Laws of New York State
Reference: New York State Legislature
Last Update: Feb 22, 2015

§32 - Termination of service

Cite: N.Y. P.B.S. Law § 32 (Consol.).


1. Generally. Any termination of residential utility service by utility corporations or municipalities shall be in accordance with all relevant provisions of this article.

2. Utility service may be terminated, except as otherwise provided in this section, if any person supplied with electric or gas service to a residence:

(a) fails to pay charges for any service rendered during the preceding twelve months, provided however that the commission by regulations may permit the termination of service for bills due for service rendered during periods in excess of twelve months where (i) there was a dispute between such person and the utility corporation or municipality concerning the bill during the twelve month period, (ii) delays in termination are not the fault of the utility or were due to the culpable conduct of such person, or (iii) such bills are necessary to adjust estimated bills; or

(b) fails to pay amounts due under a deferred payment plan; or

(c) fails to pay or agree in writing to pay equipment and installation charges relating to initiation of service; and

(d) is sent a final notice of termination no less than fifteen days before the termination date shown on the notice. Any such notice shall, at a minimum, clearly state the reason for termination of service; how termination may be avoided; that the utility corporation or municipality has available procedures for handling complaints; a summary of the protections available under this article; that any customer eligible for such protections should contact the utility corporation or municipality; and such other provisions as the commission may require. A utility corporation or municipality may not issue a final notice of termination unless at least twenty days have elapsed from the date payment was due. The commission may increase the number of days before which a final notice of termination may be sent.

3. The commission shall safeguard from termination, or require restoration of service to, those residents who will suffer serious impairments to health or safety as a result of such termination or failure to restore services. The regulations shall include, but not be limited to:

(a) Medical emergencies. The commission shall require the continuation or restoration of utility service to a customer's residence where a medical emergency exists. The commission shall provide for written certification by a medical doctor, nurse practitioner or local board of health that termination of service or failure to restore service will aggravate an existing medical emergency at a customer's residence, provided that the commission may authorize an initial certification by telephone if written certification is provided within five business days. The commission shall provide for the duration, form, content and renewal of written certificates. With respect to the renewal of written certificates, the commission may require the customer to demonstrate an inability to pay charges for service. The commission shall, in consultation with the departments of health and social services and the office for the aging, establish criteria to be used by a medical doctor, nurse practitioner or local board of health in making a determination that a medical emergency exists or that the absence of service will aggravate an existing medical emergency.

(b) Customers who are elderly, blind, or disabled. The commission shall provide special procedures to be followed by a utility or municipality with respect to the termination or restoration of service to a residence where the customer is known to or identified to the utility to be blind, disabled, or sixty-two years of age or older; provided that all the remaining residents of the household are sixty-two years of age or older, eighteen years of age or under, or blind or disabled. The commission shall afford reasonable protections to elderly, blind or disabled customers, including a requirement that the utility corporation or municipality make a diligent effort to contact by telephone or in person an adult resident at the customer's premises at least seventy-two hours prior to termination of service. The commission shall also establish reasonable procedures for identifying customers eligible for the protections of this section.

(c) Special procedures for cold weather periods. (i) The commission shall establish procedures to be followed by a utility or municipality supplying heat related service in cold weather periods. Such procedures shall be designed to identify and assist, prior to termination of service, those residents who may suffer serious impairment to health or safety as a result of any such termination. The commission shall establish the applicable cold weather periods; specify criteria for identifying residents who are likely to suffer serious impairments, and require that such service not be terminated unless a representative of the utility or municipality makes a diligent effort to contact by telephone or in person an adult resident of the customer's premises at least seventy-two hours prior to termination, makes a personal visit at the time of termination and provides the customer with information regarding the protections available under this article. The commission shall provide for the manner in which such contacts and personal visits are made. (ii) The commission shall also require a utility or municipality supplying service to continue service to customers where a serious impairment to health or safety is likely to result from termination of service and the person supplied is unable because of mental or physical problems to manage his or her own resources or to protect himself or herself from neglect or hazardous situations without the assistance of others. Doubts shall be resolved in favor of continued service. Continuations of service shall be for a period of time to be established by the commission. The commission shall consult with the department of social services and the state office for the aging in implementing the provisions of this paragraph.

4. The commission shall preclude terminations for nonpayment other than between the hours of eight a.m. and four p.m., Monday through Thursday, provided that such day or the following day is not a public holiday as defined in the general construction law.

5. (a) In the event the service to a residential customer terminated pursuant to this section or the service to a multiple-family dwelling pursuant to section thirty-three of this article or a two-family dwelling pursuant to section thirty-four of this article consists of the provision of gas or electricity commodity only, the utility providing distribution services to such customer shall suspend the provision of such distribution services and the provision of any other related services to such customer if:

(i) The utility providing distribution services to such customer is notified of the termination in such manner and form as the commission shall, by regulation, prescribe; which notification shall include documentation sufficient to confirm that such termination was, in all respects, in compliance with this article and that the conditions set forth in this subdivision have been met;

(ii) Except in the case of a service to a multiple dwelling pursuant to section thirty-three of this article, such customer was billed using a billing system in which all charges for service were present on a single bill;

(iii) Such utility providing distribution services provided such services to the customer at the time of the termination;

(iv) The utility implementing the termination confirms that it is able to and will take all actions within its control necessary to resume the provision of electric or gas commodity to such customer in accordance with the agreement for such service between such utility and such customer, if the customer makes full payment of the amount of arrears that were the basis for the termination of service;

(v) The utility implementing the termination has not assigned its right to obtain payment of the arrears to an entity that is not a utility for purposes of this article; and

(vi) Less than one year has elapsed since such termination of commodity service has occurred.

(b) All notices provided pursuant to this article in connection with such termination shall include notice of the suspension of services that, pursuant to this subdivision, can occur coincidental with such termination and shall state the amount which must be paid to the utility making the termination in order to obtain the resumption of service from such terminating utility and, if different, the amount which must be paid to the utility making the termination to end such suspension of services.

(c) The utility shall make its best efforts to institute such suspension of distribution service promptly and shall receive reasonable compensation from the terminating utility, as determined by the commission, for any costs associated with such suspension of distribution services. Any payments for arrears made by a customer after the termination of service shall be allocated equitably on a pro rata basis between the terminating utility and the utility that provided distribution services, to the extent arrears are owed to both such utilities.

(d) Such suspension shall end upon the occurrence of any of the conditions identified in paragraphs (a) through (e) of subdivision one of section thirty-five of this article, upon the expiration of one year after such termination of commodity service, or upon the receipt of payments by or on behalf of the customer to the terminating utility such that the amount paid by such customer to the terminating utility plus the amount previously paid the terminating utility plus any other charges paid to the utility providing distribution service during the period when such customer's arrears accrued is equal to or greater than the amount such customer would have paid if the entire utility service had been obtained from the utility providing distribution services during such period.

6. Implementation of the provisions of this section shall not limit the contractual remedies for damages which might be available to the terminating utility provided that an award of such damages is not inconsistent with any of the provisions of this article.

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