Policy on Discontinuation of Residential Water Service
POLICY ON DISCONTINUATION OF RESIDENTIAL WATER SERVICE
Adopted by Resolution No. 2022-109 of the City Council of the City of Riverbank on September 13, 2022
1. Application of Policy. This Policy on Discontinuation of Residential Water Service (this “Policy”) shall apply to all City accounts for residential water service but shall not apply to any accounts for non-residential service. To the extent this Policy conflicts with any other rules, regulations, or policies of the City, this Policy shall control.
2. Contact Information. For questions or assistance regarding your water bill, the City’s Customer Service staff can be reached at (209) 863-7109. Customers may also visit the City’s Customer Service desk in person Monday through Thursday, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except on City holidays.
3. Billing Procedures. Water service charges are payable to the City once every two months or at such other frequency as determined by the City Council from time to time.
3.1 All bills for water service are due and payable upon receipt and shall be considered delinquent if not paid seven (7) days after mailing or e-mailing by the City. Any bills not paid within such period are considered delinquent.
3.2 Any bill which is not paid by the close of business thirty-fifth (35) calendar days after the bill is issued shall be subject to a ten percent (10%) penalty.
3.3 At the request of the customer, the City will waive the late fee once every 24 months if there are extenuating circumstances and the customer has not been assessed a late fee for delinquent payment in the preceding 12 months.
4. Discontinuation of Water Service for Nonpayment. If a bill is delinquent for at least sixty (60) days, the City may discontinue water service to the service address and will be charged the $50.00 Reconnection Fee, to be paid in cash.
4.1 Written Notice to Customer. The City will provide a mailed notice to the customer of record at least ten (10) business days before discontinuation of water service. The notice will contain:
(a) the name and address of the customer;
(b) the amount of the delinquency;
(c) the date by which payment or payment arrangements must be made to avoid discontinuation of service;
(d) the procedure by which the customer may initiate a complaint or request an investigation or appeal concerning service or charges;
(e) a description of the procedure by which the customer may request an alternative payment arrangement, which may include an extension, amortization, alternative payment schedule, or payment reduction;
(f) the procedure for the customer to obtain information on financial assistance, if applicable; and
(g) the telephone number where the customer may request a payment arrangement or receive additional information from the City.
4.2 Written Notice to Occupants or Tenants.
(a) The City will also send a notice to the occupants living at the service address at least ten (10) business days before discontinuation of water service under the following circumstances: (1) the City furnishes individually metered service to a single-family dwelling, multi-unit residential structure, mobile home park, or farm labor camp and the owner, manager, or operator is the customer of record; or (2) the customer of record’s mailing address is not the same as the service address. The notice will be addressed to “Occupant,” will contain the information required in Section 4.1 above, and will inform the residential occupants that they have the right to become customers of the City without being required to pay the amount due on the delinquent account. Terms and conditions for occupants to become customers of the City are provided in Section 8 below.
(b) If the City furnishes water through a master meter in a multi-unit residential structure, mobile home park, or permanent residential structures in a labor camp and the owner, manager, or operator is the customer of record, the City will make a good faith effort to inform the occupants, by means of written notice posted on the door of each residential unit at least fifteen (15) days prior to termination, that the account is in arrears and the service will be terminated on a date specified in the notice. If it is not reasonable or practicable to post the notice on the door of each unit, the City will post two (2) copies of the notice in each accessible common area and at each point of access to the structure or structures. The notice will inform the residential occupants that they have the right to become customers of the City without being required to pay the amount due on the delinquent account. The notice will also specify what the occupants are required to do in order to prevent termination of, or to reestablish service; the estimated monthly cost of service; the title, address, and telephone number of a representative of the City who can assist the occupants in continuing service; and the address or telephone number of a qualified legal services project that has been recommended by the local county bar association. Terms and conditions for occupants to become customers of the City are provided in Section 8 below.
4.3 Posting of Notice at Service Address. If the City receives the written notice returned through the mail as undeliverable and is unable to make contact with the customer or an adult occupying the residence by telephone, the City will make a good faith effort to visit the residence and leave a notice of imminent discontinuation of residential service in a conspicuous place at the service address. The notice will be left at the residence at least forty-eight (48) hours before discontinuation of service. The notice will include:
(a) the name and address of the customer;
(b) the amount of the delinquency;
(c) the date by which payment or payment arrangements must be made to avoid discontinuation of service;
(d) the procedure for the customer to obtain information on financial assistance, if applicable; and
(e) the telephone number where the customer may request a payment arrangement or receive additional information from the City.
4.4 Circumstances Under Which Service Will Not Be Discontinued. The City will not discontinue residential water service for nonpayment under the following circumstances:
(a) During an investigation by the City of a customer dispute or complaint under Section 5.1 below;
(b) During the pendency of an appeal to the City Council under Section 5.3 below; or
(c) During the period of time in which a customer’s payment is subject to a City-approved extension, amortization, alternative payment schedule, or reduction under Section 6 below, and the customer remains in compliance with the approved payment arrangement.
