SB 998

Payment of Bills and Disconnection of Water Service Policy

State of California Senate Bill No. 998:  Disconnection of Residential Water Service

Payment of Bills and Disconnection of Water Service Policy

State of California Senate Bill No. 998:  Disconnection of Residential Water Service

 Policy:

This policy outlines the City of Ceres Finance Department’s (City) actions for the collection of monies due on delinquent water accounts, including notifications, fee assignments and discontinuation of service.  This policy will be made available to the public on the City’s website and a reference to this policy will be included on all City water bills, late fee notices, written disconnection notices, and notices of termination.  The City can be contacted by phone at 209-538-5757 to discuss options for avoiding disconnection of water service for nonpayment under the terms of this policy.

This policy will be available and posted on the City’s website in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese and any other language that is spoken by at least 10% of the residents in this service area. 

Payment for Residential Water Service:

Bills for all charges for water delivered by City of Ceres shall be due and payable to the City upon presentation of the monthly bill.  The current rate schedule is available at www.ci.ceres.ca.us 

Delinquent Accounts:

  1. Balance on Accounts:  Any delinquent balance of $37.55 or less may be carried over and added to the next billing period without being subject to disconnection. 
  2. Late Fee:  If payment is not received by the 5th of the Month following the date the bill is issued, a late fee of 10% will be assessed to the account. 
  3. Waiver of Late Fee:  At the request of the customer, the City will waive the late fee, provided a late fee has not been waived or reversed in the preceding 12 months. 
  4. Payment Arrangements:  Any customer who is unable to pay for water service or any other fees assessed, within the normal payment period, may request a payment arrangement to avoid disconnection of service.  The City will grant a payment arrangement or amortization plan as specified in this policy, for any customer who does not already have an active payment arrangement. 
  5. Payment agreements that extend into the next billing period are considered an amortization plan, which must be confirmed by the customer in writing.  An amortization will amortize the unpaid balance over a period not to exceed 12 months as defined by Resolution 2011-76.  The amortized payments will be combined with and subject to the due date of all of the customer’s future regular bills.   The customer must comply with the terms of the amortization plan and remain current as charges accrue in each subsequent billing period. The customer may not request further amortization of any subsequent unpaid charges while still under a current amortization plan.   A customer who enters into and abides by an amortization plan or payment agreement shall not be considered delinquent.  Failure to comply with said agreement will be result in the customer being considered delinquent.  The customer will then be subject to disconnection once the account is delinquent for 60 days and no additional agreements or extensions will be granted for any new delinquent charges and the customer will not be granted future alternative payment arrangements until the delinquent balance has been paid.  No less than 7 business days before disconnection, the City will make a good faith effort to contact the customer of pending disconnection by telephone, mail or email notice.  In addition, a final disconnection notice will be provided by means of a door hanger delivered to the premises no less than 5 business days in advance of disconnecting service.

Notifications:

  1. As required by law, the City will notify the customer that the account remains past due and further collection action will be forthcoming.  The means of notification will be by phone, mail or notification at the premises.  The City assumes no responsibility for phone, mail or email contact information that has not been kept up to date by the customer.

Written Disconnection Notice:

  1. The City shall not disconnect water service for non-payment until payment by the customer has been delinquent for at least 60 calendar days.  The City will make a reasonable, good faith effort to contact the customer in writing at least 7 business days before disconnection of water service for non-payment.  The written disconnection notice will be mailed to the mailing address designated on the account.  The written disconnection notice will include:

    • Customer Name and Address
    •Amount past due
    •Date by which payment or payment agreements are required to avoid disconnection of service
    •Instructions on how to apply for an amortization plan
    •Instructions on how to dispute or appeal a bill
    •City’s phone number and a web link to the City’s written disconnection policy

    a. Notice to Residential Tenants/Occupants in an Individually Metered Residence:
    The City will make a reasonable, good faith effort to inform the occupants by means of written notice when the water service account is delinquent and subject to disconnect at least 10 days before water service is shut off.  The written notice will advise the tenant/occupant that thy have the right to become customers of the City without being required to pay the amount due on the delinquent account, as long as they are willing to assume financial responsibility for subsequent charges for water service at that address.  In order for the tenant/occupant not to be charged for the delinquent amount, the tenant/occupant must provide verification of tenancy in the form of a rental agreement or proof of rent payments and verify that he delinquent account holder was the landlord, property manager or other agent of the property.

    b. Notice to Tenants/Occupants in a Multi-Unit Complex Service through a Master Meter:The City will make a reasonable, good faith effort to inform the occupants, by means of written notice hung on the door of each residence, when the water service account is delinquent and subject to disconnection at least 15 days before the water service is shut off.  The written notice will advise the tenant/occupant that they have the right to become customers of the City without being required to pay the amount due on the delinquent account, as long as they are willing to assume financial responsibility for subsequent charges for water service at the address(es) serviced by the master meter.  If one or more of the occupants are willing and able to assume responsibility for the subsequent charges for water service to the satisfaction of the City, or if there is physical means legally available to the City, of selectively terminating service to those occupants who have not met the requirements for service, the City will make service available to the occupants who have met those requirements.

