The Vermont Statutes Online
Title 24: Municipal and County Government
Chapter 129: UNIFORM WATER AND SEWER DISCONNECT
§ 5141. Scope
This chapter applies only to municipalities providing water or sewer services, or both, and it allows disconnection of water or sewer services, or both, as a delinquency collection procedure for water or sewer delinquencies. Disconnection of water service as a collection procedure for delinquent sewer bills is specifically allowed. This delinquency collection procedure is a separate procedure from that allowed under Title 32. (Added 1977, No. 93; amended 1989, No. 45, § 7.)
§ 5142. Definitions
For the purpose of this chapter:
(1) “Selectboard” means the selectboard in the case of a town, the city council in the case of a city, the board of trustees in the case of an incorporated village, the prudential committee in the case of a fire district, or the board of commissioners in the case of a consolidated sewer or water district.
(2) “Disconnection” means the deliberate interruption or disconnection of water or sewer service, or both, to a ratepayer by the servicing municipality for nonpayment of water or sewer charges.
(3) “Delinquency” means failure of the ratepayer to tender payment for a valid bill or charge within 30 days of the postmark date of that bill or charge, or by a “due date” at least 30 days after mailing, which shall be clearly printed on the bill and which shall control in the absence of the postmark. A delinquency of sewer charges shall be considered a delinquency of water charges, if operated by the same municipal corporation.
(4) “Hearing officer” means a person appointed pursuant to section 5147 of this chapter to act as a fact finder and to hear and investigate evidence, and to make recommendations to the selectboard for final determination of the dispute.
(5) “Notice” means the written notice on the form prescribed in section 5144 of this chapter, sent within 40 days after delinquency and postmarked and sent not more than 20 days, nor less than 14 days prior to the disconnect of service.
(6) “Physician’s certificate” means a written statement by a duly licensed medical practitioner certifying that a ratepayer or resident within the ratepayer’s household would suffer an immediate and serious health hazard by the disconnection of the utility’s service to that household. The certificate will be considered valid and in force for 30 days, or the duration of the hazard, whichever is less.
(7) “Payment of a bill” means the receipt at the municipal office of cash, check, or money order which is subsequently honored.
(8) “Business days” means Monday through Thursday, excluding legal holidays and any other time, or the day before such time, when municipal offices are not open to the public.
(10) “Credit supervisor” is any person appointed by the selectboard to perform the functions of a credit supervisor under this chapter. Notwithstanding section 1524 of this title, the municipal tax collector may be appointed, but the fees provided under Title 32 for a tax collector do not apply to the collection procedure in this chapter. (Added 1977, No. 93; amended 1989, No. 45, § 8.)
§ 5143. Disconnection of service
(a) No municipality shall disconnect service to a ratepayer unless payment of a valid bill or charge is delinquent as defined herein, and notice of disconnection has been provided previously to the ratepayer. A copy of the notice shall be sent to the occupant of a residential dwelling that will be affected by the disconnection if the occupant is different than the ratepayer.
(b) Disconnection shall not be permitted if:
(1) The delinquent bill or charge, or aggregate delinquent bills and charges do not exceed $15.00.
(2) The delinquency is due solely to a disputed portion of a charge that is the subject of an appeal.
(3) The delinquency is due to a failure to pay a deposit, line extension, special assessment, special construction charge, or other nonrecurring charge.
(4) The disconnection would represent an immediate and serious hazard to the health of the ratepayer or a resident within the ratepayer’s household, as set forth in a physician’s certificate that is on file with the municipality. Notice by telephone or otherwise that such certificate will be forthcoming will have the effect of receipt, providing the certificate is in fact received within seven days.
(5) The ratepayer has not been given an opportunity to enter into a reasonable agreement to pay the delinquent bill or, having made such agreement, has abided by its terms.
