With the sudden drop in temperatures last week, maybe you are concerned about paying your utility bills this winter. In case you have trouble making your payments, would the utility company be able to shut off your heat when the temperatures drop? Truth is, your heat CAN be shut off for nonpayment, UNLESS you take steps under the Cold Weather Rule (CWR) to protect yourself. Codified in MN Stats §216B.096 and §216B.097, you must contact your utility company to apply for the legally mandated protection from having your heat shut off. You will then be required arrange and maintain a payment plan with your utility to be covered under CWR. All natural gas and electric utility companies must offer protection under the CWR, which is in effect annually from October 15 through April 15. This process is described by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. More information about CWR is available through this Legal Aid fact sheet. If you are having trouble affording your heating service, you may also be eligible for assistance through the Energy Assistance Program (EAP), which is administered through the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Similarly, if you are a renter you may be wondering if your landlord might turn off your heat if you can’t pay rent, in order to make you move out. In fact, your landlord can only evict you through a legal unlawful detainer. They may not force you out through “retaliatory” means such as turning off your utilities. If you think your landlord is trying to do this, you may decide to file an Emergency Tenant Remedies Action. (MN Stat §504B.381) You can find additional information and the necessary forms through the MN Courts. You can also find city-specific information regarding your landlord’s heating responsibilities at this HOME line webpage.