Today's Law As Amended


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SB-223 Discontinuation of residential water service.(2021-2022)



As Amends the Law Today


SECTION 1.

 Section 116902 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116902.
 For the purposes of this chapter, the following definitions apply:
(a) “Board” means the State Water Resources Control Board.
(b) “Public water system” has the same meaning as defined in Section 116275.
(c) “Residential service” means water service to a residential connection that includes single-family residences, multifamily residences, mobilehomes, including, but not limited to, mobilehomes in mobilehome parks, or farmworker housing.
(d) “Urban and community water system” means a public water system that supplies water to more than 200 service connections. connections used by year long residents. 
(e) “Urban water supplier” has the same meaning as defined in Section 10617 of the Water Code.
(f) “Very small community water system” means a public water system that supplies water to 200 or fewer service connections used by year long residents.

SEC. 2.

 Section 116904 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116904.
 (a) An urban water supplier not regulated by the Public Utilities Commission shall comply with this chapter on and after February 1, 2020.
(b) An urban and community water system regulated by the Public Utilities Commission shall comply with this chapter on and after February 1, 2020. The urban and community water system regulated by the Public Utilities Commission shall file advice letters with the commission to conform with this chapter.
(c) An urban and community water system not described in subdivision (a) or (b) shall comply with this chapter on and after April 1, 2020.
(d) A very small community water system shall comply with this chapter on and after July 1, 2022. A very small community water system regulated by the Public Utilities Commission shall file advice letters with the commission to conform with this chapter.
(e) The board shall provide technical assistance to very small community water systems, as appropriate, to assist with compliance with this chapter.
(f) The board shall establish a bridge loan program to assist very small community water systems that may suffer revenue loss or delayed collection while complying with this chapter. To the extent funding is available, partial loan forgiveness shall be made available to systems that offer debt forgiveness to low-income residents with past due accounts.
(g) An urban water supplier and an urban and community water system shall update its policies to comply with this chapter by July 1, 2022.

SEC. 3.

 Section 116906 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116906.
 (a) An urban and community water system and a very small community water system  shall have a written policy on discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment available in English, the languages listed in Section 1632 of the Civil Code, and any other language spoken by at least 10 percent of the people residing in its service area. The policy shall include all of the following:
(1) A plan for deferred or reduced payments. payments that includes an option for repayment over a period of 12 months or longer. 
(2) Alternative payment schedules.
(3) A formal mechanism for a customer to contest or appeal a bill.
(4) To the extent required by Section 116915, an arrearage management plan to be offered to eligible low-income customers.
(4) (5)  A telephone number for a customer to contact to discuss options for averting discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment.
(6) For systems that provide water use audits or have the capacity to do so, a water audit offered at no additional cost to low-income residential customer households.
(b) The policy shall be available on the internet website of the  urban and community water system’s Internet Web site, if an Internet Web site  system or very small community water system, if an internet website  exists. If an Internet Web site  internet website  does not exist, the urban and community water system or very small community water system  shall provide the policy to customers  in writing, upon request. writing upon its adoption or revision and upon request by a customer. 
(c) (1) The board may enforce the requirements of this section pursuant to Sections 116577, 116650, and 116655. The provisions of Section 116585 and Article 10 (commencing with Section 116700) of Chapter 4 apply to enforcement undertaken for a violation of this section.
(2) All moneys collected pursuant to this subdivision shall be deposited in the Safe Drinking Water Account established pursuant to Section 116590.
(d) The board shall develop a template for a written policy on discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment, on or before September 1, 2022, to aid very small community water systems in compliance with this section. The written policy template shall be provided in English and the languages listed in Section 1632 of the Civil Code.

SEC. 4.

