SB 998

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DISCONTINUATION OF RESIDENTIAL WATER SERVICE FOR NONPAYMENT 

PURPOSE:   

This policy enumerates City of West Sacramento’s administrative actions for the collection of delinquent accounts, including notifications, fee assignments and discontinuation of water service in conjunction with Senate Bill 998 and City’s Municipal Code Chapter 13.04 Article X Water Service System.

POLICY: 

General Provisions -

  1. This Policy applies only to discontinuation of residential water service for nonpayment. The City’s existing ordinances, resolutions, policies and procedures shall continue to apply to any non-residential water service accounts and to discontinuation of residential water service for other reasons, including the termination of service connection by the City due to a customer violation of any other ordinance, regulation, or policy of the City. In the event of any conflict between this Policy and any other ordinance, regulation, or policy of the City, this Policy shall prevail.  
  2. Under applicable City ordinances, bills for water service are rendered to each customer on a monthly basis and are due and payable by the due date. Water service bills become delinquent if not paid within 27 days of the billing date. It is the customer’s responsibility to ensure that payments are received at the City office in a timely manner. Payment may be made at the City office, online, or to the address for remittance of mailed payments.
  3. The City shall provide this policy and all written notices given under this Policy in English, in the languages listed in Section 1632 of the Civil Code, and in any other language spoken by at least 10 percent of the people residing in the City’s service area. This Policy shall be posted and maintained on the City’s internet website.
  4. The City’s Utility Billing Division can be reached at (916) 617-4589 for assistance concerning the payment of water bills and to discuss options to avoid discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment.

PROCEDURE:

