Customer-Related FAQs

FAQs: Billing

How should the utility bill a customer when there is a discrepancy between the base meter and the remote register?

Wisconsin Admin. Code PSC § 185.34 provides the procedures for determining backbills (or refunds) for customers when there is a discrepancy between the base meter and ROM.


PSC 185.34 Adjustment of bills (ROM).

(1) STOPPED ROM. A stopped ROM is defined as one that has recorded zero consumption during the last meter reading period. The consumption that was measured by the base meter and not recorded by the remote register shall be backbilled as current consumption. The usage backbilled as current consumption shall not exceed the customer's average usage per billing period based on the latest 12-months usage. Any amount greater than this usage shall be backbilled pursuant to sub (2).

(2) STOPPED AND UNDER-REGISTERING ROM. Unrecorded ROM consumption (base meter reading less ROM reading) resulting from sub (1) or an under-registering ROM shall be prorated from the date of the last base meter reading. Pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 196.635, the utility may backbill for prorated amounts associated with the last 24 months.

(3) OVER-REGISTERING ROM. A ROM over registration (OM reading less base meter reading) shall be prorated from the date of the last base meter reading. The utility shall refund prorated amounts associated with the period since the meter was installed or last tested, not to exceed the last 6 years.

History: Cr. Register, January, 1997, No. 493, eff. 2-1-97.

Can the utility forgive or forgo a late payment charge (LPC) on a delinquent water bill?

A utility cannot waive a properly applied LPC that has been authorized by the PSC under Wis. Admin. Code § 185.33 (9) or (10) and included in the utility's filed rates (in the billing paragraph of schedule Mg-1).

How should the utility apply a partial payment of a combined utility bill?

Dividing a partial payment between different utility services:

Wisconsin Admin. Code § PSC 185.33(5) states that where bills include charges for other utility services partial payments should be applied on a pro-rata basis. This means that a utility should apply any payment it receives proportionately to the different utility services. Suppose a combined bill is made up of 60% electric charges, 20% water charges, and 20% sewer charges. A $100 payment should be applied as follows: $60 to the electric charges, $20 to the water charges, and $20 to the sewer charges.


Dividing a partial payment between current service and arrears:

Wisconsin Admin. Code § PSC 185.33(4) states that partial payment of a utility bill should be applied in the following order of priority:

1. Current utility service

2. Current deferred payment agreement

3. Utility service arrears

4. Miscellaneous utility charges

5. Non-utility charges such as municipal fees, licenses, contracted sewer billing services or penalties levied under municipal ordinances.

However, Wis. Admin. Code § PSC 185.33(6) allows partial payment to be applied differently at the customer’s request or utility’s discretion under certain conditions. The revised allocation cannot result in disconnection of service or late fees that would not have occurred under the standard allocation method set forth above. This means the utility cannot apply a payment received to only the electric or sewer portion of the bill if this action makes the customer subject to disconnection or late fees.


Other considerations:

If the utility applies the customer's payments according to the rules and the customer defaults on a deferred payment agreement, the utility may provide notice per Wis. Admin. Code § PSC 185.37 and disconnect the customer's water service. Unlike electric service, a utility may disconnect water service year round (unless it is used as a source of heat, i.e., steam heat). The utility cannot discriminate, and therefore, if the utility decides to pursue disconnection, the disconnection policy must apply to all delinquent customers.

How can the utility adjust its billing period, either for one period or on an ongoing basis?

A utility wishing to change its billing period (for example, from quarterly to monthly) should contact the PSC to make the request. PSC staff will review the request and then make a determination whether to accept or reject the request. A change in billing period must be authorized by the PSC.

Wisconsin Admin. Code § 185.32 allows meter-reading date to be advanced or postponed up to 10 days without the need to prorate the bill. However, if the meter-reading date is advanced or postponed by more than 10 days (the billing period is short or longer than allowed), the utility must prorate the bill per Wis. Admin. Code § 185.33(13)(a). For example, the utility reads meters quarterly and wants to postpone its meter-reading date by 28 days to adjust its billing cycle. The easiest way to do this is to prorate the rate structure (meter charges and volume block sizes) from 91 days in a quarter to 119 days (91 days + 28 days). This results in a 119/91 ratio times the existing meter charges and volume blocks rates. This special rate structure would be applied one-time to address the longer billing period for the billing cycle transition. Then in the following normal 91 day quarter, the utility would revert back to its current tariff. If the utility uses this method, the utility should notify its customers of the change and the one-time rate impact.

