Energy Utility Services

The basic rules for what your utility providers have to do, what they cannot do, and what is expected of you.

  • Energy Utility Service Rules By Montana Public Service Commission:

    • DEPOSITS:

      The utility company can ask you to pay a deposit for any of these reasons:

      • your credit history is unsatisfactory
      • your utility service has been shut off for nonpayment within the last year
      • you have received 2 or more disconnect notices from a utility in the last year
      • you have a past due bill owing to a utility
      • you live with a former customer of the utility at the same address he/she incurred a still-unpaid bill owing the utility
      • you have tampered with your utility service without authorization within the past 5 years

      You have the option to provide a guarantor for the account rather than pay a cash deposit.

      The deposit amount cannot be more than twice your average monthly bill. The utility will pay 6% annual interest on your deposit, and will refund your deposit plus interest when you have paid your bill on time for 12 months, or upon termination of service.

    • SHUTOFFS:

      A utility may terminate your service when:

      • you haven’t paid a past due bill
      • you have broken a payment agreement
      • you fraudulently obtained service, or tampered with your utility service, or are violating rules that protect public safety
      • you refuse the utility access to your property when there is a need for it

      Utility service cannot be shut off for non-payment on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, a legal holiday, or the day before a holiday. Shutoffs may take place only between 8 a.m. and noon.

      The utility must give you written notice of shutoff for non-payment. You can avoid shutoff by either paying the past due bill in full or by entering into a deferred payment agreement with the company. If you break a payment agreement, the utility does not have to enter into another agreement with you.

    • SPECIAL WINTER RULES:

      From November 1 to April 1, a regulated utility may not shut off your service without prior PSC approval. The PSC does not approve winter shutoffs if the customer is unable to pay (as demonstrated by being a recipient of any public assistance program) or if a member of the customer’s household is either at least 62 years old or handicapped. It is your responsibility to inform the utility if one or more of these circumstances exist in your household.

      Often, a low-income customer will rely totally on energy assistance programs to pay his/her winter utility bill, only to discover in April that a large balance owing the utility has built up, and the company is demanding payment. The customer who makes the effort to pay something toward his/her utility bill during the winter, on top of what the energy assistance program pays, will not only have a smaller balance due in the spring, but will be in better standing with the company when it comes time to make a deferred payment agreement.

    • LANDLORD/TENANT SITUATIONS:

      If you are a tenant and your landlord pays the utility bills, the utility must give you written notice of shutoff due to your landlord’s non-payment at least 15 days before the shutoff date. You might want to obtain legal advice regarding your rights as a tenant.

    • UTILITY SERVICE COMPLAINTS:

      The PSC expects regulated utilities to satisfactorily resolve their customers’ complaints. If you are not satisfied with the company’s response, contact the PSC.

      Montana Public Service Commission (PSC)
      1701 Prospect Ave
      PO Box 202601
      Helena, MT 59620
      Tel.: 1-800-646-6150
      Montana Public Service Commission website: http://psc.mt.gov/

    • WHERE TO GO FOR HELP WITH HEATING BILLS:

      Bill payment assistance is available for Montanans from the state’s Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) and from Energy Share of Montana. Some utilities also provide bill discounts to customers who are receiving LIEAP assistance. To apply for either LIEAP or Energy Share assistance, call the human resource development agency in your area.

      • GLENDIVE — Action For Eastern Montana

        Tel: 377-3564, Toll free call at 1-800-227-0703

      • HAVRE — District IV HRDC

        Tel: 265-6743, Toll free call at 1-800-640-6743

      • GREAT FALLS — Opportunities Inc.

        Tel: 761-0310, Toll free call at 1-800-326-0955

      • LEWISTOWN — District VI HRDC

        Tel: 535-7488, Toll free call at 1-800-766-3018

      • BILLINGS — District VII HRDC

        Tel: 247-4732, Toll free call at 1-800-433-1411

      • HELENA — Rocky Mountain Devel. Council

        Tel: 447-1680, Toll free call at 1-800-356-6544

      • BOZEMAN — District IX HRDC

        Tel: 587-4486, Toll free call at 1-800-332-2796 (Livingston – Tel: 222-0896)

      • KALISPELL — NW MT Resource Council

        Tel: 758-5433, Toll free call at 1-800-344-5979

      • MISSOULA — District XI HRDC

        Missoula Toll free call at 728-3710 (Hamilton - Tel: 363-6101; Superior - Tel: 822-4251)

      • BUTTE — District XII HRDC

        Tel: 496-4975, Toll free call at 1-800-382-1325