  1. The City shall not discontinue residential water service for nonpayment of a service bill until a customer’s payment has been delinquent for at least 60 days.
  2. At least 10 days before any proposed discontinuance of residential service for nonpayment of a delinquent account, the City shall contact the customer named on the account by written notice.
    1. The written notice of payment delinquency and impending disconnection shall be mailed to the customer of the residence to which the residential service is provided. If the customer’s billing address is not the address of the property to which residential service is provided, the notice also shall be sent to the address of the property to which residential service is provided, addressed to "Occupant."
    2. The written notice shall include all of the following information:
      1. The customer’s name and address.
      2. The amount of the delinquency, including an itemization of any late payment penalties and interest to be applied to the delinquent charges.
      3. The date and time by which payment or arrangement for payment must be made in order to avoid disconnection of water service.
      4. A description of the process to apply for an extension of time to pay the delinquent charges.
      5. A description of the procedure to petition for bill review and investigation.
      6. A description of the procedure by which the customer may request an alternative payment schedule, including an amortization of the delinquent residential service charges, consistent with this policy.
      7. The City’s telephone number, business address, and hours of operation of the customer service counter.
      8. In the case of a residential tenant, additional notice information as laid out in section 6 of this Policy.
    3. If the written notice provided for in 2-b is returned through the mail as undeliverable, the City shall make a good faith effort to visit the residence and post, in a conspicuous location at the premises, a notice of imminent termination of residential water service for nonpayment. The notice of imminent termination of service for nonpayment shall include all of the following information:
      1. The customer’s name and address.
      2. The amount of the delinquency, including an itemization of any late payment penalties and interest to be applied on any delinquent charges.
      3. The date and time by which payment or arrangements for payment is required in order to avoid termination.
      4. The telephone number of a representative of the City who can provide additional information or institute arrangements for payment.
      5. A copy of the City's policy for discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment. 
  3. Even after providing notice described above, the City shall not discontinue residential water service in any of the following situations:
    1. During the pendency of a customer dispute or complaint brought pursuant to section 7 of this Policy.
    2. Where the City's Administrative Services Director, or designee, has granted a customer an extension to the period for payment of a bill – for instance an amortization agreement, an alternative payment schedule, or a deferral or reduction in payment plan – and the costumer abides by the conditions of that grant.
    3. Where the customer provides documentation of the following:
      1.  Where the customer, or a tenant of the customer, submits to the City the certification of a primary care provider, as defined in section 14088(b)(A)(1) of the Welfare and Institutions Code, that disconnection of residential service will be life threatening to, or pose a serious threat to the health and safety of, a resident of the property receiving service.
      2. Where the customer demonstrates that they are financially unable to pay for residential service within the normal billing cycle because any member of the customer’s household is a current recipient of CalWORKs, CalFresh, general assistance, Medi-Cal, Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment Program, or California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or the customer declares that the household’s annual income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
      3. The customer is willing to enter into an alternative payment arrangement, consistent with the provisions of section 4 of this Policy.
    4. When the discontinuance would occur on a Saturday, Sunday, legal holiday, or outside of the City's normal operating hours.
  4. If a customer meets the conditions listed in section 3-c, above, the following conditions apply:
    1. The City shall waive interest and late charges on delinquent bills once every 12 months and offer the customer one or more of the following payment options and conditions.:
      1. Amortization of the unpaid balance;
      2. Participation in an alternative payment schedule;
      3. A partial or full reduction of the unpaid balance, financed without additional charges to other ratepayers; and/or
      4. Temporary deferral of payment.
    2. The City’s Administrative Services Director, or designee, may choose which of the payment options described in section 4-a, above, may be available to the customer and may set the parameters of that payment option. Ordinarily, the repayment option(s) offered should result in repayment of any remaining outstanding balance within 12 months. The City may grant a longer repayment period if it finds the longer period is necessary to avoid undue hardship to the customer based on the circumstances of the individual case.
    3. While the customer is under an alternative payment plan under 4-a, the customer shall not allow payments under the payment plan or subsequent bills to be delinquent for 60 days or more or else the City may discontinue service after providing at least five (5) business days' notice of intent to disconnect service in a prominent and conspicuous location at the property. The customer may not request further amortization or reduction of any unpaid charges on subsequent bills while paying delinquent charges under a payment plan under 4-a. Commencing on the date the first payment arrangement is entered, customers who fail to comply with an agreed payment arrangement will not be eligible to establish future payment arrangements for a period of 12 months, except as otherwise prohibited by law.
  5. The City's Administrative Services Director, or designee, is authorized, upon a proper showing by a customer of the customer's inability to pay a delinquent bill during the normal billing period, to grant permission to enter into an amortization agreement, an alternative payment schedule, or a deferral or reduction in payment plan to pay the unpaid balance over a reasonable period of time, not to exceed twelve (12) months.
    1. For a customer who demonstrates a household income less than two hundred percent of the federal poverty line, as described in 3-c-ii:
      1. The City shall waive the interest charges on a delinquent bill once every 12 months.
      2. A re-connection fee during normal business hours of the City shall not exceed $50 or the actual cost of re-connection, whichever is less. A re-connection fee during non-business hours of the City shall not exceed $150 or the actual cost of re-connection, whichever is less.
    2. The City may discontinue water service to a customer subject to an amortization agreement, an alternative payment schedule, or a deferral or reduction in payment plan after providing at least 5 business days' notice by posting a final notice of intent to disconnect service in a prominent and conspicuous location at the property, listing the conditions the customer is required to meet to avoid termination, under the following circumstances:
      1. The customer fails to comply with the agreed amortization agreement, alternative payment schedule, or deferral or reduction in payment plan for delinquent charges for 60 days or more.
      2. The customer, while subject to an amortization agreement, an alternative payment schedule, or a deferral or reduction in payment plan, fails to pay current or subsequent residential service charges for 60 days or more.