What is the time limit for back-billing an under-billed customer and refunding an over-billed customer?

Generally, Wis. Stat. § 196.635 requires that all service supplied by a public utility must be billed within 2 years of the date of the service. Also, the backbilling of utility service is calculated for 24 months from the date of the billing, not from the date of discovery. This means that if the utility does not promptly backbill a customer’s account for the previously unbilled service, the utility loses the ability to backbill for that period of time.

Generally, utilities are required to issue credits and provide refunds to customers for the entire time period the inaccuracy existed. While no statute limits the time period a utility is required to provide a customer refund, specific sections of the Wisconsin Administrative Code do limit refunds to 6 years. For example, Wis. Admin. Code § 185.34(3) limits refunds for over-registering water ROMs to a period “not to exceed the last 6 years.” Where no specific time period is is identified, the utility is required to issue credits and provide refunds for the entire time period the inaccuracy existed.

Also, Wis. Admin. Code § 185.33(19)(a) provides that no interest is necessary if the utility refunds the overpayment to the customer within 60 days of the determination by the utility or commission that the refund is due. If the utility issues a refund within the 60-day period, the utility would not be required to include interest.

Can a landlord, as a condition of a lease, require a tenant to maintain water service until the lease is complete even if the tenant moves out early?

A tenant cannot be held responsible for charges for utility service after the tenant has vacated the premises and informed the utility of the vacation. This position is based on the definition of customer given in Wis. Admin. Code § 185.12(6). If the customer requests cancellation because he or she no longer occupies the service address, the utility cannot bill for service he or she is not using.

With regard to the lease, a lease is an agreement between the landlord and the tenant. The rental agreement does not determine whether or not the tenant is a customer of the utility. PSC rules determine whether or not the tenant is a customer. The two are completely separate issues.

If the landlord does not want service in his or her name, the landlord may request disconnection of service. Otherwise, the landlord can deduct the utility bill from the tenant’s security deposit or pursue legal redress for breach of the rental agreement. But the utility cannot become a party to that action by continuing to bill the former tenant when that person is no longer a utility customer under PSC rules.

What are the utility’s options for offering customers electronic payment or payment via credit card?

There are three primary types of electronic payments that are currently being used by utilities. Although utility companies have devised a variety of catchy names for the programs, they can be generically described as electronic funds transfer, credit card payments, and electronic bills.

The most common alternate payment method is typically referred to as Electronic Funds Transfer or EFT. Many utilities, other companies, and even some state agencies have been offering this method for several years. Customers supply a written authorization to the utility along with their account number and bank routing number. A voided check is the simplest way to accomplish this. Then, when payments are due (usually monthly or quarterly for a utility) the customer’s bank account is debited for the amount owed.

Each billing cycle, the utility prepares a computer file with required information for each participating account and sends it to their local bank. The local bank then processes the transactions through the National Automated Clearinghouse Association. The banks do not charge customers to participate in a program of this type. Although some initial modifications to the billing system may be needed, ongoing charges to the utility for this service from the local banks are fairly low. Depending upon the utility’s agreement with the bank, this service may be provided without charge as part of the bank’s negotiated service package with the utility. These additional bank charges may be offset by the savings from processing fewer checks from customers.

A second type of payment option is Credit Card Payments. The programs we are aware of in the utility industry use a third party company. After receiving their bill, customers contact the third party company through a toll free number or a link on a computer web site. That company pays the customer’s utility bill by placing the amount due on the customer’s credit card. The customer is also charged a transaction fee. Our understanding is these fees can range from two to four percent of the bill and may include a minimum charge of up to $5.00. At present, these transaction fees have kept this method from being as popular as EFT.

