CTI Housing Consumer Education Center – November Newsletter

Heating Season Tips

Nov  2011         Vol. 2-1

According to Massachusetts General Laws:

Landlords must provide a heating system for each apartment or one system that services all apartments in good working order. The landlord must pay for the fuel to provide heat and hot water and electricity unless the written rental agreement states that the tenant must pay for these. The heating season runs from September 16 through June 14, during which every room must be heated to between 68 degrees Fahrenheit and not more than 78 degrees Fahrenheit between 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM, and at least 64 degrees Fahrenheit at all other hours.

Protections for Utility Customers

1. Serious Illness: If ANY person in the household, adult or child, has a serious illness, the utility company cannot shut off or must restore utility services immediately. An illness can be physical, mental, short term or long term. Your doctor must determine if you meet the criteria and must send documentation in writing to the utility company. The client must complete and submit a ‘financial hardship’ form for each utility if not on fuel assistance.

2. Child under 12 months: A utility company cannot terminate service if there is a young child in the householder must restore utility services immediately if the child was in the home at the time of the shut off. The child’s age must be documented with a birth certificate, and a financial hardship from must be completed and sent to the utility if the client is not on fuel assistance.

3. Winter Moratorium: Utility companies cannot terminate heat-related services between November 15 and March 15. The client must complete and submit a financial hardship form for each utility if not on fuel assistance.

4. Elderly Clients: If every person in the household is 65 or older, a utility company would need approval from the Dept. of Telecommunications and Energy to terminate services. If service has been terminated, the utility company should restore service immediately once verification of age is provided.

5. Discount Rates: Gas companies provide discount rates up to 200% poverty level income, and electric companies provide discount rates up to 175% poverty level income. Clients on TAFDC, Food Stamps, Mass health, WIC and other income-tested programs with income at or below the above rates are also eligible. If the client is not eligible for fuel assistance, they must apply directly with the utilities.  Only Keyspan goes to 200% of poverty.

6. Payment Plans: All clients are entitled to these plans. This allows a client who is behind on the utility bills to spread the payments over several months. If the client has not been terminated yet, the utility company must take 25% of the overdue balance up front and then offer a payment plan of at least three months for the remaining balance. Some payments plans go 12 months or longer. If service has been terminated, the utility company can ask for a reasonable percentage of the overdue bill up front then a payment plan for the remaining balance. However, clients should never accept a payment plan they cannot afford.

Budgeting Tips

The holiday season is approaching. Families often spend money during this time of the year that they can’t afford. Occasionally, this spending leads to people forgetting to pay their rent, which can lead to eviction proceedings. Following are some budgeting tips to help see you through the season:

  1. Shop wisely.
  2. Buy only what is needed.
  3. Check out bargains and sales before shopping.
  4. Avoid shopping at convenience stores as prices are higher.
  5. Plan ahead and have one big weekly grocery shopping trip.
  6. Write a list of items to buy and stick to it.
  7. Buy bulk whenever possible.
  8. Don’t buy supermarket items at eye level on the shelves. These are higher priced items as they are displayed at strategic spots, and food producers pay the supermarket more for this advantage.

NEARLISTINGS.COM

NEARLISTINGS.COM is a new service provided by Community Teamwork whereby landlords and tenants can hook up. Landlords have access to the site in order to post new apartment listings. Tenants can go on and search for an apartment that suits their specific needs. There are currently 55 postings on the site from Lowell and from surrounding communities. The listings give very detailed information about the available units and often have photographs showing the interior of the units.

NEARLISTINGS.COM is a convenient way to browse for affordable apartments and make contact with landlords eager to rent to you. NEARLISTINGS is easily accessible on-line.

Upcoming Events

If you would like to post any upcoming events, please let us know.

Foreclosure Prevention                                      Every other Thursday for  2 ½ hours from 5:30 PM . To register, call 978-0600 x1

Employment and Training           1st and 3rd Wednesdays 10AM -11 AM

To register for a workshop, call 978-459-0551 x375.

Subsidized Housing Workshops                Nov 2     2:00(English);

Nov 9 5:30 PM (English)

Nov 16  Wed. 2 PM (Spanish);

Nov 23 Wed.11 AM(English)

Eviction Process & Tenants Rights Workshop

Every other Friday 1-2 PM

Sun Santa:  Beginning Tuesday, November 1 and ending Friday November 18, families can apply for Sun Santa at 17 Kirk Street in Lowell. The Salvation Army on 150 Appleton Street will start Monday October 31 9 to noon and 1 to 4 PM; November 1 and s from 9 to noon and 1 to 4, and Thursday November 3 from 10 to noon and 1 to 4.  You can only apply from one agency. Children over 16 are not eligible. Applicants must bring in photo i.d. ,social security card for each eligible family member (Salvation Army wants birth ctf), written proof of income, rent receipt, utility bill, and a short letter detailing situation.

IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS:

Adult Education of Lowell:                            978-937-8989

Amesbury Community Action                       978-282-1000

Bonnie CLAC (Car Loans)                             1-866-455-2522

Cambodian Mutual Asso.                            978-454-6200

Catholic Charities (Lowell)                            978-452-1421

Catholic Charities (Lawrence)                     978-685-5930

Chelmsford Housing Authority                      978-256-7425

Christmas in April                                             978-458-7816

Coalition for a Better Acre                             978-970-0600

Community Action of Haverhill                    978-373-1971

Community Action of Lawrence                  978-681-4900

Elder Services of Merrimac Valley                978-683-7747

Good Walk Friday                                          978-927-5847

GRIP Project                                                    978-458-3622

Harvard Vanguard Chelmsford                  978-250-6000

Household Goods Ministry                            978-635-1739

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s