Special Winter Rules for Utility Shutoffs


By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)

Learn what the law says about utility shutoffs during the winter in Montana.
Resource Information

Special Winter Rules for Utility Shutoffs

NorthWestern Energy, Montana-Dakota Utilities, Energy West, and other regulated utilities must get approval from the Public Service Commission (PSC) before shutting off utilities for non-payment between November 1 and April 1. The PSC will not approve a request for disconnect if:

  • the account holder has income at or below the federal poverty guideline, or
  • the account holder is a recipient of a public assistance program, or
  • a member of the customer’s household is 62 years old or older, or
  • if a member of the household has a disability. 

You can read the rule at 38.5.1410, Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM).  The PSC provides more details about the rule in their Winter Moratorium handout.  

It is the customer’s responsibility to let the utility company know, prior to disconnect, if any of the above conditions exist in the home. You will likely be asked to provide documentation to the utility. 

Companies not regulated by the PSC, like cooperatives and propane distributors, are not required to obtain PSC approval prior to disconnecting utility service. Those companies have their own procedures to follow for winter terminations. 

It’s a good idea to communicate with your utility company if you fall behind on payments. You have the right to contact the PSC at 1-800-646-6150 if you have unanswered questions or are not satisfied after talking to a regulated utility company. It is also a good idea to talk to a lawyer if you have a dispute with your utility company. 

Take Action

Help with Utilities

  • Apply for help with paying your winter heating bills through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) at your local LIEAP eligibility office or by calling 1-833-317-1080.
  • Visit Montana211.org or dial 2-1-1 for help finding local resources. 

Legal Help

If you have a dispute with your ultility company or are denied energy assistance, it's a good idea to talk to a lawyer. 

Find more resources using our interactive Legal Guide.
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