The third type of electronic payment option is an Electronic Bill. This type of service is still in the infancy stages and offered by few utilities or other companies. The customer signs up for this service at a website. Once enrolled in the service, the customer selects bills to receive electronically. The customer periodically visits the website to view bills and make payments (which are electronically transferred out of a bank account to the company owed). If the utility participates in electronic billing, the customer can add the utility to the list of bills they view and pay at this web site. Paper bills are no longer mailed by the utility. A variety of websites offer this service, some of which charge fees to customers and some of which are free. As this type of service grows over the next few years, a customer may be able to visit one web site and pay many bills with just a few clicks of a mouse.

These three alternative methods of payment have some benefits for both customers and the utility. Customer benefits include a choice in how they pay their bills, savings on postage, and savings on the cost of checks. Utilities may benefit from easier processing of payments and the handling of fewer checks.

The methods of payment discussed do not require specific approval from the Public Service Commission but the utility is still required to collect the total amount of the bill owed by the customer. Utilities may not charge customers higher rates or extra fees to use one of these alternate payment methods. (This does not preclude a third party company from charging customers a fee to handle the payment.) Conversely, utilities may not collect less than the computed bill from customers.

It appears the most substantial charge would be incurred by a customer using a credit card for payment. Unless a utility can provide adequate documentation of a cost saving equal to the high charges for credit card use, the utility would not be allowed to absorb this fee and recover it in its rates.

What are my responsibilities of an open records request of a customer’s billing records?

We recommend that all requests for open records be administered by the municipality’s custodian of record or the City Attorney. The Public Service Commission’s Consumer Affairs’ staff recommends that utilities only provide the average bill or the high and the low bill for the prior 12 months as allowed by Wis. Admin. Code § 185.22(5). Wisconsin Admin. Code § 185.22(5) states that the requestor should be a current or prospective customer, tenant or property owner. In other words, the requestor should have a connection to the property. A utility complying with Wis. Admin. Code § 185.22(5) is not in “breach of customer confidentiality.”

When a utility receives a request and the requestor is not a current or prospective customer, tenant or property owner, then the utility can deny the request for information or work in close coordination with legal counsel to determine if any information should be released to the requestor. If the City Attorney advises the utility to provide the information requested, the utility should have the City Attorney screen all information the utility proposes to release.

In summary, some billing information is a public record, especially for those with a need or a right to know as outlined in Wis. Admin. Code § 185.22(5) for water, Wis. Admin. Code § 113.0501(5) for electric and Wis. Admin. Code § 134.05(5) for natural gas. Providing information to a requestor who may not have a direct connection to the property with more detailed or personal information beyond the high and low bills or the average usage for the last 12 months is best addressed in close consultation with legal counsel.

Can a radio read be used for a final reading on an account?

The utility is obligated, upon request, to obtain a final read from both the base and ROM meters when there is a change of customers. The utility shall make reasonable efforts to read the meters of customers who cannot be available during normal business hours and when there is a change of customer. The utility may make a final read through AMR technology if available.

When a utility notices high water consumption at a property, what should the utility do?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors including:

• Whether the situation involves a dangerous condition.

• The amount of water involved.

• Whether the customer is a residential or nonresidential customer.

• The potential for damage to the customer’s property.

• Whether the property is occupied or vacant.

If the situation involves a potentially dangerous condition, regardless of the class of service or whether the property is occupied, the utility should disconnect the service. Wisconsin Admin. Code § 185.37(3) allows a utility to disconnect service without notice if a dangerous condition exists for as long as the condition exists. Examples of a dangerous condition include water running from a structure, a water leak that accumulates on sidewalks or streets, or a leak in the service line that could result in contamination of the water system. Wisconsin Admin. Code § 185.37(3)requires the utility provide the disconnected customer with a written explanation of the dangerous condition. Commission staff recommends leaving a door hanger at the service address as well as mailing a letter of explanation to the customer of record.

In situations involving higher-than-normal water consumption that does not appear to involve a major leak, the utility should notify the customer in writing of the increased usage. The letter should also direct the customer to contact the utility to discuss the situation. For residential properties, the utility should also try to assess the risk to health and property by comparing the high usage to typical customer usage. The utility should make a strong effort to contact the customer to alert her/him of potential property damage and high water bills. For non-residential properties, the utility should try to determine the current status of the customer and notify the customer in writing of the high usage or other extraordinary concerns. A vacant non-residential property does not typically have human safety concerns, but the utility should be aware of activity at the premises.

