My husband came home after a hard day of work and said, “You need to see this.” He handed me what looked like a completely regular bill, except it had red letters on it. I immediately saw the words deliquent amount and then termination of service.
Talk about anxiety. My brain went crazy. How could this have happened? I know I paid the bill. Or at least, I thought I had. This was the first time (and hopefully only time) of receiving a utility termination notice.
I quickly ran to the desktop and pulled up our bank account. Sure enough, automatic payment, right there. So why did I get this notice? Then I looked a little bit closer and realized what had happened. Somehow, some way I had not seen that the bank was going to take much longer than I expected for the payment to be delivered.
Normally I pay our bills two weeks in advance, but because of my husband’s recent job change, things had come down to the wire. Still, I had made sure to enter the payment at least the day before the bill’s due date, completely neglecting the fact that delivery would take a while.
What Is A Utility Shut Off Notice?
A utility shut off notice is a notice informing you that because of a late payment, your service (whether that be electric, water, sewer, and so forth) is about to be terminated, or ended. In our case, it would be the water.
Can You Prevent Having Utilities Terminated?
Generally speaking, absolutely! Paying your bill on time is a great preventive measure! If something happens though and you are not going to make the due date, most utility companies are willing to work with you if you call and ask for a brief extension. Unfortunately, I was not that intelligent because again,I thought the payment would be there.
According to our notice, we still have one week to get the payment made before our water will be turned off. I am not sure if all companies give this time or not, but ours did.
So Once You Get A Notice, What Happens?
According to our notice, we have 8 days to get the bill paid in full or else our service will be shut off. We can hand deliver the payment to the office, mail it in, or pay it online. It also makes it clear that at this point, no payment arrangement is able to be reached.
If water service is terminated, we will be charged an extra $50 to pay for the disconnection and re-connection once our bill is caught up.
The one thing I can happily report I have learned about this situation is that utility companies do not report to the credit bureaus. So at least our credit scores won’t be taking a hit. Of course, there is always a chance of your account being turned over to a collections agency which would definitely lower your good score.
I Got A Shut Off Notice, What Are My Options?
Option #1 Pay Your Bill
I know, you’re probably saying, “But if I could pay my bill, I wouldn’t have gotten this notice!” I get it. I really, seriously do. But the best option you have at this point is to try to find the money before the termination date. Here are a few suggestions:
- Sell anything and everything you can think of.
- Let family and friends, or even the world of Facebook know you are looking for odd jobs. Here are something things you could offer
- Baby sitting
- Dog walking
- House cleaning
- Oil changes
- Yard work
- Ask for a small loan from a family member or friend (don’t recommend this one really but thought I’d throw it out in case).
Option #2 Call Your Utility Company
Even though it says no payment arrangements can be made, the worst they can do is tell you no over the phone. Rules are meant to be broken though, so I am willing to bet that at some point in time, some utility companies have made payment arrangements despite receiving a shut off notice.
Option #3 Have Your Utility Turned Off
Yep, it’s that simple. If you can’t work out a payment arrangement, and you aren’t able to pay it yourself, you have only one option left: Get the utility turned off. Obviously, this is the least desired option, but sometimes it truly is the only one available. If this is your situation, take a deep breath. People lived without electricity and running water for a very long time. Yes, it will be miserable, but the world will not end. Let this be your motivating force to get your finances back in order.
In The Future
Whether you have to live without a utility or two for a short amount of time, or if you manage to barely scrape by, make this a big learning experience. As Daniel Tiger says, “It’s okay to make mistakes. Try to fix them and learn from them too.”
Don’t beat yourself up over the notice (which is totally what I did when I saw it). Rather, take a deep breath, and remember you’re just human. We all make mistakes. It’s what we do after those mistakes that matters.
Sit down, write out a budget, and stick to it. If you want some suggestions, check out this post on Freeing Yourself From Financial Anxiety
What Are We Going To Do?
Lucky for us, we won’t have to do anything. Our payment from the bank should arrive any day now and I do not believe our water will be shut off. But you had better believe I am working my butt off to get back to being a few weeks ahead on our bills so this doesn’t happen in the future! And I’ll be paying attention to those “deliver by” dates as well.
Have You Ever Received A Shut Off Notice?
How did you respond? Did it spike your anxiety? I know it did mine! Let me know your experiences in the comment section below!