 Section 116908 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116908.
 (a) (1) (A) An urban and community water system or very small community water system  shall not discontinue residential service for nonpayment until a payment for water service  by a customer has been delinquent for at least 60 days.  90 days or the amount of the delinquency, excluding late charges and interest, is at least two hundred fifty dollars ($250).  No less than seven business days before discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment, an urban and community water system and very small community water system  shall contact the customer named on the account by telephone or written notice.
(B) When the urban and community water system or very small community water system  contacts the customer named on the account by telephone pursuant to subparagraph (A), it shall offer to provide in writing to the customer the urban and community water system’s  its  policy on discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment. An urban and community water system and very small community water system  shall offer to discuss options to avert discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment, including, but not limited to, alternative payment schedules, deferred payments, minimum payments, procedures for requesting amortization of the unpaid balance, and petition for bill review and appeal.
(C) When the urban and community water system or very small community water system  contacts the customer named on the account by written notice pursuant to subparagraph (A), the written notice of payment delinquency and impending discontinuation shall be mailed to the customer of the residence to which the residential service is provided. If the customer’s address is not the address of the property to which residential service is provided, the notice also shall be sent to the address of the property to which residential service is provided, addressed to “Occupant.” The notice shall include, but is not limited to, all of the following information in a clear and legible format:
(i) The customer’s name and address.
(ii) The amount of the delinquency.
(iii) The date by which payment or arrangement for payment is required in order to avoid discontinuation of residential service.
(iv) A description of the process to apply for an extension of time to pay the delinquent charges.
(v) A description of the procedure to petition for bill review and appeal.
(vi) A description of the procedure by which the customer may request a deferred, reduced, or alternative payment schedule, including an amortization of the delinquent residential service charges, consistent with the written policies provided pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 116906.
(2) If the urban and community water system or very small community water system  is unable to make contact with the customer or an adult occupying the residence by telephone, and written notice is returned through the mail as undeliverable, the urban and community water system or very small community water system  shall make a good faith effort to visit the residence and leave, or make other arrangements for placement in a conspicuous place of, a notice of imminent discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment and the urban and community water system’s  policy for discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment.
(b) If an adult at the residence appeals the water bill to the urban and community water system  system, very small community water system,  or any other administrative or legal body to which such an appeal may be lawfully taken, the urban and community water system or very small community water system  shall not discontinue residential service while the appeal is pending.
(c) For purposes of this section, a residential water customer who pays a water bill that is combined with billing for other services, including, but not limited to, sewer service or electricity service, is not delinquent and shall not have their water service discontinued for nonpayment if the customer has paid an amount equal to or greater than the monthly charge for water service, excluding taxes and fees.
(d) Notwithstanding any other law, the urban and community water system or very small community water system shall not obtain any new lien, for delinquent amounts owed for residential water or sewer service when the customer is enrolled in an amortization agreement, alternative payment schedule, or arrearage management plan, or a plan for deferred or reduced payment. If a lien is imposed on a customer due to nonpayment, the urban and community water system and very small community water system shall provide to the customer, in writing, information on how a lien operates, assurance that the lien will not result in foreclosure while the customer is enrolled in an amortization agreement, alternative payment schedule, arrearage management plan, if offered, or a plan for deferred or reduced payment, and confirmation that the lien will be released when the past due amount has been fully paid.

SEC. 5.

 Section 116910 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116910.
 (a) An urban and community water system or very small community water system  shall not discontinue residential service for nonpayment if all of the following conditions are met: water service to an occupied residence for nonpayment during a state or local emergency declared pursuant to Section 8625 or 8630 of the Government Code when the area of the declared state or local emergency encompasses the customer’s residence, unless the entity declaring the emergency finds that the emergency will not impact the customers’ ability to pay for residential service. 
(b) An urban and community water system or very small community water system shall not discontinue residential service for nonpayment if all of the following conditions are met:
(1) (A)  The customer, or a tenant of the customer, submits to the urban and community water system or very small community water system  the certification of a primary care provider, as that term is defined in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 14088 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, that discontinuation of residential service will be life threatening  life-threatening  to, or pose a serious threat to the health and safety of, a resident of the premises where residential service is provided.
(B) As an alternative to the procedures described in subparagraph (A), a customer, or tenant of the customer, may self-certify in writing, under penalty of perjury, that they do not have a primary care provider and that discontinuation of residential service will be life-threatening to, or pose a serious threat to the health and safety of, a resident of the premises where residential service is provided. A self-certification under this subparagraph may be made in English or any of the languages listed in Section 1632 of the Civil Code.
(C) For the purposes of subparagraph (B), a serious threat to health and safety includes, but is not limited to, the presence of a resident of the premises younger than 18 years of age.
(2) The customer demonstrates that he or she is  they are  financially unable to pay for residential service within the normal billing cycle of the  urban and community water system’s normal billing cycle.  system or very small community water system.  The customer shall be deemed financially unable to pay for residential service within the urban and community water system’s  normal billing cycle if any member of the customer’s household is a current recipient of  enrollee in, or recipient of, the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program established pursuant to Section 739.1 of the Public Utilities Code,  CalWORKs, CalFresh, general assistance, Medi-Cal, Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment Program, or California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or the customer declares that the household’s annual income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
(3) The customer is willing to enter into an amortization agreement, alternative payment schedule, or arrearage management plan, if one is available pursuant to Section 116915, or  a plan for deferred or reduced payment, consistent with the written policies provided pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 116906, with respect to all delinquent charges.
(b) (c)  (1) If the conditions listed in subdivision (a) (b)  are met, the urban and community water system or very small community water system  shall offer the customer one or more of  the following options:
(A) Amortization of the unpaid balance.
(B) Participation in an alternative payment schedule.
(C) A partial or full reduction of the unpaid balance financed without additional charges to other ratepayers.
(D) Temporary deferral of payment.
(E) To the extent required by Section 116915, an arrearage management plan.
(2) The urban and community water system may choose which of the payment options  or very small community water system shall, in consultation with the customer, select the option  described in paragraph (1) the customer undertakes  that may assist the customer in avoiding discontinuation of service over the long term,  and may set the parameters of that  the selected  payment option. Ordinarily, the repayment option offered should result in repayment resolution  of any remaining outstanding balance within 12 months. An urban and community water system or very small community water system  may grant a longer repayment period if it finds the longer period is necessary to avoid undue hardship to the customer based on the circumstances of the individual case.
(3) Residential service may be discontinued no sooner than 5 business days after the urban and community water system or very small community water system  posts a final notice of intent to disconnect service in a prominent and conspicuous location at the property under either of the following circumstances:
(A) The customer fails to comply with an amortization agreement, an  alternative payment schedule, or arrearage management plan, or  a deferral or reduction in payment plan for delinquent charges for 60 days or more.
(B) While undertaking an amortization agreement, an  alternative payment schedule, or arrearage management plan, or  a deferral or reduction in payment plan for delinquent charges, the customer does not pay his or her  their  current residential service charges for 60 days or more.