If the customer calls the utility in response to the high consumption letter, utility staff should work with the customer to determine if the increased usage can be explained by a change in usage (eg: temporary house guests or a hose left on) or if the customer may have an unknown leak. If the utility has a provision in its tariff for unknown leaks, it may offer a credit on the upcoming bill if the customer acknowledges and agrees to repair the leak.

If the customer does not contact the utility in response to the high consumption letter, there is continued evidence of high usage at the property and the utility believes the property is vacant, the utility can minimize its and the customer’s risk by shutting off the service. While this option is particularly important during cold weather when there is potential for freezing and bursting pipes, the utility should first consult with legal counsel before making the decision to disconnect service.

How should the utility bill for leaks when the customer was not aware of the leak?

Wisconsin Admin. Code § 185.35(6) allows the utility, subject to its written policy, to bill at a reduced rate not less than the utility’s cost, provided the leak was unknown to the customer.

The utility may determine its billing policy regarding leaks unknown to the customer and should apply this policy consistently. If the utility needs assistance in determining their policy, they should contact Commission staff with questions. With several exceptions, the portion of the bill related to sewer charges is not subject to PSC regulation; therefore, the utility has full discretion on how to adjust the sewer billing.

What should you do when you suspect a customer of stealing water?

Wisconsin Stat. § 196.635 requires a utility to bill for all service within 2 years of providing such service. Wisconsin Stat. § 196.635(2) allows a utility to bill beyond the normal two-year limitation when “the customer obtained the service by fraud or deception, including but not limited to theft or tampering with any device, including but not limited to a meter, necessary to measure service." The Water Utility Operating Rules of each water utility’s tariff also contains the following language under surreptitious use of water:

 

"When the water utility has reasonable evidence that a person is obtaining water, in whole or in part, by means of devices or methods used to stop or interfere with the proper metering of the water utility service being delivered, the water utility reserves the right to estimate and present immediately a bill for unmetered service as a result of such interference, and such bill shall be payable subject to a 24-hour disconnection of service. If the water utility disconnects the service for any such reason, the water utility will reconnect the service upon the following conditions:

1. The customer will be required to deposit with the water utility an amount sufficient to guarantee the payment of the bills for water utility service.

2. The customer will be required to pay the water utility for any and all damages to water utility equipment resulting from such interference with the metering.

3. The customer must further agree to comply with reasonable requirements to protect the water utility against further losses.

FAQs: Disconnections

Can the utility disconnect a customer for refusing to allow utility personnel access to the meter at a reasonable hour?

The following sections of the Wisconsin Statutes, and the Wisconsin Administrative Code give the utility authority to gain access to a private property to check/test water meter at a reasonable hour.


Wisconsin Stat. § 196.171 Examination of meters, pipes, fittings, wires and works; entering buildings for.

(1) Any officer or agent of any public utility furnishing or transmitting water, gas or electric current to the public or for public purposes may enter, at any reasonable time, any place supplied with gas, electricity or water by the public utility, for the purpose of inspecting, examining, repairing, installing or removing the meters, pipes, fittings, wires and works for supplying or regulating the supply of gas, electricity or water and for the purpose of ascertaining the quantity of gas, electricity or water supplied.

(2) No officer or agent of a public utility may enter any premises under this section unless the officer or agent:

(a) Was duly appointed by the public utility for the purpose of acting under this section.

(b) Exhibits written authority signed by the president, by a vice president and secretary, or by a vice president and assistant secretary of the public utility. The authority of any officer or agent of a municipally owned public utility shall be signed by the commissioner of public works or by any other official in charge of the public utility.

(3) Any person who directly or indirectly prevents or hinders any officer or agent from entering a premises, or from making an inspection, examination, removal or installation under this section shall be fined not more than $25 for each offense.

A utility may also disconnect service based on Wis. Admin. Code § 185.37. In particular, with regard to entry to premises by utility personnel, the following apply.


