Senate Bill 998 (Government Code 116900), the Water Shutoff Protection Act, was signed by former Governor Brown in September 2018. The new legislation impacts current policies and procedures related to discontinuing water service for delinquent accounts. SB 998 requires all “urban and community water systems” to a have written policy on the discontinuation of residential service and translated into other languages. This policy must be posted on the City website and contain a plan for alternative payment schedules, appeal/contest procedures, and a phone number for customers to call to avert discontinuation. The City must comply with SB 998 by April 1, 2020.
There are many important and complicated changes in the bill regarding the process by which a City can shut off a customer due to non-payment. The government code does not allow water services to be discontinued due to non-payment if the customer meets certain financial, medical, and other tests even if they have not paid a bill for 60 days. Once 60 days delinquency occurs, and the customer meets the other tests, the City must offer several different communication methods in order to provide access to the policy in multiple languages, in hard copy or electronic versions, and provide repayment options with a term of an undefined length, or even take over an account from a landlord.
This is the narrative and timeline provided to the public to illustrate the process of billing and discontinuation of service within the City of Farmersville water utility service area:
Utility Bill: Original Bill sent at the end of the month with balance due by the 15th
(or next business day) of the month following the Bill Date.
Late Notice#1: Late Notice #1 (Delinquent Notice) will include notification of a past due
amount and will be mailed to customer. This would be received
approximately 20 days from original bill upon initial delinquency and would
add a late fee of $5.
Utility Bill #2: Next regular monthly bill will include notification of a past due amount.
This would be approximately 30 days from original bill and at about 15 days
Late Notice #2: Late notice #2 (Disconnection Notice) will include notification of a past
due amount, about 1 month from late notice #1. This would be received
approximately 45 days from original bill at about 30 days delinquent and
would add an additional $5 late fee.
Utility Bill #3: Next regular monthly bill will include notification of a past due amount.
This would be approximately 60 days from original bill and at about 45 days
delinquent. The City will attempt a courtesy call to the customer.
Late Notice #3: Late notice #3 (Door Hanger) will be posted at property at least 10 days
prior to shutoff, which is about 30 days from late notice #2. This would be
received approximately 75 days from the original bill at about 60 days
Water Shut-Off: Unpaid balance is now over 60 days delinquent and service will be shutoff.
If a customer disputes the amount due, they must follow the procedure outlined in the City’s Municipal Code chapter 13.04.190. Pursuant to Ca. Health and Safety Code §116910, if all three of the following conditions are met, an alternative payment arrangement will be granted:
Health Conditions – a primary care provider certifies in writing that discontinuation of water service would be
life threatening or pose a serious threat to the health/safety of a resident (can be any resident in the residence);
Financial Inability – the customer declares that they are 200% below the federal poverty line or participate in
public assistance programs such as Medi-Cal or CalWorks; and
Payment Arrangements – the customer agrees to a payment arrangement as offered by the City.
All amortization plans must be approved and signed by 4:00p.m. the business day prior to the shut off day. Review of written health certification will require an appointment at City Hall. You may contact the City at 559-747-0458 x1003 or review the policy the link provided.