SEC. 6.

 Section 116912 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116912.
 An urban and community water system or very small community water system  that discontinues residential service for nonpayment shall provide the customer with information on how to restore residential service.

SEC. 7.

 Section 116914 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116914.
 (a) For a residential customer who demonstrates to an urban and community water system or very small community water system  household income below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, the urban and community water system or very small community water system  shall do both of the following:
(1) Set a reconnection of service fee for reconnection during normal operating hours at fifty dollars ($50), but not to exceed the actual cost of reconnection if it is less. Reconnection fees shall be subject to an annual adjustment for changes in the Consumer Price Index beginning January 1, 2021. For the reconnection of residential service during nonoperational hours, an urban and community  Waive fees for disconnection and reconnection of service. If the water system determines the waiver of fees for disconnection and reconnection of service cannot be made because of the requirements of Article XIII D of the California Constitution, the  water system shall set a reconnection of service fee at one hundred fifty dollars ($150), but not to  not waive those fees. If the fees are not waived, the fees shall not  exceed the actual cost of reconnection if it is less. Reconnection fees shall be subject to an annual adjustment for changes in the Consumer Price Index beginning January 1, 2021. the disconnection or reconnection of service. 
(2) Waive interest charges  all late fees, interest charges, and penalties  on delinquent bills once every 12 months.
(b) An urban and community water system and very small community water system  shall deem a residential customer to have a household income below 200 percent of the federal poverty line if any member of the household is a current recipient of  enrollee in, or recipient of, the California Alternate Rates for Energy program established pursuant to Section 739.1 of the Public Utilities Code,  CalWORKs, CalFresh, general assistance, Medi-Cal, Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment Program, or California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or the customer declares that the household’s annual income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

SEC. 8.

 Section 116915 is added to the Health and Safety Code, to read:

116915.
 (a) (1) The Public Utilities Commission shall, by January 1, 2023, in an existing or new proceeding, consider whether to establish a pilot program for an arrearage management plan program to be offered by urban and community water systems regulated by the Public Utilities Commission to eligible low-income customers who have been with the water system for at least six months and who have an arrearage of payment of their water service bill meeting a specified threshold.
(2) If the Public Utilities Commission establishes a pilot program for an arrearage management plan pursuant to this subdivision, the Public Utilities Commission shall evaluate the program by no later than three years after the commencement of the program, and publicly post the evaluation on its internet website.
(3) If the Public Utilities Commission establishes a pilot program for an arrearage management plan pursuant to this subdivision, the Public Utilities Commission shall terminate the pilot program by no later than four years after the commencement of the program if the evaluation of the program determines it is not in the interest of all ratepayers.
(b) An urban and community water system not regulated by the Public Utilities Commission shall, by January 1, 2023, or during its next rate study, whichever comes first, determine whether it may offer an arrearage management plan to aid low-income residential customers with household income below 200 percent of the federal poverty line with high arrearages for water or wastewater service without using ratepayer funds from customers who are not enrolled in the arrearage management plan.
(c) In evaluating the extent to that it may offer an arrearage management plan without using ratepayer funds from customers who are not enrolled in the arrearage management plan, the urban and community water system may consider, among other things, all of the following:
(1) The availability of nonratepayer revenue, including, but not limited to, general fund accounts, property tax revenue, state and federal funding, special district fees or assessments, and revenue derived from interest, late fees, reconnection fees, and disconnection fees.
(2) The net revenue benefits reasonably anticipated from regular payments made by customers enrolled in arrearage management plans.
(3) The establishment of a portal or on-bill mechanism for collecting voluntary customer contributions.
(4) Annual uncollectible debt over the past five years.
(5) The total arrearages of residential customers with household income below 200 percent of the federal poverty line or deemed to have household income below 200 percent of the federal poverty line pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 116914.
(6) The likely revenue impacts of setting alternative arrearage management plan eligibility caps, terms, and other conditions.
(7) Appropriate program limitations based on available funding.
(8) Other system priorities that may limit the ability of establishing an arrearage management plan program, including the need for water quality improvements and infrastructure upgrades.
(d) An urban and community water system shall make findings at a public meeting regarding the extent to which it may offer an arrearage management plan to aid low-income households with high arrearages for water or wastewater service.
(e) To the extent an urban and community water system finds that it may offer an arrearage management plan to low-income customers, it shall promptly offer arrearage management plans to low-income customers that comply with both of the following, subject to appropriate program limitations based on available funding:
(1) The arrearage management plan shall extend for a maximum of 12 months and shall include forgiveness of at least one-twelfth of the delinquent balance with each consecutive on-time payment of the monthly charge for water service only. Forgiveness of the full delinquent balance under the arrearage management plan shall take place at the final consecutive on-time payment under the plan.
(2) A customer who misses two consecutive payments may be removed from the arrearage management plan. If a customer is removed from the arrearage management plan before making 12 on-time payments, any debt that has already been forgiven shall remain forgiven and the urban and community water system or very small community water system shall offer enrollment into an amortization agreement, alternative payment schedule, or a plan for deferred or reduced payment.
(f) If an urban and community water system determines it may not provide an arrearage management plan, it shall consider all of the following:
(1) Alternatives to offering an arrearage management plan that will decrease the risk of shutoff for low-income customers with high arrearages, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
(A) Offering longer repayment plans.
(B) Increasing benefits provided under a low-income rate assistance program.
(C) Altering shutoff policies.
(2) Identifying funding barriers that prevent the urban and community water system from offering an arrearage management plan.
(3) Promptly adopting identified alternatives to decrease the risk of shutoff for low-income customers with high arrearages.
(g) This section shall not limit the ability of a very small community water system to establish an arrearage management plan.

SEC. 9.

 Section 116916 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116916.
 (a) This section applies if there is a landlord-tenant relationship between the residential occupants and the owner, manager, or operator of the dwelling.
(b) An urban and community water system or very small community water system shall not discontinue for nonpayment residential water service to a master-metered multifamily residence with at least four units or to a master-metered mobilehome park.
(b) (c)  If an urban and community water system or very small community water system  furnishes individually metered residential service to residential occupants of a detached single-family dwelling, a multiunit residential structure, mobilehome park, or permanent residential structure in a labor camp as defined in Section 17008, and the owner, manager, or operator of the dwelling, structure, or park is the customer of record, the urban and community water system or very small community water system  shall make every good faith effort to inform the residential occupants, by means of written notice, when the account is in arrears that service will be terminated at least 10 days prior to the termination. The written notice shall further inform the residential occupants that they have the right to become customers, to whom the service will then be billed, without being required to pay any amount which may be due on the delinquent account.
(c) (d)  The urban and community water system or very small community water system  is not required to make direct  service available to the residential occupants unless each residential occupant agrees to the terms and conditions of service and meets the requirements of law and the rules of the  urban and community water system’s rules and tariffs.  system or very small community water system.  However, if one or more of the residential occupants are willing and able to assume responsibility for the subsequent charges to the account to the satisfaction of the urban and community water system or very small community water  system, or if there is a physical means legally available to the urban and community water system or very small community water system  of selectively terminating service to those residential occupants who have not met the requirements of the rules of the  urban and community water system’s rules and tariffs,  system or very small community water system,  the urban and community water system or very small community water system  shall make service available to those residential occupants who have met those requirements.
(d) (e)  If prior service for a period of time is a condition for establishing credit with the urban and community water system or very small community water  system, residence and proof of prompt payment of rent or other credit obligation acceptable to the urban and community water system or very small community water system  for that period of time is a satisfactory equivalent.
(e) (f)  Any residential occupant who becomes a customer of the urban and community water system or very small community water system  pursuant to this section whose periodic payments, such as rental payments, include charges for residential water service, where those charges are not separately stated, may deduct from the periodic payment each payment period all reasonable charges paid to the urban and community water system or very small community water system  for those services during the preceding payment period.
(f) (g)  In the case of a detached single-family dwelling, the urban and community water system or very small community water system  may do any of the following:
(1) Give notice of termination at least seven days prior to the proposed termination.
(2) In order for the amount due on the delinquent account to be waived, require an occupant who becomes a customer to verify that the delinquent account customer of record is or was the landlord, manager, or agent of the dwelling. Verification may include, but is not limited to, a lease or rental agreement, rent receipts, a government document indicating that the occupant is renting the property, or information disclosed pursuant to Section 1962 of the Civil Code.

