Payment of Bills and Discontinuation Water Service Policy

San Buenaventura Municipal Code Section 22.160.030. Senate Bill No. 998: Discontinuation of Residential Water Service and California Government Code Sections 60370 ‐60375.5

Policy:

This policy outlines the City of San Buenaventura Water Department’s (“City”) actions for the collection of monies due on delinquent water accounts, including notifications, fee assignments and discontinuation of service. The City, as a community water system that supplies water to more than 200 service connections, establishes this policy pursuant to California Government Code Sections 60370 – 60375.5, and California Senate Bill 998 (SB998) effective by law February 1, 2020. Customers may contact Customer Care at 805-667-6500 to discuss options to prevent service interruptions for non-payment. This policy is available in English and the languages listed in Section 1632 of the California Civil Code.

Generally:

Bills for all charges for water sold, furnished, supplied or delivered by Ventura Water shall be due and payable at City Hall upon the date of mailing of the bill. For customer rates and charges visit here.

Delinquent Accounts:

Delinquent accounts are identified as any account that remains unpaid, and without payment arrangements or an established alternative payment schedule, by close of business 24 days after issuance of the water bill. The following rules apply to the collection of delinquent accounts:

  1. Balance AccountsAny balance on a bill of $49.99 or less may be carried over, and added to the next billing period without further collection action.
  2. Late Fee: Any unpaid balance of $5.00 or more that is not paid 30 days after the date of mailing to the customer will be assessed a 10% fee. The due date and late fee will be displayed prominently on the bill.
  3. Notice to Residential Tenants/Occupants in an Individually Metered Residence. If a residence is served by an individually metered residential service to a single-family home, a multi-unit residence, or mobile home park, and the owner is not the customer of record, the City will make a reasonable, good faith effort to inform the occupants, by means of written notice, when the water service account is in arrears and subject to disconnection at least 10 days before water service is shut off. The written notice will advise the tenant/occupant that they have the right to become customers of the City without being required to pay the amount due on the delinquent account, as long as they are willing to assume financial responsibility for subsequent charges for water service at that address. In order for the amount due on the delinquent account to be waived, the tenant/occupant must provide verification of tenancy in the form of a rental agreement or proof of rent payments.
  4. Notice to Tenants/Occupants in a Multi‐Unit Complex Served through a Master Meter. The City will make a reasonable, good faith effort to inform the occupants, by means of written notice hung on the door of each residence, when the water service account is in arrears and subject to disconnection at least 10 days before water service is shut off.
  5. Alternative Payment Arrangements: Any customer who is unable to pay for service within the normal payment period may request an alternative payment arrangement to avoid disruption of service. The City will consider all circumstances surrounding the request and make a determination as to whether the payment arrangement is warranted.


  6. Amortization: An amortization plan will amortize the unpaid balance over a period defined by the customer, not to exceed 12 months from the original date of the bill. The amortized payments will be combined with the customer’s regular bill. The customer must comply with the terms of the amortization plan and remain current as charges accrue in each subsequent billing period. The customer may not request further amortization of any subsequent unpaid charges while paying delinquent charges pursuant to an amortization plan. Failure to comply with the terms of an amortization plan will result in the issuance of a door hanger notice of termination delivered to the service address no less than 7 days in advance of service disconnection.

Low Income Customers:

The City will waive interest charges (late fees) on delinquent bills once every 12 months for low income customers. Per California Health and Safety Code Section 116914(b), a customer is considered low income if any member of the household is a current recipient of CalWORKs, CalFresh, general assistance, Medi-Cal, Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment Program, or California Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children, or the customer declares that the household’s annual income is less than 200% of the federal poverty line.

The City also offers a Customer Assistance Program (CAP) to eligible customers. The CAP offers a 50% reduction to the bi-monthly service rate. To qualify, you must have proof of eligibility in the CARE (California Alternate Rates for Energy) program with Southern California Edison (SCE) or Southern California Gas (SCG).

Certification by Primary Care Provider:

The customer, or a tenant of the customer, may submit certification from a primary care provider, as defined in Section 14088 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, that the termination of service will be life threatening or pose a serious threat to the health and safety of any resident of the premises where water service is provided. Upon receipt, the City will not discontinue the service if the customer agrees to enter into an amortization agreement.

Notifications:

The City will make reasonable, good faith efforts to notify the customer that the account is past due and further collection action will be forthcoming. The means of notification will be by mail to the mailing address designated on the account. If the mailing address and the address to which service is provided are different, a second notice will be mailed to the service address. Should any mailed notification be returned as undeliverable for any reason, a door hanger will be placed in a conspicuous location at the service address.

