Minnesota’s Cold Weather Rule Helps You Keep the Heat on in the Winter
Rosemary K. Heins and Sharon Powell, Extension Educators — Family Resiliency
October 2016; reviewed October 2017 by Sharon Powell, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency.
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Minnesota is known for cold winters and that means heating costs increase. What are members of a household to do if they are struggling to pay their bills? The Minnesota Cold Weather Rule (CWR) provides an avenue for help.
The CWR exists to protect and reconnect your heat during the winter season. Specifically, the rule helps you keep your electric and natural gas service on from October 15 through April 15 each year, the CWR season, and applies to residential customers, including renters who pay their own utility bills. The rule does not cover delivered fuels, such as fuel oil, propane, or wood. You may apply for a CWR plan any time during the season.
Some people think that heat cannot be disconnected in the winter. But it can if you don’t pay your heating bill or do not have CWR protection. In order to keep your heat on all winter, you must make and keep (adhere to) a CWR payment plan with your utility company. Once you have a plan, it is important to stick to it because, if you don’t meet your obligations under your payment plan, your utility company is not required to offer additional arrangements. If it looks like you won’t be able to make your scheduled payment, call your utility company immediately to create a new payment plan.
Utilities offer different payment plans based on household income. If the combined income from all members of your household is below 50 percent of the state median, the CWR guarantees you will receive a reduced payment plan. In addition, you are not required to pay more than 10 percent of your household income toward current or past utility bills in any given month. Currently, for a household of four the median annual income is $70,218. If your income is higher, you can still make reduced-payment arrangements with your utility.To apply, contact your utility company to request a payment arrangement. All natural gas and electric utilities must follow some level of the rule. If you and your utility company cannot agree upon a plan, you have 10 days to appeal to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The Commission will assist you in setting up a payment plan and your service will stay on during the appeal process.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. (2016). Real Median Household Income in Minnesota.
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. (n.d.). Minnesota Cold Weather Rule.
Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. (n.d.). Landlords and Tenants: Rights and Responsibilities.
Shut-Off Protection — Minnesota Public Utilities Commission — Find help to keep your electric and natural gas service on.
Low Income Energy Assistance Program (EAP) — Minnesota Department of Commerce — Apply by May 31, 2017 to be processed for EAP benefits for the 2016-2017 program year.