Wisconsin Admin. Code § 185.37: Disconnection and refusal of service.

(2) Utility service may be disconnected or refused for any of the following reasons:

(f) Refusal or failure to permit authorized utility personnel access to the base meter;

(h) Failure to comply with Wisconsin statutes, commission rules, or commission orders pertaining to utility service;

(j) Failure to comply with the utility's rules or if the customer uses a device that unreasonably interferes with communications or signal services used for reading meters;

What charges apply to a disconnected customer? What if the meter is still in place?

The presence of a water meter does not automatically mean that the customer should be billed for water service. What matters is whether the customer is receiving water service and whether the customer has requested disconnection of service. Charges for water service would apply as long as the customer is receiving the service. When disconnection is requested by the customer or is imposed on the customer, the question is then what, if any, charges apply.

The following is the PSC Water Division policy on charging for water service upon disconnection.

When a customer requests disconnection, the utility should inquire as to the nature of the disconnection to determine whether it is intended to be a temporary disconnection or a permanent disconnection. A temporary disconnection is when this same customer will be reconnecting at this same address within a year of disconnection, such as a "snowbird" who goes to Arizona each winter. A permanent disconnection is when no reconnection is anticipated, at least not within a year, by this same customer at this same address, such as a customer who closes, abandons, or moves out of a dwelling with no intention of returning.

If the customer requests temporary disconnection, Schedule Sg-1 (formerly Mgt-1) of your authorized water rates provides that this "seasonal customer" would be responsible for the service charge (meter charge) under Schedule Mg-1 during the period of disconnection, whether or not the meter is removed. This customer would generally be backbilled upon reconnection; however, if both the utility and the customer desire, this customer could continue to be billed on the normal billing cycle while temporarily disconnected. In addition, the Schedule R-1 reconnection charge would apply to this customer upon reconnection.

If the customer requests permanent disconnection, this person is no longer a customer of the water utility and would no longer be subject to any charges for water service. (Possible exceptions to this are if the water utility has a standby charge under Schedule SWS-1 and/or if the water utility has direct charges for public fire protection under Schedule F-1 that apply also to non-customers.) However, if after requesting permanent disconnection this same customer were to reconnect service at this same address within a year of disconnection, then this was not a permanent disconnection after all and Schedule Sg-1 (formerly Mgt-1) provides that the water utility should backbill this customer for the Schedule Mg-1 service charge for the period this customer was "temporarily" disconnected. In addition, the Schedule R-1 reconnection charge would apply to this customer upon reconnection.

In either type of customer-requested disconnection, temporary or permanent, the customer and the water utility should discuss the situation to best determine whether to just turn the valve off at the curb stop or to also pull the water meter. The customer would be responsible for the repair of any damage that may result from allowing a water meter to become frozen.

When a customer is involuntarily disconnected, such as disconnection for nonpayment, billing for water service stops and there is no backbilling upon reconnection. When the customer does reconnect, the Schedule R-1 reconnection charge would apply and normal water billing would resume.

What constitutes a medical emergency that would prohibit disconnection?

Wisconsin Administrative Code §§ 113.0301(13) [electric], 134.062(11) [gas] and 185.37(10)[water] explain the utility’s responsibilities when a customer with a medical or protective services emergency is subject to disconnection. The utility cannot disconnect service, or must reconnect service if disconnected, for 21 days to enable the occupant to arrange for payment. The utility must also consider an existing medical or protective services emergency for a member of the customer’s family or other permanent resident of the premises.


The utility is not required to continue utility service without documentation of the medical or protective services emergency. Many utilities use a form in these situations in order to obtain the following information:

• The customer name, address, contact number, etc.

• The medical, social service, or law enforcement provider documenting the customer’s emergency.

• The type of emergency and the period of time during which disconnection of utility service will aggravate the circumstances.


The utility may consider whether the customer’s situation constitutes a true “medical emergency” or if the disconnection of utility service will merely cause discomfort and inconvenience. If necessary, utility personnel should contact the customer and the person documenting the emergency (licensed Wisconsin physician, social worker, or law enforcement agent) for clarification. If there is a dispute concerning an alleged medical emergency, the parties have the right to an informal review by Commission staff.

