Utilities & Rent Relief
Through Executive Order, Governor Holcomb prohibited utilities from disconnecting services to customers through August 14. During this time, many utilities have experienced an increase in the number of customers not paying on time, and without the ability to disconnect service, some customers have accrued several months of unpaid charges. The shutoff moratorium does not erase a customer’s obligation to pay for utility services, but it will likely be impossible for many customers to immediately pay off their unpaid balances after the moratorium is lifted.
Utilities subject to the jurisdiction of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) are required to offer payment plans to their customers of at least 6 months, and the Governor’s executive order strongly encourages (but does not require) non-regulated utilities to do the same.
Aim has developed recommendations generated by financial advisors, municipal attorneys, and municipal officials to restore the financial health of municipal utilities while ensuring that collection techniques are not unnecessarily punitive to customers who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission
Utilities that are subject to the jurisdiction are subject to a new IURC order handed down on Aug 12. Under this order, through October 12, regulated utilities are:
- Required to offer extended payment arrangements of at least 6 months for residential customers
- Prohibited from collecting late fees, deposits, and disconnection or reconnection fees from residential customers
The vast majority of municipally-owned utilities are not subject to the IURC’s jurisdiction and this order, but the IURC is encouraging non-jurisdictional utilities to consider implementing the same practices being required of the jurisdictional utilities to the extent practicable. This also matches comments the Governor has been making about the importance of trying to get delinquent customers onto payment plans as an alternative to immediate disconnection from essential services throughout this public health crisis.
A municipally owned utility that had opted out of the jurisdiction from the IURC before 1987 and those who removed themselves from IURC jurisdiction under IC 8-1.5-3-9 or 9.1 are not subject to the IURC order. Lists of withdrawn utilities are available here: Water Utilities; Electric Utilities; Gas Utilities. These utilities will need to set their own rules and payment plans allowing for adequate notice and due process to dispute the amounts due before disconnection.
- Town of Clarksville – Utility Payment Management Plan; Utility Arrears Letter Example; Utility Arrears Letter (30 days); Utility Arrears Letter (90 days);
- Town of Culver – Delinquent Sanitary Sewer Account Payment Plan Agreement
- City of Huntington – Amendment to Temporary Authorization for Repayment Plans for Municipal Utility Accounts due to COVID-19
In the News
- Indianapolis Star – Utility shut-offs could start Monday — but it’s hard to say how many will be hit
The Rental Assistance Portal is designed to help Indiana renters living outside of Marion County whose income has been adversely affected by COVID-19 avoid eviction by connecting them with programs that can help them cover monthly rent payments or past due rent.
Marion County has established Indy Rent Relief to assist renters in Marion County and Indianapolis. The program no longer exists, but there are rent relief resources that are still active psot-COVID.
Landlord and Tenant Settlement Conference Program
The Landlord and Tenant Settlement Conference Program is a way to help landlords and tenants talk about their situation with the help of a “facilitator”, a neutral helper, to see if a settlement can be reached before an eviction case is filed or, if an eviction case has already been filed, to see if an agreement can be reached between the parties before the court makes a decision in the eviction case. There is no cost to participants for participating in this program.