(c) The tenant of a rental dwelling noticed for disconnection due to the delinquency of the ratepayer shall have the right to request and pay for continued service from the utility or reconnection of water and sewer service for the rental dwelling, which the utility shall provide. If any water and sewer charges or fees are included in the tenant’s rent, the tenant may deduct the cost of any water and sewer service charges or fees paid to the municipality from his or her rent pursuant to 9 V.S.A. § 4459. Under such circumstances, the utility shall not require the tenant to pay any arrearage greater than one billing cycle. (Added 1977, No. 93; amended 1989, No. 45, § 9; 2013, No. 94 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. Feb. 20, 2014.)
§ 5144. Uniform notice form
The notice form required under section 5143 of this chapter, and defined in section 5142 of this chapter shall be clearly printed on a pink colored sheet of paper, and shall be according to the following form:
AMOUNT IN ARREARS
According to our records, your (water) (sewer) service account is still unpaid. Please make full payment of the account or contact our office to make satisfactory arrangements before .......... . If this is not done, we will no longer be able to extend credit and will have to discontinue your service, on that day or any one of the following four business days. (Under the law, “Business days” means Monday through Thursday, excluding legal holidays, when the offices are not open to the public). An unpaid bill is a lien on your real property, and may lead to tax sale proceedings.
SPECIAL CHARGES—24 V.S.A. § 5151 provides that we charge a fee for coming to your location to collect the amount overdue. Also, the same statute provides that we shall charge a reconnection fee for restoration of service if your service has been disconnected for nonpayment. These fees are as follows:
Collection Trips—$ 25.00, regardless of number
Reconnection—Normal Hours—$ 25.00
Interest according to 32 V.S.A. § 5136(a)
If payment has already been sent, we recommend that you contact our office to make certain that payment is recorded on your account by the indicated date as such payment may have become delayed or lost in the mail. Payment in the mail does not constitute payment until received by us.
THIS IS A FINAL REQUEST FROM:
(Name of Credit Supervisor)
(Name of Municipality)
(Address of Municipality)
Vermont (Zip Code)
OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION—If you have a question concerning this bill or if you want to seek an agreement with us to pay the balance due in partial payments over a period of time, you should contact this office as soon as possible after receipt of this notice. In the event an agreement is entered into, failure to abide by the terms of agreement can lead to disconnection without further notice. If disconnection would result in an immediate and serious health hazard to you or to a resident within your household, disconnection will be postponed upon presentation of a duly licensed physician’s certificate.
APPEALS—If you cannot reach agreement as to payment of this bill with the credit supervisor whose name appears above, you may appeal to:
(Name of Chairman of the Local Legislative Body)
(Name of Town, City or Village)
(Address of Office)
or by calling:
An appeal cannot be taken unless you first attempt to settle with the credit supervisor. You may appeal only as to the proper amount of your bill or the correctness of application of the rules and regulations. You may not appeal as to the level or design of the rates themselves. No charge shall be made for the appeal. However, undisputed portions of the charges giving rise to this notice must be paid before the disconnection date given above.
(Added 1977, No. 93; amended 1987, No. 33, § 1; 1989, No. 45, § 10.)
§ 5145. Time and notice of disconnection
(a) Disconnection of utility service shall occur only between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. of the business day specified on the notice of disconnection, or within the same hours during the four business days thereafter.
(b) When service is disconnected or interrupted at the premises of the ratepayer, which shall include disconnection or interruption at or near the premises of the ratepayer, the individual making the disconnection shall immediately inform a responsible adult on the premises that service has been disconnected or interrupted, or if no responsible adult is then present, shall leave on the premises in a conspicuous and secure place a notification advising that service has been disconnected or interrupted and what the ratepayer has to do to have service restored. (Added 1977, No. 93.)