The utility and the customer need to work together during the 21-day period to make reasonable payment arrangements to continue service on a permanent basis. The utility is required to discuss available payment options and make appropriate referrals for possible financial assistance. The customer is responsible to document the medical emergency and work with the utility to make satisfactory payment arrangements.

If the customer has submitted the medical form and there is evidence that he or she is taking the necessary steps to make payment arrangements, the utility may choose to grant further postponement of disconnection. However, if the customer submits the medical form but does not, within 21 days, make arrangements for payment, the utility may pursue disconnection of service. If disconnection cannot be made on or before the 20th day after the first customer disconnect notice was issued, a subsequent notice shall be left at the premises not less than 24 hours nor more than 48 hours before the actual disconnection.

Can the water utility disconnect the water service if there is one lateral providing service to two service meters, and one of the customers is subject to disconnection?

Wisconsin Admin. Code § 185.52(2)(b) provides:

Single connections A customer’s lateral shall be directly connected to utility−owned facilities, and there shall be no other customer connection downstream from the utility’s shut−off valve. This does not apply to multi−occupancy premises, such as apartments, condominiums, and shopping centers.

This code provision requires that there only be one connection downstream from a shut-off valve. This allows the water utility to isolate this customer for purposes of managing the account or maintaining customer plumbing. Multi-occupancy premises can have a single lateral, but if there is more than one meter for billing purposes, then the utility must be able to valve-off each meter separately so as not to affect service to another independent customer.

Some water utilities address the single lateral issue in multi-occupancy premises by having a meter room the utility can access to valve-off a customer. For duplexes, some utilities require two laterals from the water main. Other utilities allow a single lateral to the property line where the lateral is branched with two shut-off valves going into the separate duplex dwellings. Finally, some utilities allow a single lateral into the building if the utility has access to the premises to shutoff a valve near the meter and lock or seal it in the closed position.

Standard language in the utility’s operating rules (schedule X-1) on file with the PSC states:

The owner of a multi-unit dwelling has the option of being served by individual metered water service to each unit. The owner, by selecting this option, is required to provide interior plumbing and meter settings to enable individual metered service to each unit and individual disconnection without affecting service to other units. Each meter and meter connection will be treated as a separate water utility account for the purpose of the filed rules and regulations.

No division of the water service lateral to any lot or parcel of land shall be made for the extension and independent metering of the supply to an adjoining lot or parcel of land. Except for duplexes, no division of a water service lateral shall be made at the curb for separate supplies for two or more separate premises having frontage on any street or public service strip, whether owned by the same or different parties. Duplexes may be served by one lateral provided (1) individual metered service and disconnection is provided and (2) it is permitted by local ordinance.

The bottom line is that a water utility cannot shutoff water supply to one customer if such action would impact a different customer on that same lateral. The utility rule noted above is authorized by PSC order which has the effect of law.

Can the utility have a policy of only disconnecting rental properties?

No, you cannot have a disconnection policy that applies only to rental properties. That is discriminatory and is therefore prohibited. If you choose to initiate a disconnection policy, it must apply to all delinquent customers.

If a landlord is upset about his or her tenants’ delinquencies, the landlord should note that Wis. Stat. § 66.0809 requires utilities to notify landlords of tenant delinquencies if the landlord requests notification in writing. Notice is required in order to provide landlords with an opportunity to either pay the bill or collect the arrearage from the tenant before the municipality transfers the delinquent amount to the landlord’s property tax bill. More information on the tax roll process can be found here.


Landlords may also take the following measures to avoid responsibility for a tenant’s unpaid water bill:

• Do a credit check on prospective tenants.

• Require a co-signer on the lease.

• Have the service in the landlord’s name and recover the cost of utility service by increasing the rent.

• Add language to the rental lease to make tenancy dependent on payment of the utility bills.

• Deduct unpaid utility bills from the tenant’s security deposit.


If service is in the landlord’s name, the utility is prohibited from disconnecting service if the purpose of the disconnection is to evict the tenant.