  1. Written Disconnection Notice: The City will not discontinue service for non‐payment until payment by the customer has been delinquent for at least 60 days. The City will mail a disconnection notice if the bill remains unpaid after 30 days. The customer will have 15 days from the date of the notice to pay all past due amounts. Pursuant to Utilities Code Section 10010.1 (d), all written disconnection notices will include:
    1. The customer’s name and address
    2. The past due amount
    3. The date that the payment or payment arrangement is due to avoid discontinuation of service
    4. The description of the process to apply for an amortization plan
    5. The process to dispute or appeal a bill
    6. The City’s phone number and web link to the written collection policy
  2. Door Hanger Notice of Termination: The City will make a reasonable, good faith effort to notify the customer 10 days in advance of disconnection of service for non‐payment by written notice in the form of a door hanger. The door hanger will be placed in a conspicuous location at the service address. Charges as specified will apply.
  3. Notice to Tenants/Occupants in a MultiUnit Complex Served through a Master Meter. The City will make a reasonable, good faith effort to inform the occupants, by means of written notice hung on the door of each residence, when the water service account is in arrears and subject to disconnection at least 10 days before water service is shut off.
  4. Service Disconnection:  The City will disconnect water service by turning off the meter when the account is delinquent by 60 days or more, no alternative agreement or arrangement has been made, and the customer fails to comply with an established alternate payment or amortization agreement. Disconnect may also occur if the customer fails to pay their current charges while on an alternate payment or amortization agreement. All delinquent water service charges and associated fees must be received by the City no later than 4:30 p.m. on the day specified on the door hanger notice. A service charge as specified shall be charged to the customer’s account regardless of whether the meter has physically been turned off. The meter will be locked in the off position if payment is not received within 7 days of initial termination. Disconnection may also occur as a result of unauthorized action by the customer.

Service Reconnection:

In order to resume service that has been disconnected for non‐payment, the customer must pay all delinquent charges and fees as specified. The City will attempt to reconnect service as soon as practicable but, at a minimum, will restore service before the end of the next regular working day following payment of any past due amount and fees attributable to the termination of service.

Same Day or After Hours Service:

Same day service, except in an emergency situation, to have water turned on or off during customary business hours (7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, closed alternate Fridays) shall result in a charge as specified. To have the water turned on or off at any time after hours (this includes weekends and city-observed holidays), the charge shall be as specified.

Removal of Meter and Reinstallation:

Water service that is turned on by any person other than City personnel or without City authorization may be subject to fines or additional charges or fees. Any damages that occur as a result of unauthorized restoration of service are the responsibility of the customer.

  1. In the event a customer turns on the water service or permits or causes water service to be turned on after water service has been turned off for non-payment or non-compliance, the City shall again turn off the service and remove the meter. The customer shall pay a charge as specified, in addition to other amounts due, before water service is restored.

Payments:

Partial payments shall be credited to sewer charges, if any, with any outstanding balance being credited to water charges. Whenever a customer has been overcharged or undercharged for water or sewer service for any reason, required retroactive adjustment will be made for a maximum period of two years from the date that the error is first determined by the City. Any overpayment to be adjusted shall be credited to the next or succeeding bills, unless other arrangements are requested and agreed upon.

Returned Checks:

Upon receipt of a returned check for water service or other charges, the City will consider the account not paid. A 48‐hour notice of termination of service due to the returned payment will be generated. Water service will be disconnected if the amount of the check and associated charges are not paid on or before the date specified on the notice. Fees for the returned payment and notification of termination will be charged as specified.

  1. Returned Checks for Previously Disconnected Service: If a customer tenders a non‐negotiable check as payment to restore a disconnected service, the City may promptly disconnect service without providing further notice. Any customer issuing a non‐negotiable check as payment to restore service turned off for nonpayment will be required to pay cash, credit card or certified funds to restore future service disconnections for a period of 12 months from the date of the returned payment.

Appeals: 

Any customer who does not agree with a bill for their account has the right to appeal. The appeal must be in writing, legible, and received by the Ventura Water General Manager within 15 calendar days of the bill submitted to the customer. The written request for appeal consideration shall include:

  1. A description of the reason for the appeal; and,
  2. Evidence supporting the appeal; and,
  3. A suggestion for resolution of the dispute, if any.

Within 15 calendar days of receipt of the written appeal, the General Manager will notify the customer of confirmation of receipt of the appeal and a timeline for the General Manager’s written independent determination of the disputed bill.

The General Manager’s determination may be appealed in writing to the City Manager within 15 calendar days of the mailing of the General Manager’s determination. The appeal of the General Manager’s determination shall be heard and considered by the City Manager at a time and place set by the City Manager within 30 calendar days from the City Manager’s receipt of an appeal, but no public hearing is required. The City Manager shall provide to the Applicant notice of the time and place for the appeal hearing at the address listed in the appeal filed by the Applicant. The City Manager may, in his or her discretion, affirm, reverse, or modify the determination accordingly. The City Manager’s decision shall be final. The City will not discontinue service for non-payment while the appeal is pending.

Collection:

Should an account not be paid in full by the 60th day after the mailing date on the original bill, an additional penalty assessment shall be added as specified in Appendix A. Any debt older than 75 days may be assigned to a collection agency. Any fees or interest charged by the collection agency will be added to the debt and become part of the total due. Except as provided in Section 10009 of the Public Utilities Code, where water has been shut off, service shall not be restored until all required payments (including, without limitations, arrearage, penalties, and service charges) have been paid in full.

The City will post to the Ventura Water website the annual number of residential disconnections as a result of customer non-payment.