Home California Attorney General Issues Legal Guidance to Water Providers on Protections for Residents Facing Water Shutoffs

Attorney General Issues Legal Guidance to Water Providers on Protections for Residents Facing Water Shutoffs

Press Release

by ECT

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued a legal alert reminding urban and community water providers of requirements under the Water Shutoff Protection Act to protect California tenants and homeowners facing water shutoffs.

Since the beginning of 2022, the cost of water has increased by an estimated 40%, making it difficult for many Californians to stay on top of their water payments. The loss of water service increases health risks and may lead to eviction. In today’s legal alert, Attorney General Bonta warns water providers to immediately cease all water shutoffs that do not comply with the Water Protection Shutoff Act.

Attorney General Bonta also issued a consumer alert in English, Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Korean advising Californians on steps they can take if they are behind on their electricity bill, water bill, or other utility bills.

“Right now, many California families are struggling to put food on the table, pay their rent or mortgage, and keep up with their water and utility bills,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “If you get behind on your utility or water bill, you have options. California law requires most utility and water providers to work with you to keep your lights on and tap flowing. I urge Californians to familiarize themselves with their rights, and to get help if they are facing a utility or water shutoff. My office is committed to advancing Californians’ fundamental right to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water, and we’re issuing legal guidance today to ensure water providers understand their responsibilities to Californians under the Water Shutoff Protection Act.”

“Access to water is a fundamental right of all Californians,” said State Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa. “That is why I wrote the Water Shutoff Protection Act, which creates a sustainable and equitable framework to protect low-income people including seniors, children and those with illness or disability. I thank Attorney General Bonta for his leadership in ensuring the tap remains on for our most vulnerable populations, especially as people are struggling with the cost of inflation.”

Requirements Under the Water Shutoff Protection Act

The Water Shutoff Protection Act includes several new requirements for termination of water service. Specifically, most water providers:

  • Cannot discontinue service unless the customer’s bill is overdue for at least 60 days.
  • Must provide at least seven days’ notice before termination of water services, and must make a good faith effort to provide this notice if telephone and written notice are unsuccessful.
  • Cannot discontinue service for customers who meet certain health and financial requirements and who are willing to make alternative payments.
  • Must have available for customers facing water shutoffs a plan for deferred or reduced payments, alternative payment schedules, and a formal mechanism for customers to contest or appeal a bill.
  • Must report annually to the State Water Resources Control Board on water shutoffs due to inability to pay and post the information on the water provider’s website, if it has one.

What to Do if You Are Behind on Water Payments

  • Get Information from Your Water Provider: California law prohibits most water providers from shutting off your water unless your bill is 60 days overdue. The water provider must contact you by phone or mail at least seven business days before your water is shut off, and must post their water-shutoff policy on their website.
  • Talk to Your Water Provider About a Payment Plan: Most water providers must make an alternative payment plan available. You have a right to discuss options with your water provider to avoid a water shutoff.
  • Get Help Paying a Past Due Water Bill: Depending on your income, you may qualify for a one-time payment towards your water or wastewater bill through the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program. In addition, if you receive certain benefits such as CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or SSI, or if your income is less than 200% of the federal poverty level, your water provider must waive any interest charges you owe once every 12 months.

What to Do if You Are Behind on Other Utility Payments

  • Ask Your Utility Provider for a Payment Plan: Most private utility companies must offer a payment plan that gives you more time to pay what you owe. Your power cannot be shut off once you agree to a payment plan, and must remain on if you are making timely payments. If you get your utilities from your city, county, or other local government, check with your utility provider about payment plan options.
  • Sign Up for Lower Gas and Electric Bills: If you get your utilities from a private company, you may be eligible for discounts on your electric and gas bill, depending on your income, through California’s CARE program or the Family Electric Rate Assistance program. If you get your utilities from a city, county, or other local government, call the number on your bill or visit your provider’s website to learn about monthly discounts for lower-income families.
  • Additional Protections for Life-Threatening Situations: If an electricity shutoff would be life threatening for you, contact your provider immediately. You may have additional options, and your provider may arrange an in-person visit to try to resolve the situation before shutting off your power.

If you believe your water or utility provider is violating the law, repot it at oag.ca.gov/report. If you have a complaint about a water shutoff or an investor-owned utility, you can also contact your State Water Board or the California Public Utilities Commission, respectively.

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