SB 998 Changes How Customers Receive Shut-Off Notifications

Beginning Feb. 1, 2020 water systems regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, or those supplying water to more than 3,000 customers annually will have to change how customers receive service shut-off notices. Other water systems with more than 200 service connections have until April 1, 2020.

Signed into law in 2018 by Governor Jerry Brown, SB 998 restricts residential water service discontinuation when customers are delinquent in paying their water bills.

The law applies to all urban and community water systems, public or private, that provide water to more than 200 service connections and mandate that:

  • Water systems must adopt written discontinuation policies that are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean and any other language spoken by 10 percent or more people within the system’s service area.
  • Water systems may not discontinue residential water service due to delinquent payment until payments are delinquent for at least 60 days. After that time, the water system must attempt to provide notice to customers by telephone or in writing, and provide information about appeals, extensions and alternative repayment options.
  • Water systems may not discontinue residential water service if all of the following take place: 1.) a primary care provider certifies that the discontinuation of water service will pose a serious or potentially fatal threat to a resident, 2.) the customer demonstrates inability to pay and 3.) the customer is willing to enter into an alternative payment arrangement. A customer can demonstrate an inability to pay based on the receipt of certain public assistance by someone in the household, or a declaration from the customer that the household is below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Water systems must limit certain low-income customers’ reconnection fees to no more than $50 during regular business hours, and $150 during non-regular hours.
  • Water systems must attempt to provide notice to renters and mobile home residents that their service may be discontinued due to delinquent payments by their landlords, and that the residents have the right to become customers of the water system without paying the past-due amounts on the landlords’ accounts.
  • Water systems must annually post on their websites the number of times the system has discontinued service due to inability to pay.

Utilities in violation face a penalty up to $1,000 for each day in which the violation occurs, and would require the enforcement moneys collected by the board to be deposited in the Safe Drinking Water Account.

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