If you file bankruptcy and owe past due utilities, like electricity and gas, utility companies cannot change or discontinue your service. Just like protections against other types of collection, this particular restriction against creditors is found in the Bankruptcy Code at 11 U.S.C. §366. This section also stops utility companies for shutting off or refusing to provide service because you filed for bankruptcy.
After bankruptcy, you must continue to make your regular utility payments. The bankruptcy does not discharge any payments due after filing bankruptcy. If you fail to pay any utility bills incurred after bankruptcy, they will eventually be shut off.
In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, past due utility bills are discharged, or wiped out. They are treated like other unsecured debt like credit cards and payday loans. In a Chapter 13, past due utility bills are treated like other unsecured debt. This debt is paid through your Chapter 13 repayment plan. In most Chapter 13 bankruptcies, debtors pay off only a portion of their unsecured debt through their plan.
Do note that in Missouri, Metropolitan Sewer District, or MSD, bills are treated as a lien against the service property. If you own your home, you will have to pay back any MSD debts before selling your home because liens do not go away after bankruptcy. However, MSD can no longer sue, garnish, or collect these past-due debts against you once they are discharged in bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, these debts are paid through the plan accordingly.
After filing bankruptcy, your utility companies may want adequate assurance that you can pay your future bills. Usually, this is in the form of a reasonable deposit. If you feel the deposit is unreasonable, you can ask the bankruptcy court to order the utility company to assess a more reasonable deposit. Contact your lawyer for more information.
Unfortunately, cable TV is not a utility, and so your cable company may shut off your service if you do not pay your bill on time. But you can list the amount of your cable TV bill in your bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court may discharge that debt, and after your bankruptcy case is done, the company may wish to have you as a customer again.
So, if you are scheduled for a utility shut-off in St. Louis or are having trouble paying past due utility bills, reach out to the Law Office of Tracy A. Brown to help keep your lights on and stop creditors from harassing you!