Bankruptcy and Your Utilities
If you are considering bankruptcy, you likely are facing mountains of debt and expenses. You may be worried about the repossession of your car or that your home may go into foreclosure. While you are worried about those events that may be weeks or months away, a more pressing issue may be your utilities. If you are struggling to pay your bills, you may fear that your electricity, gas, or water will be turned off. If you have small children in your home, this fear can become even greater as you wonder how you will provide them heat in the winter, or water for a bath. There is however good news to provide you some relief regarding your utilities. If you file for bankruptcy, you can rest assured that your utilities will not be shut off in the immediate future.
Bankruptcy and Your Utilities
Whether you choose to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, once you have officially filed the petition paperwork with the court, the utility companies must immediately restore your service and stop all threats of termination. This protection is called an “automatic stay” and will provide you the breathing room under which you can have your utilities turned back on and be free from any harassing calls regarding your debt as you move through the bankruptcy process.
According to the law, you will then have 21 days (three full weeks) to pay any new utility bills incurred after filing for bankruptcy. If you complete all of the requirements required of you during the bankruptcy process, all of the past utility bills will likely be completely eliminated. While every case is different, in most cases, especially under Chapter 7 bankruptcies, the court will remove all utility debt listed on the bankruptcy as a dischargeable debt.
Utilities and Assistance
First off, it is not the best idea to declare bankruptcy if your only issue is that you are somewhat struggling to pay your utility bills. There are other ways to handle your financial issues if you are only struggling with your utilities. Some emergency assistance sources may be available for you from local or state governments to prevent your utilities from being shut off without having to declare bankruptcy. Consider some of the following options:
- Utility Funds. In some cases, a utility company will have a special fund set aside to help those people who are struggling to pay their utility bills. Simply call your utility company to see if they offer this as an option.
- Social Services. Consider calling the county department of social services to see if they can help you with your utility issues.
- State Emergency Assistance. Many states will have a “homeless prevention” fund that may be used for utility terminations. Even some local cities will have something similar to this to help those in need.
- Contact your local churches to see if they can provide some financial help for you to keep your utilities on.
- Salvation Army. In many cases, the Salvation Army will provide assistance to those that need help with their utilities.
Reach Out to Us Today for Help
If you are considering bankruptcy due to the inability to pay your utilities, contact the West Palm Beach bankruptcy attorneys at Kelley, Fulton & Kaplan at 561-264-6850 for a free consultation to help you understand how bankruptcy could give you a financial fresh start.