Couple looking over bankruptcy papers

Bankruptcy Is One Option For Folks Struggling To Pay Utility Bills

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Wisconsinites should prepare for a winter that is colder than normal with above average snowfall. The popular publication says the ‘Lower Lakes’ region where Milwaukee is located will be “colder than normal, with the coldest temperatures in early December and late January to mid-February. Both precipitation and snowfall will be above normal. The snowiest periods will be in late November to early December and early to mid-January.”

This prediction has the Hanson & Payne team ready to break out our long underwear and offer a few bits of advice to any Milwaukee area residents struggling to pay their utility bills as temps drop. 

Wisconsin Shuts Down Shut Offs From November 1 Through April 15

State law prohibits Wisconsin utility companies from shutting off services due to unpaid bills from November 1st through April 15th. It is simply too risky to cut off someone’s heat during our cold winter months. 

That being said, heating your home is not free during this period. Even if you can’t afford to pay, you will continue to be charged the full amount for the services you use. As April 15 approaches, you need to apply for assistance, negotiate a repayment plan with your service provider, or think about filing for bankruptcy. 

Assistance Programs 

The Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Division of Energy Services Energy, Housing and Community Resources provides help to qualified residential households with energy assistance and weatherization needs. The agency also has a list of additional organizations that may be able to provide assistance by county.

The Public Service Commission’s (PSC) Consumer Affairs Department may be able to help you negotiate a repayment plan with your utility if you cannot do so alone. It also has information on budget billing plans that can help you pay high winter utility costs over time. 

Filing For Bankruptcy Can Wipe Out Past Due Utility Bills 

If the utility debt you have accumulated is insurmountable, you may want to consider filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Utility debt is considered unsecured debt, and it is dischargeable through bankruptcy. This is an extreme option that should only be considered if no other options are on the table, and it is unlikely you will need to file for bankruptcy again for several years. 

Prices Predicted To Rise 

Fox 6 Milwaukee reports that the average cost of heating a household is set to increase by 17.2% this winter, with the average winter heating bill increasing from $1,025 to $1,202. To make matters worse, residential electric bills are also forecast to increase 7.5% from 2021. These price increases, combined with the predicted cold snap, could mean many Milwaukee residents have trouble paying their utility bills this year. 

The Hanson & Payne team is here to help anyone who is considering filing for bankruptcy because of their utility bills weigh their options and find a path forward. Please contact us today to set up a meeting.