Can the utility disconnect a customer for nonpayment of non-utility arrears?

The utility cannot disconnect a customer's water service for nonpayment of non-utility arrears. The PSC allows municipalities to recover non-utility sewer charges, storm water fees, solid waste collection charges and landfill remediation costs on the water bill. This convenience of using the water bill is conditioned on these other non-utility charges being clearly identified on the bill and not affecting the water utility’s administration of its customer accounts.

For example, nonpayment of non-utility charges could not result in a late fee applied to the water bill or disconnection of water utility service.

What are the utility’s responsibilities when disconnecting a customer that is a vulnerable resident such as an infant, the aged or others with health-related infirmities?

Wisconsin Admin. Code §§ 185.37(8m) and 185.37(10) prohibit a utility from disconnecting service for at least 21 days if it may impact any vulnerable residents such as infants, the aged or others with health-related infirmities.

Wisconsin Admin. Code § 185.37(8m) provides:

If the utility is provided notice that there are extenuating circumstances, such as infirmities of aging, developmental, mental or physical disabilities, the use of life support systems, or like infirmities incurred at any age, or the frailties associated with being very young, the utility shall take these circumstances into consideration and ensure compliance with Wis. Admin. Code 185.37(10) prior to disconnecting service.

Once a vulnerable customer provides a statement from a Wisconsin-licensed physician, or public health, social services or law enforcement official, identifying the medical or protective services emergency and specifying the period of time during which disconnection may aggravate the circumstances to his or her utility, then the utility must reconnect the service if disconnected or postpone the disconnection for up to 21 days. The postponement may be extended by renewal of the statement.

During this 21 days of service, the utility and customer must work together to make reasonable payment arrangements in order to continue the service on a permanent basis. A utility must discuss the available payment options and make appropriate referrals for possible financial assistance. Further postponement may be granted if there is evidence of reasonable communication between the utility and the customer in attempting to make arrangements for payment. However, if the customer submits the required statement but fails to make payment or payment arrangements on the arrearage, the utility may pursue disconnection of service under Wis. Admin. Code § PSC 185.37.

A utility is not required to continue water service without receiving written documentation of the medical or protective services emergency.


A utility may use a form to obtain the following information:

• Customer’s or occupant’s name, address and contact numbers.

• Name, address and contact information for the medical provider, or public health, social service or law enforcement official documenting the medical or protective services emergency.

• Information identifying the occupant with the medical or protective services emergency and specifying the period of time during which disconnection of water service will aggravate the circumstances.


Utility personnel may contact the customer for clarification, if necessary. If there is a dispute as to whether a medical emergency exists, either party has the right to an informal review by PSC staff. Pending a decision after informal review, a utility may not disconnect service provided that the resident has submitted a statement or notice under Wis. Admin. Code § 185.37(10)(b).

For additional information see What constitutes a medical emergency that would prohibit disconnection?

When should the utility apply a charge for reconnection?

The reconnection charge applies when a customer requests reconnection of service at an address at which he or she was previously disconnected, regardless of whether the disconnection was voluntary or involuntary, unless a different customer took service at that address in the intervening period.


The reconnection charge applies in the following situations:

• Customer requests disconnection due to moving out, the building remains vacant, the same customer moves back in and requests reconnection.

• Customer requests disconnection during building renovations and requests reconnection once the project is complete.

• Customer requests seasonal disconnection to spend winters outside of Wisconsin and requests reconnection upon returning in the spring.

• Landlord, who is the customer of the utility, requests disconnection during the vacancy between tenants and requests reconnection when a new tenant moves in.

• Customer is disconnected for nonpayment and requests reconnection after either paying the delinquency or entering into a deferred payment agreement.


The reconnection charge does NOT apply in the following situations:

• New customer requests connection of service at an address that had previously been disconnected by the former occupant. This is considered a connection of service, not a reconnection for this customer.

• New customer requests connection of service upon moving into an apartment.

• New customer requests connection of service after buying a house.

• New customer requests connection of service after new home construction is completed.

• Customer requests connection of service to the new home built on the same site where the customer’s former home had been destroyed by fire, flood, etc.