  6. Discontinuation Water Service in Master Meter Landlord-Tenant Situations.
    1. The City shall make a good faith effort to inform the residential occupants, by means of written notice, when the account is in arrears that service will be terminated at least 10 days prior to the termination. This notice shall further inform the residential occupants that the service is available to residential occupants who are able to assume responsibility for the subsequent charges to the account to the satisfaction of the City.  
    2. The City is not required to make service available to the residential occupants unless each residential occupant agrees to the terms and conditions of the City water service and meets the requirements of law and City’s ordinances, rules, regulations and policies. However, if one or more of the residential occupants are willing and able to assume responsibility for the subsequent charges to the account to the satisfaction of the City, or if there is a physical means legally available to the City of selectively terminating service to those residential occupants who have not met the requirements of the City’s ordinances, rules, regulations and policies, the City shall make service available to those residential occupants who have met those requirements.
    3. If prior service for a period of time is a condition for establishing credit with the City, residence and proof of prompt payment of rent or other credit obligation acceptable to the City for that period of time is a satisfactory equivalent.
    4. In the case of a detached single-family dwelling, the City may do any of the following:
      1. Give notice of termination at least 10 days prior to the proposed termination.
      2. In order for the amount due on the delinquent account to be waived, require an occupant who becomes a customer to verify that the delinquent account customer of record is or was the landlord, manager, or agent of the dwelling.
  7. A customer may appeal a residential water service bill or a notice of delinquent payment for residential water service as follows:
    1. General Appeal – Within 5 business days of receipt of the bill for residential water service, a customer may request an appeal or review of any bill or charge rendered by the City.
    2. Notice Appeal – Within 5 business days receipt of a notice described in section 2 of this Policy, a customer may request an appeal or review of the bill to which the notice relates.
    3. Request for Appeal – A request for appeal or review must be made in writing to the City’s Utility Billing division via email at utility@cityofwestsacramento.org or via U.S. Mail at City of West Sacramento Utilities, 1110 West Capitol Avenue, West Sacramento, CA 95691. A request will be considered submitted the day it is mailed. Any appeal or request for review must include a copy of the bill or notice to be appealed or reviewed and documentation supporting the appeal or the reason for the review. The City may not disconnect water service to the customer while an appeal and any resulting investigation is pending.
    4. Appeal or Review Process –
      1. Following receipt of a request for an appeal or review, the Utility Billing staff and Public Works Water Services Division shall evaluate the request for review and evidence provided by the customer and the information on file with the City concerning the water charges in question.  Within 10 business days after receipt of the customer’s request for review, the Administrative Services Director, or designee, shall render a decision as to the accuracy of the water charges set forth on the bill and shall provide the appealing customer with a brief written summary of the decision.
      2. If the water charges in question are determined to be correct, the water charges are due and payable within 5 business days after the Administrative Services Director’s, or designee’s, decision is rendered and the customer notified, or the water bill’s original due date, whichever is later. At the time the decision is rendered, the customer will be advised of the right to further appeal to the City Council. Any such appeal must be filed in writing within 7 calendar days after the Administrative Service Director’s, or designee’s, decision is rendered.
      3. If the customer does not appeal to the City Council within the prescribed timeline, the water charges in question shall be immediately due and payable. In the event the charges are not paid in full within 60 calendar days after the original billing date, the City shall provide customer with the 10-Day Notice in accordance with section 2 of this Policy and the water service may be discontinued if the outstanding bill is not paid within the prescribed time frame.
      4. If the water charges in question are determined to be incorrect, the City will provide a corrected amount due within 10 calendar days after the decision is rendered. If the revised charges remain unpaid for more than 60 calendar days after the original billing date, the City shall provide customer with the 10-Day Notice in accordance with section 2 of this Policy, and the water service may be discontinued if the outstanding bill is not timely paid. Water service will only be restored upon full payment of all outstanding water charges, penalties, interest, and any applicable re-connection charges.
      5. Any overcharges due from the City will be reflected as a credit on the next regular bill to the customer or refunded directly to the customer.
      6. Water service to any customer shall not be discontinued at any time during which the customer’s appeal is pending.
  8. All rates, charges, penalties and interest which remain at least 60 days past due as of May 30th each year may be recorded as a lien with the County and added to the annual property tax roll for the forthcoming fiscal year in accordance with Municipal Code sections 13.04.710 and 13.04.710, as follows:
    1. The City shall prepare a written report, filed with the City Clerk, which describes each parcel of real property for which there are delinquencies in rates or charges for services rendered to the parcel during the fiscal year, and the amount of the delinquency.
    2. The City Clerk shall publish notice of the report’s filing and of the time and place of hearing on the report. The notice shall be published at least once a week for two weeks.
    3. Written notification shall be mailed to each property owner whose property or parcel is identified as being subject to delinquent charges setting forth individually each property and each of the services and charges due for that property.  This notice is typically mailed in June, at least 45 days before the lien is placed on the property and delinquent balance is added to the annual tax roll, for accounts that are at least 60 days past due.
    4. Customers may contact the Utility Billing Division to make payment arrangements, including alternative payment plans, for delinquent accounts that are identified to be added to the annual tax roll and a lien added to the property through the end of July.
    5. At the time stated in the notice, the City Council shall hear and consider all objections or protests, if any, to the report concerning the delinquent accounts. The City Council then makes its determination on each delinquency identified in the report. The City Council’s determination shall be final.
    6. Following the City Council public hearing, on or before August 10th of each year, the report of delinquent accounts is updated to remove any accounts that have either paid in full or have made alternative payment arrangements by July 31st.
    7. The tax roll listing of delinquent accounts and balances are remitted to the County on or before the August 10th deadline for inclusion on the annual property tax roll. A lien is also placed on the property at that time.
    8. Once the balance is paid in full through the teeter program, the City notifies the County to remove the lien on the account holder property.