SEC. 10.

 Section 116918 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116918.
 (a)  An urban and community water system or very small community water system  shall report annually  the number of annual  discontinuations of residential service for inability to pay on the urban and community water system’s Internet Web site, if an Internet Web site  pay, during the reporting year, both for the water system as a whole and for each ZIP Code served by the water system, on the water system’s internet website, if an internet website  exists, and to the board. The board shall post on its Internet Web site  internet website  the information reported.
(b) In its annual reporting to the board pursuant to this section, each urban and community water system and very small community water system shall report all of the following:
(1) The number of accounts for which water service was restored within 36 hours of the time of disconnection.
(2) The number of accounts for which water service was restored between 36 hours and seven days from the time of disconnection.
(3) The number of accounts for which water service was restored more than seven days after disconnection.
(4) The number of accounts for customers who fell behind on their water bills during the year, the median amount of household water debt that is outstanding at the end of each annual reporting cycle, and the overall amount of household water debt that is outstanding at the end of each annual reporting cycle.
(5) The number of accounts for customers who are enrolled in a water affordability program at the end of each annual reporting cycle.
(c) An urban and community water system shall report to the board during the reporting year that it completes its evaluation pursuant to Section 116915 all of the following:
(1) The extent to which it found it could offer an arrearage management plan.
(2) Any identified barriers to offering an arrearage management plan.
(3) Whether it identified alternatives to an arrearage management plan that it will or has adopted, and the nature of the identified alternatives.
(d) (1) By January 1, 2024, the board shall complete a report to the Legislature on arrearage management plans established by Section 116915 that includes whether and to what extent urban and community water systems have offered arrearage management plans, any identified barriers, any identified alternatives, and all available information regarding reduction in shutoffs and revenue impacts.
(2) The requirement for submitting a report imposed under this subdivision is inoperative on January 1, 2028, pursuant to Section 10231.5 of the Government Code.
(3) A report to be submitted pursuant to this subdivision shall be submitted in compliance with Section 9795 of the Government Code.

SEC. 11.

 Section 116920 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116920.
 (a) The board may issue an order to an urban and community water system or very small community water system to enforce the requirements of this chapter.
(a) (b)  The Attorney General, board, or the Attorney General  at the request of the board or upon his or her the Attorney General’s  own motion, may bring an action in state court to restrain by temporary or permanent injunction the use of any method, act, or practice declared in this chapter to be unlawful.
(b) (c)  For an urban and community water system or very small community water system  regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, the commission may bring an action in state court to restrain by temporary or permanent injunction the use by an urban and community water system or very small community water system  regulated by the commission of any method, act, or practice declared in this chapter to be unlawful.

SEC. 12.

 Section 116922 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116922.
 All written notices required under this chapter shall be provided in English, the languages listed in Section 1632 of the Civil Code, and any other language spoken by 10 percent or more of the customers in the service area of the  urban and community water system’s service area. system or very small community water system. 

SEC. 13.

 Section 116926 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

116926.
 This chapter does not apply to the termination of a service connection by an urban and community water system or very small community water system  due to an unauthorized action of a customer.
SEC. 14.
 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.