(d) As provided in the Riverbank Municipal Code section 52.66
4.5 Special Medical and Financial Circumstances Under Which Services Will Not Be Discontinued.
(a) The City will not discontinue water service if all of the following conditions are met:
(i) The customer, or a tenant of the customer, submits to the City the certification of a licensed primary care provider that discontinuation of water service will be life threatening to, or pose a serious threat to the health and safety of, a resident of the premises where residential service is provided;
(ii) The customer demonstrates that he or she is financially unable to pay for residential service within the City’s normal billing cycle. The customer is deemed financially unable to pay during the normal billing cycle if: (a) 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 (b) the customer declares under penalty of perjury that the household’s annual income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level; and
(iii) The customer is willing to enter into an alternative payment arrangement, including an extension, amortization, alternative payment schedule, or payment reduction with respect to the delinquent charges.
(b) For any customers who meet all of the above conditions, the City shall offer the customer one of the following options, to be selected by the City in its discretion: (1) an extension of the payment period; (2) an alternative payment schedule or amortization of the unpaid balance. The City Manager or designee will select the most appropriate payment arrangement, taking into consideration the information and documentation provided by the customer, as well as the City’s payment needs.
(c) The customer is responsible for demonstrating that the conditions in subsection (a) have been met. Upon receipt of documentation from the customer, which must be provided to the City at least 48 hours prior to the disconnection date, the City will review the documentation within seven (7) days and: (1) notify the customer of the alternative payment arrangement selected by the City and request the customer’s signed assent to participate in that alternative arrangement; (2) request additional information from the customer; or (3) notify the customer that he or she does not meet the conditions in subsection (a). The City reserves the right to extend the customer documentation submission period at the City’s discretion.
(d) The City may discontinue water service if a customer who has been granted an alternative payment arrangement under this section fails to do any of the following for sixty (60) days or more: (a) to pay his or her unpaid charges by the extended payment date; (b) to pay any amortized amount due under the amortization schedule or (c) to pay his or her current charges for water service. The City will post a final notice of intent to disconnect service in a prominent and conspicuous location at the service address at least five (5) business days before discontinuation of service. The final notice will not entitle the customer to any investigation or review by the City.
4.6 Time of Discontinuation of Service. The City will not discontinue water service due to nonpayment on a Saturday, Sunday, legal holiday, or at any time during which the City’s office is not open to the public.
4.7 Restoration of Service. The City provide customers whose water service has been discontinued information on how to restore residential service. Such information shall indicate that the customer may contact the City by telephone or in person regarding restoration service. Restoration shall be subject to payment of: (a) any past-due amounts, including applicable interest or penalties; (b) any reconnection fees, subject to the limitations in Section 7.1, if applicable; (c) and a security deposit, if required by the City.
5. Procedures to Contest or Appeal a Bill.
5.1 Time to Initiate Complaint or Request an Investigation. A customer may initiate a complaint or request an investigation regarding the amount of a bill within ten (10) days of receiving a disputed bill. For purposes of this Section 5.1 only, a bill shall be deemed received by a customer ten (10) days after mailing and immediately upon e-mailing.
5.2 Review by City. A timely complaint or request for investigation shall be reviewed by a manager of the City, who shall provide a written determination to the customer. The review will include consideration of whether the customer may receive an extension, amortization, alternative payment schedule, or payment reduction under Section 6. The City may, in its discretion, review untimely complaints or requests for investigation; however, such complaints or requests are not subject to appeal.
5.3 Appeal to City Council. Any customer whose timely complaint or request for an investigation pursuant to this Section 5 has resulted in an adverse determination may appeal the determination to the City Council by filing a written notice of appeal with the City Clerk within ten (10) business days of the City’s mailing of its determination. Upon receiving the notice of appeal, the City Clerk will set the matter to be heard at an upcoming City Council meeting and mail the customer written notice of the time and place of the hearing at least ten (10) days before the meeting. The decision of the City Council shall be final.
6. Extensions and Other Alternative Payment Arrangements.
6.1 Time to Request an Extension or Other Alternative Payment Arrangement. If a customer is unable to pay a bill during the normal payment period, the customer may request an extension or other alternative payment arrangement described in this Section 6. If a customer submits his or her request within seven (7) days after mailing of a written notice of discontinuation of service by the City, the request will be reviewed by a manager of the City. City decisions regarding extensions and other alternative payment arrangements are final and are not subject to appeal to the City Council.
6.2 Extension. If approved by the City, a customer’s payment of his or her unpaid balance may be temporarily extended for a period not to exceed six (6) months after the balance was originally due. The City Manager or designee shall determine, in his or her discretion, how long an extension shall be provided to the customer. The customer shall pay the full unpaid balance by the date set by the City and must remain current on all water service charges accruing during any subsequent billing periods. The extended payment date will be set forth in writing and provided to the customer.