    If the written disconnection notice is returned though the mail as undeliverable, the City will make a reasonable, good faith effort to contact the customer by phone, and to visit the residence and leave a notice of disconnection for non-payment.

Notice of Termination:

The City will make a reasonable, good faith effort to notify the customer in advance of disconnection of water service for non-payment as set forth in this policy.  The last means of notification will be in the form of a door hanger delivered to the premises no less than 5 business in advance of disconnection of service.  A fee will be applied to an account for any such notice as established in the Rate and Fee Schedule.

 Disconnection Deadline:  

All delinquent water service charges and associated fees must be received  by the City by 11:59pm on the due date specified on the written disconnection notice.  Payments left in the Drop Box located on 2nd and Magnolia Streets must be dropped off no later than 6am the morning following the due date. 

Disconnection of Water Service:

The City will disconnect water service by turning off or locking the meter off.  The customer will be charged a service fee regardless of whether the service has been physically turned off, as established by the Rate and Fee Schedule. 

Service will not be disconnected on Saturday, Sunday, any holiday or other day in which City offices are closed. 

Service will not be disconnected if ALL of the following are met: a) The customer submits to the City, certification (City of Ceres Medical Certification Form)  from a licensed primary care provider that disconnection of water service would pose a serious threat to the health and safety of a resident of the property and; b) the customer demonstrates that they are financially unable to pay for service within the City’s normal billing cycle.  The customer is deemed unable to pay if a member of the household is a current recipient of CalWORKs, CalFresh, general assistance, Medi-Cal, California SSI/SSP, or WIC, or the customer declares under penalty of perjury that the household income level is less than 200% of the federal property level and; c) The customer is willing to enter into a written Payment Agreement with the City, as described in this policy and by Resolution 2011-76, for the delinquent charges. 

The customer will be responsible for demonstrating that the above qualifications are met prior to service disconnection. 

 Reconnection of Service: 

In order to restore service that has been disconnected for non-payment,  the customer must pay their past due, late fees and service fee as established in the Rate and Fee Schedule.  The City will restore service as soon as practicable, but at a minimum, by the end of the business day following receipt of the full minimum payment required to restore.  It is unlawful for any persons to interfere with City service, lines or meters.  Service turned on or off at the meter by anyone other than City staff is subject to an additional Tamper Fee as defined by Resolution.  Any damages that occur as a result of the Tamper are the responsibility of the customer and fees to repair the service will be charged to the customer and are required to be paid in order to restore service.  Service restoration times may be affected by damages to the City service.

Service will not be restored to customers after normal business hours.  If a payment is made after normal business hours, service will be restored by the end of the next regular business day. 

Notification of Returned Payments:

A returned payment for water service or any other charges shall be assessed a fee as specified in the City’s Rate and Fee Schedule.  Upon receipt of a returned payment, the City will consider the account unpaid.  The City will make a reasonable, good faith effort to notify the customer of the returned item and delinquency status.  After the 3rd returned payment on any account is received, the City will require all future payments on the account be made in cash for the following 24 months. 

Returned Payment for Previously Disconnected Service: 

In the event a payment made to restore previously disconnected water service is returned for any reason, the City may promptly disconnect water service without providing further notice.  No notice of termination will be given in the case of a non-negotiable check/ACH payment or fraudulent credit card tendered for payment of water charges that were subject to disconnection. 

 Disputed Bills:

All City bills, late fee notices, and written disconnection notices shall include instructions on how to dispute their bill.  All disputes must be submitted, in writing, to the Finance Director, prior to the 1st day of the month following the bill date.  Determinations made by the Finance Director shall be deemed final.  The City will not disconnect service while a dispute determination is pending.

  1. Leticia Dias

    Finance Director
    Phone: 209-538-5765

  2. Andrea Magdaleno

    Revenue & Customer Service Supervisor
    Phone: 209-538-5761