respond within 14 days of receipt.
Utility companies must inform complainants that they may speak with a supervisor if dissatisfied. Supervisors must tell complainants they may seek review of the utility’s decision on a bill by the Consumer Services Division of the Illinois Commerce Commission, and give them the appropriate phone numbers and addresses.
If a customer disputes a particular bill, the utility may not shutoff service.
A customer, applicant, or user may file a complaint with the ICC. The first step is to file an informal complaint with the Commission’s Consumer Services Division. The informal complaint should:
The Consumer Services Division must:
Complainants dissatisfied with the decision of the Consumer Services Division may file a formal complaint with the ICC.
Utility service may not be shutoff while an informal or formal complaint is pending.
To file an informal complaint visit the ICC web site, or call one of the following numbers:
(217) 782-2024 (Springfield)
(312) 814-2888 or 814-2887 (Chicago)
State of Illinois Building
160 North LaSalle, Suite C800
Chicago, IL 60601-3104
Illinois Commerce Commission
527 East Capitol
Post Office Box 19280
Springfield, IL 62794-9280
The Illinois Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs (LIHEAP) has provided support to thousands of Illinois residents. An important goal of LIHEAP is to "ensure availability and affordability of heating and electricity services to low income households." One-time grants are awarded to households that are at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. See 27 Ill. Reg. 2139, amending 47 Ill. Admin. Code 100.103 (eff. 1/24/2003). Created by amendments to the 1989 Energy Assistance Act, the LIHEAP program offers three different grants to income eligible households:
The Emergency Services (ES) component is available to income eligible applicants who meet the following criteria:
All households that fall within the established income guidelines are eligible, regardless of whether they pay for their utility services directly or through their rent payment. The income guidelines are based on 150% of the Federal Poverty level published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human services. Click here to view the current income guidelines of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCEO).
The total application process for LIHEAP can take up to 45 days. The local administering agency will notify the applicant in writing within 30 days from the date of application. If determined eligible, the grant will be issued either to the applicant or to the utility company within 15 days after approval of the application.
Emergency Service assistance will be provided within 48 hours from the date the client application is complete (all client documentation has been submitted). Notification to the utility must be made within the same 48 hours after determination of eligibility. 47 Ill. Admin. Code. 100.220.
If the applicant feels s/he is denied benefits unjustly, s/he must make a request for an informal conference at the local agency within 30 days from notification of denial. This can be done verbally or in written form and should be addressed to the local agency. The conference must take place within 15 days from the date of request.
If the applicant is not satisfied with the outcome of the conference, he or she must request a state review within 30 days of the informal conference. The state review should be directed to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). DCEO will review the case and make a decision. If the applicant does not accept the results of the state review, the applicant has 30 days from the date of mailing of the state review letter to request in writing a formal hearing. The formal hearing must take place within 30 days of the date of request.
The dispute process rules are codified at 47 Ill. Admin. Code 100.90. To file a dispute, write or contact the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, LIHEAP, Division of Economic Opportunity, 620 East Adams St., Springfield, IL 62701; or LIHEAP, Division of Economic Opportunity, 100 West Randolph, Chicago, IL 60601, phone 800-252-8643 or TDD 800-785-6055.
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