6.3 Alternative Payment Schedule or Amortization. If approved by the City, a customer’s payment of his or her unpaid balance may be amortized over a period not to exceed twelve (12) months, as determined by the City Manager or designee, in his or her discretion. If approved, an alternative payment schedule may allow periodic lump-sum payments that do not coincide with the City’s established payment date or may provide for payments made more or less frequently than the City’s regular payment date. If amortization is approved, the unpaid balance will be divided by the number of months in the amortization period, and that amount will be added to the customer’s monthly bills for water service until fully paid. During the period of the alternative payment schedule or amortization, the customer must remain current on all water service charges accruing during any subsequent billing periods. The alternative payment or amortization schedule and amounts due will be set forth in writing and provided to the customer.
6.4 Failure To Comply. If a customer has been granted a payment arrangement under this Section 6 and fails to: (1) pay the unpaid charges by the extension date; (2) pay an amount due under an alternative payment schedule or amortization schedule, then the City may terminate water service. The City will post a final notice of intent to disconnect service in a prominent and conspicuous location at the service address at least five (5) business days before discontinuation of service. The final notice will not entitle the customer to any investigation or review by the City.
6.5 Payment Reductions or Waivers. Reductions or waivers of water service charges are not available at this time.
7. Specific Programs for Low-Income Customers.
7.1 Reconnection Fee Limits and Waiver of Interest. For residential customers who demonstrate to the City a household income below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, the City will:
(a) Limit any reconnection fees during normal operating hours to fifty dollars ($50), and during non-operational hours to one hundred fifty dollars ($150). The limits will only apply if the City’s reconnection fees actually exceed these amounts. These limits are subject to an annual adjustment for changes in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) beginning January 1, 2021.
(b) Waive interest charges on delinquent bills once every 12 months. The City will apply the waiver to any interest charges that are unpaid at the time of the customer’s request.
7.2 Qualifications. The City will deem a residential customer to have a household income below 200 percent of the federal poverty line if: (a) any member of the 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 (b) the customer declares under penalty of perjury that the household’s annual income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
8. Procedures for Occupants or Tenants to Become Customers of the City.
8.1 Applicability. This Section 8 shall apply only when the property owner, landlord, manager, or operator of a residential service address is listed as the customer of record and has been issued a notice of intent to discontinue water service due to nonpayment.
8.2 Agreement to City Terms and Conditions of Service. The City will make service available to the actual residential occupants if each occupant agrees to the terms and conditions of service and meets the requirements of the City’s rules and regulations. Notwithstanding, if one or more of the 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 discontinuing service to those occupants who have not met the requirements of the City’s rules and regulations, the City shall make service available to the occupants who have met those requirements.
8.3 Verification of Tenancy. To be eligible to become a customer without paying the amount due on the delinquent account, the occupant shall verify that the delinquent account customer of record is or was the landlord, manager, or agent of the dwelling. Verification may include, but is not limited to, a lease or rental agreement, rent receipts, a government document indicating that the occupant is renting the property, or information disclosed pursuant to Section 1962 of the Civil Code, at the discretion of the City.
8.4 Methods of Establishing Credit. 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 for that period of time is a satisfactory equivalent.
9. Third Party Notification Service for Seniors and Dependent Adults. The City will make available, to residential customers who are 65 years or older, or who are dependent adults (as defined in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 15610(b)(1)), a third-party notification service whereby the City will attempt to notify a person designated by the customer to receive notification when the customer’s account is past-due and subject to termination. The notification will include information on what is required to prevent termination of service. The City will mail the notification to the designated third party at least ten (10) days before termination of service. To participate, the customer must submit a request for third-party notification on a form provided by the City, and must include the written consent of the designated third party. The notification service does not obligate the third party to pay any overdue charges, nor shall it prevent or delay termination of service.
10. Language for Certain Written Notices. All written notices under Section 4 and Section 6.6 of this Policy shall be provided in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, and any other language spoken by ten percent (10%) or more people within the City’s service area.
11. Other Remedies. In addition to discontinuation of water service, the City may pursue any other remedies available in law or equity for nonpayment of water service charges, including, but not limited to: securing delinquent amounts by filing liens on real property, filing a claim or legal action, or referring the unpaid amount to collections. In the event a legal action is decided in favor of the City, the City shall be entitled to the payment of all costs and expenses, including attorneys’ fees and accumulated interest.
12. Discontinuation of Water Service for Other Customer Violations. The City reserves the right to discontinue water service for any violations of City ordinances, rules, or regulations other than nonpayment.
13. Fees and Charges Incurred. Except as otherwise expressly stated in this Policy, any fees and charges incurred by a customer under any other rules, regulations, or policies of the City, including, but not limited to, delinquent charges, shall be due and payable as set forth therein.