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 CITY OF FILLMORE – FINANCE DEPARTMENT - WATER UTILITY BILLING

 BILLING AND PAYMENTS, SHUTOFF, ALTERNATIVE PAYMENT ARRANGEMENTS AND APPEAL POLICY

 Effective 2/1/2020

 BILLING AND PAYMENTS

 All utility bills are due, payable, and become delinquent from the date of the bill. Utility bills are subject to discontinuation if not paid within sixty (60) days from the date of the bill.  Payments may be made at City Hall, online or by mail. Partial payments are not authorized.

Late Fee 

Users of utility bills not paid by the close of business on the 19th calendar day following the date of the bill will be  mailed  a Delinquent Notice, postage prepaid,  which shall include a five percent (5%) late fee added to the original billing to assist in covering the administration and collection of delinquent fees. Payments for overdue billings are due on or before the date printed on the Delinquent Notice and are subject to an interest charge equal to one and one-half percent (1-1/2%) per month interest charge on any unpaid previous balance continuing thereafter until paid. The City will waive late fee charges for Low Income Users, households with income 200% below the Federal poverty level, once every 12 months.

Delinquent (Overdue) Notice  

If payment for a bill rendered is not made by the close of business on the 19th calendar day following the date of the bill, a notice of delinquent payment (the “Delinquent Notice”) will be mailed to the User. A User may contact the Water Department at 805-524-1500 ext. 136 to discuss options for averting discontinuation of potable water services. If the User’s address is not the address of the property to which the service is provided, the Delinquent Notice must also be sent to the address of the property served, addressed to “Occupant.”  The Delinquent Notice must contain the following:

(1)       User’s name and address;

(2)       Amount of delinquency;

(3)       Date by which payment or arrangement for payment must be made in order to avoid discontinuation of service;

(4)       Provide a reference of the process to apply for an extension of time to pay the amount owing;

(5)       Provide a reference of the procedure to petition for review and appeal of the bill giving rise to the delinquency;

(6)       Provide a reference of the procedure by which the User can request a deferred, or amortized payment schedule;

(7)       Provide a reference for the User to obtain information on the availability of financial assistance, if applicable; and

(8)       The telephone number of a representative of the City who can provide additional information.

Unable to Contact User  

If the City is not able to contact the User by written notice (e.g., a mailed notice is returned as undeliverable), the City will make a good faith effort to visit the residence and leave, or make other arrangements to place in a conspicuous location, a Delinquent Notice, and a copy of this Policy.

SHUTOFF

Final Delinquent Notice - Seven Day (7-Day) Notice

 At least seven days prior to actual disconnection, City shall mail a second notice to the User to ensure the User received notice at least 48 hours before disconnection. This second mail notice shall include:

            (1)       User’s name and address;

            (2)       Amount of delinquency;

(3)       The telephone number of a representative of the City who can provide additional information.

 

Turn-Off Deadline  

Payment for water service charges must be received by the City no later than 4:00 p.m. on the date specified in the Delinquent Notice.  Postmarks are not acceptable.  

A reconnection fee will be charged to turn service back on.  See current Fee Schedule for list of the fees.

Notification of Returned Check.

Upon receipt of a returned check rendered as remittance for water service or other charges, the City will consider the account not paid.  A handling fee in an amount as may be set by resolution of the City Council will be charged for each insufficient funds check returned to the City for insufficient funds. The City will attempt to notify the User by mail or telephone.  Water service will be disconnected if the amount of the returned check and returned check charge are not paid by the due date specified on the Delinquent Notice; or if a Delinquent Notice had not been previously provided, no sooner than the sixtieth (60th) day after the invoice for which payment by the returned check had been made.  To redeem a returned check and to pay a returned check charge, all amounts owing must be paid by cash, certified check or money order. 

 Conditions Prohibiting Discontinuation.The City shall not discontinue potable water service if all the following conditions are met:

(1)       Health Conditions. The User or tenant of User submits certification of a Primary Care Provider, as defined in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 14088(b)(1)(A), that discontinuation of water service would be life threatening, or pose a serious threat to the health and safety of a person residing at the property;

(2)       Financial Inability. The User demonstrates he or she is financially unable to pay for water service within the water system’s normal billing cycle.  The User is deemed “financially unable to pay” if the User or any member of the User’s household is: a current recipient of the following benefits: CalWORKS, CalFresh, general assistance, Medi-Cal, SSI/State Supplementary Payment Program or California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children; currently enrolled in the SCE or The Gas Company CARE program; or the User declares the User’s household annual income is less than 200% of the federal poverty level; and

(3)       Alternative Payment Arrangements. The User is willing to enter into an amortization agreement or alternative payment schedule.

 Determination of Conditions Prohibiting Discontinuation of Service. 

The burden of proving compliance with the conditions described above is on the User.  In order to allow the city sufficient time to process any request for assistance by a User, the User must provide the Utility Department with the necessary documentation demonstrating the medical issues financial inability to pay and willingness to enter into any alternative payment arrangement, 15 calendar days in advance of any proposed date for discontinuation of service.  Upon receipt of such documentation, the City’s Director of Finance, or designee, shall review the documentation and respond to the User within five (5) calendar days.  The response shall either request additional information or notify the User that they meet the conditions of an alternative payment arrangement or they do not meet the conditions of an alternative payment arrangement. 

 If the City has requested additional information, the User shall provide that requested information within three (3) calendar days of receipt of the City’s request.  Within five (5) calendar days of its receipt of that additional information, the City shall either notify the User in writing that the User does meet the conditions of an alternative payment arrangement or they do not meet the conditions of an alternative payment arrangement. 