§ 5146. Restoration of service
If service has been disconnected or interrupted, the municipality shall within 24 hours restore service upon the customer’s request when the cause for disconnection of service has been removed or when an agreement has been reached between the ratepayer and the municipality regarding the dispute that led to the disconnection or when directed to do so by the selectboard. Restoration of service, to the extent feasible, shall be done so as to avoid charging ratepayers for overtime wages and other abnormal expenses. No collection or reconnection fees may be charged for disconnections or interruptions of service made for reasons of health or safety of the ratepayer or of the general public. (Added 1977, No. 93; amended 1989, No. 45, § 11.)
§ 5147. Jurisdiction for appeals and exceptions
The selectboard shall promptly and fairly hear any or all appeals by the ratepayer after notice to all interested parties. During appeal, disconnection will be postponed. Upon just cause shown, the selectboard may grant exceptions to any ratepayer. The selectboard may appoint one or more members of the selectboard to act as hearing officers for the purposes of the appeal. Alternatively, the selectboard may appoint a responsible citizen to act as a hearing officer for the appeal. (Added 1977, No. 93.)
§ 5148. Consumer provisions
Nothing in this chapter shall prevent the selectboard from adopting further procedures, ordinances, or rules providing greater protection for consumers than are required by this chapter. (Added 1977, No. 93.)
§ 5149. Repealed. 1989, No. 45, § 12.
§ 5150. Unauthorized connection
The officers and agents of such a municipality entrusted with the care and superintendence of the municipality may at all reasonable times enter all premises so supplied to examine the pipes and fixtures and prevent any unnecessary waste, and to examine for sanitary correction thereto. If any person, without the consent of such municipal corporation, shall use any connection to water or sewer, a civil action on this statute may be maintained against such person by such municipality for the recovery of damages thereon. (Added 1977, No. 93; amended 1989, No. 45, § 13.)
§ 5151. Special charges
(a) A municipality providing water and sewer services may charge fees for collection of overdue accounts and reconnection of service disconnected because of nonpayment.
(b) Fees charged shall not exceed the following schedule:
Collection Trips—$25.00 maximum, regardless of number
(c) Interest on delinquent accounts may be assessed if voted by the municipality according to 32 V.S.A. § 5136. (Added 1977, No. 93; amended 1987, No. 33, § 2; 1989, No. 45, § 14.)
§ 5152. Disconnections prohibited; state of emergency
(a) Notwithstanding this chapter or any provision of law to the contrary, a municipality; a person who is permitted as a public water system pursuant to 10 V.S.A. chapter 56 and who provides another person water as a part of the operation of that public water system; or a company engaged in the collecting, sale, and distribution of water for domestic, industrial, business, or fire protection purposes that is regulated by the Public Utility Commission under 30 V.S.A. § 203(3) shall be prohibited from disconnecting any person from services during a declared state of emergency under 20 V.S.A. chapter 1, provided that:
(1) the state of emergency is declared in response to an all-hazards event that will cause financial hardship and the inability of ratepayers to pay for water or sewer services; and
(2) the all-hazards event does not require the water or sewer service provider to disconnect services to protect the health and safety of the public.
(b) A person or company that is subject to subsection (a) of this section may temporarily disconnect water or sewer services during the declared state of emergency when the temporary disconnection is necessary for the maintenance or repair of the water or sewer system.
(c)(1) A violation of subsection (a) of this section by a municipality or a person who is permitted as a public water system pursuant to 10 V.S.A. chapter 56 may be enforced by the Agency of Natural Resources pursuant to 10 V.S.A. chapter 201.
(2) A violation of subsection (a) of this section by a company engaged in the collecting, sale, and distribution of water for domestic, industrial, business, or fire protection purposes that is regulated by the Public Utility Commission under 30 V.S.A. § 203(3) may be enforced by the Public Utility Commission pursuant to 30 V.S.A. § 30.
(d) A ratepayer shall remain obligated for any amounts due to a water or sewer service provider subject to this section. The ratepayer shall have a minimum of 90 days after the end of the declared state of emergency to pay the amounts due. (Added 2021, No. 157 (Adj. Sess.), § 11, eff. July 1, 2022.)