Discharging Utility Bills in Bankruptcy, the Cold Weather Rule, and Utility Assistance in Kansas

Many people do not think of past due utilities as debt that can be wiped out in bankruptcy. If you have outstanding utility bills at the time you file bankruptcy, that debt that needs to be listed on your bankruptcy petition. If your utility is a public utility (water, gas, electric), that utility must continue to provide you service even after you discharge your past due amount in a bankruptcy. These utilities will generally restart your account automatically and charge you a small deposit over the course of 3 to 4 months. Other things that people may consider private or for-profit utilities, such as telephone or cellphone, cable, and internet, can be discharged but they do not have to provide you service after you discharge them. 

Bankruptcy, Utility Bills, and the Cold Weather Rule

If you are struggling with utility payments during the winter, the Cold Weather Rule can help buy you time. The Cold Weather Rule helps ensure you will have electric, gas and water service during the winter months from November 1 through March 31. To use the Cold Weather Rule, you must contact your utility provider and let them know you are unable to make the full payment. They will work with you to make a payment plan and can tell you about agencies that may have funds to help pay utility bills. After March 31 the utility company can shut of your service and you may be left with a large past due amount. As March 31 approaches, you may begin to worry about utility shut-offs and wonder if bankruptcy can help. If you have other debts, it can be worth looking into bankruptcy. However, if your only major debt is a utility bill, there are other options out there to help you get current you may want to try first. 

Below are links to Kansas utility providers assistance programs and non-profits that may be able to provide utility assistance.  

Name Services Provided Contact Information
United Way
Many services provided with searchable database depending on your location. 
Salvation Army
Provides assistance for customers that use Atmos, Black Hills Energy, Midwest Energy, or Kansas Gas Service.
Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP)
Provides assistance with home energy costs.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Wichita 
Utility assistance in 25 counties. 
Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc (HCCI)
Has a list of community resources available by location.
Liberty Utilities
Provides list of assistance options. 
Southern Pioneer
Provides billing department number where they can provide list of agencies that give assistance 
Atmos Energy
Provides list of assistance agencies. 
Black Hills Energy
Provides list of assistance agencies. 
Kansas Gas Service
Provides list of assistance agencies.  
Midwest Energy
Provides list of assistance agencies.

Filing Bankruptcy When Your Utilities Have Been Turned Off

Even if your utilities are already shut off at the time the bankruptcy is filed then the utility company must turn them back on.  This allows people that cannot get any other help to force the utility company to give them service even when there is a large bill outstanding.  When we file bankruptcy cases we frequently fax over notice to the utility company and the power is back on within a day or so.

If you have any questions about your utilities and how they would be affected in a bankruptcy please contact our office and we will be happy to answer them.  We have bankruptcy offices in Wichita, Topeka, Lawrence and Overland Park and our attorneys have handled thousands of consumer bankruptcy cases.  

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