Can a utility company turn off service for a late bill when a “medical necessity” letter is on file with them?

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Can a utility company turn off service for a late bill when a “medical necessity” letter is on file with them?

I am a young mother and cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. My gas company informed me to fax a letter with this information from my oncologist, which I did. When I am only $90 behind on a gas bill they still send out someone each month to shut off service. Do I have rights here? I am starting to feel harassed.

Asked on October 1, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Missouri

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

A utility company has no obligation to provide gas or electricity for someone who is not paying  his or her bill on time. If you are behind on a bill--even if "only" by $90--the utility does not have to keep providing the service. (Turn your question around: why would  you have a right to get gas without paying for it? That's essentially what you're asking.) I know this seems harsh, but  utilities are not required to provide their services without being paid for them.

Try contacting single mother's and cancer patient's support and advocacy groups--they may be able to put you in touch with some agency or organization that can provide you help with making your utility payments. Try also speaking with hospital's social worker--he or she may either have such a referral, or could possible talk to the utility company and get  them to agree to give you some forebearance on the bill and your service. Good luck.


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