Water Customer Bill of Rights

This bill would create new requirements for public and private water systems.

The bill would:
• Allow customers to drop contracts within 3 days of entering into agreements;
• Allow customers to terminate service agreements by written or electronic notice to the water system;
• Require systems relying on estimates to bill no more than twice a year;
• Require that estimated billing amounts not exceed a customer’s average bill during the prior 12 months;
• Require the acceptance of cash payments;
• Require the issuance of bills within 30 days of meter reading otherwise at least quarterly;
• Require that security deposits be no greater than $150 for single-family residential customers and not more than the average billing amount for two months for all other customers;
• Prohibit late fees, fees for cancellation, or other punitive fees or penalties greater than 15% of any past due balance 20 days from due date;
• Prohibit disconnection except for failure to pay and only if billing was timely;
• Require, upon customer request, a payment plan prior to disconnection due to failure to pay;
• Prohibit termination of service less than 15 days after providing written notice of impending disconnection;
• Prohibit disconnections of during times of extreme heat or cold;
• Prohibit disconnections should a customer suffering from an illness provide written notice and a written statement from a licensed physician;
• Prohibit liens against property for any delinquent charges;
• Create guidelines for refunds in the case of overpayment
• Require certain information on bills;
• Require steps to correct billing errors to be made within 30 days of awareness;
• Require a hearing process to be administered by the water system for appeals prior to court action;

The bill would also allow court actions for declaratory judgment, civil damages, or punitive damages in superior court, so long as such actions are brought within the calendar year immediately following the calendar year in which the alleged failure occurred. If the court determine there was gross negligence on the part of the water provider, the court can award court costs, attorney fees, and punitive damages not to exceed $500 per action filed.

Any water system met with court actions in a given year would be required to submit a list of all actions to the Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Law by January 31 of the following year.     

Prior to filing any action against a public water system a customer would be required to make application to the public system for an appeal of the grievances and within 45 days of such appeal the governing authority would be required to hold a public hearing to consider the appeal. 

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