 Users who fail to meet the conditions described above must pay the delinquent amount, including any penalties and other charges, owing to the City within the latter of: two (2) business days after the date of notification of the City’s determination the User did not meet the conditions; or the date of the impending service discontinuation, as specified in the Delinquent Notice.

Extension to Pay: Collection of Delinquent Accounts.

Upon request, using a City supplied written request form, any User may sign and file a request for an extension of time to pay past due service charges to the Finance Department.  This request must be made prior to the Delinquent Notice due date and prior to receiving the 7-Day Shutoff Notice.  Extensions may be granted to a User on a case by case basis, however, only up to two (2) extensions per calendar year may be granted.  Extension requests provide an additional seven (7) days from the due date to pay past due charges and are non-negotiable. Written requests must be approved by the Finance Director or designee. 

 

ALTERNATIVE PAYMENT ARRANGEMENTS

 Application.

For any User who meets the three conditions described above under Conditions Prohibiting Discontinuation, the City can offer the User, at its sole discretion, an amortization of the unpaid balance.  

 Amortization/Alternative Payment Schedule

(1) Term. The User shall pay the unpaid balance, with the administrative fee and interest, over a period not to exceed two (2) months, as determined by the City’s Finance Director or designee.  The City’s Finance Director or designee, in their reasonable discretion, may allow an amortization term of longer than two (2) months to avoid undue hardship on the User.  The unpaid balance, together with the applicable administrative fee and interest applied, shall be divided by the number of months in the amortization period and that amount shall be added each month to the User’s ongoing monthly bills for potable water service.

 

(2) Administrative Fee and Interest. For any approved amortization plan, the User will be charged an administrative fee, in the amount established by the City by ordinance or resolution, representing the cost to the City of initiating and administering the amortization plan.  At the discretion of the City’s Finance Director or designee, the annual rate of interest shall not exceed six percent (6%).

 

 (3) Compliance with Amortization Plan.  The User must comply with the amortization plan and remain current as charges accrue in each subsequent billing period.  The User may not request further amortization of any subsequent unpaid charges while paying delinquent charges pursuant to an amortization plan.  Where the User fails to comply with the terms of the amortization plan for sixty (60) calendar days or more, or fails to pay the User’s current service charges for sixty (60) calendar days or more, the City may discontinue water service to the User’s property at least five (5) business days after the City posts at the User’s residence a final notice of its intent to discontinue service.

APPEALS AND REMEDIES

Initial Appeal.

The User has a right to initiate an appeal or request for review of any bill or charge rendered by the City.  Such request must be made in writing and be delivered to the Finance Department within ten calendar (10) days of receipt of the bill for water service and must include documentation supporting the appeal or the reason for the review.  For so long as the User’s appeal and any resulting investigation is pending, the City cannot discontinue water service to the User.

 

Delinquent (Overdue) Notice Appeal.

Any User who receives a Delinquent Notice may request an appeal or request for review of the Delinquent Notice at least five calendar (5) days of receipt of the Delinquent Notice; provided, however, that no such appeal or review has been made.  Any appeal or request for review under this Section must be in writing and delivered to the Finance Department and must include documentation supporting the appeal or the reason for the review. For so long as the User’s appeal and any resulting investigation is pending, the City cannot discontinue water service to the User.

 

Review of Appeal.

Following receipt of a request for an appeal or review, the review will be conducted by the Finance Director or designee, and the User will be advised of the result in writing. The Finance Director’s decision shall be final.

 

 (1) Incorrect Water Charges. If water charges are determined to be incorrect for appeals the City will provide a corrected invoice of the revised charges and will be due within ten (10) calendar days of the invoice date for revised charges.  If the revised charges remain unpaid for more than sixty (60) calendar days after the corrected invoice is provided, water service will be disconnected, on the next regular working day after expiration of that sixty (60) calendar day period; provided that the City shall provide the User with the Delinquent Notice and 7-Day Shutoff Notice.  Water service will only be restored upon full payment of all outstanding water charges, penalties, and any and all applicable reconnection charges.

 

 (2) Correct Water Charges. If the water charges in question are determined to be correct for appeals, the water charges are due and payable within two (2) business days after the Finance Director’s decision is rendered or by the Due Date, whichever is later.

  

Remedies

(1) Property Liens.  For delinquent accounts, the City reserves the authority to establish and record a lien against the property served in the amount owing the City plus all additional costs permitted by law.

(2) Collection Agency Fee. In addition to an action at law or any other remedy, the City may collect fees by using a collection agency and may charge the User a fee in the amount of the charge the City pays to a collection agency, which charge will be added to a delinquent account that is submitted to a collection agency for collection services due to non-payment:

Collection Agency Fee:       Up to 50% of the unpaid amount

This charge will be added to the unpaid fee submitted to a collection agency by the City to collect on the account, such that if an unpaid amount equals $100 and the collection agency fee is $30 (or 30% of the unpaid amount), the total amount due the City will be increased to $130.

 (3) Tax Roll. Pursuant to the authority of Health and Safety Code Section 5473, the city council may annually cause a written report of delinquent fees and charges to be prepared and filed with the city clerk, which shall contain a description of each parcel of real property and the delinquent amount of the charge for each parcel computed in conformity with the charges prescribed by ordinance and the part thereof remaining unpaid for a period of sixty (60) days before the date of the report.  Such unpaid charges shall be collected on the tax roll in the same manner, by the same persons, and at the same time as, together with and not separately from, the City’s general taxes.  The City Clerk shall follow the procedures provided in Health and Safety Code Sections 5473, et seq.  The real property may be described by reference to maps prepared in accordance with Section 327 of the Revenue and Taxation Code, and on file with the office of the County Assessor or by reference to plats or maps on file in the office of the City Clerk.