Need help turning on the AC? Utility debt and bankruptcy!

It’s hot in Chicagoland and if you are worried about your electric bill and running the AC – check out Chapter 24 of Attorney Peter Francis Geraci’s “Complete Book on Bankruptcy.” Utility bills can be discharged in a bankruptcy. Excerpt is below, check out the entire book @

CHAPTER #24 Gas, Cable, Electric, & Phone Bills

Gas, electric and telephone (utility bills) can be dealt with in a bankruptcy. If they are current, they should not be listed on a bankruptcy petition. If they are more than 3 months past due, they should be listed, because you can be protected from utility shutoffs, and continue getting utility service without paying the past due bills, in many cases. Most states have laws which say that public utilities cannot refuse to give you service after a bankruptcy, even if you had a bill with them that you are discharging.

For instance, if your electric bill is behind $600, and your regular monthly bill is $75.00, but your electric is shut off because you were so far behind, a bankruptcy will be of great help to you. I will list the electric company as a creditor, and provide you with documents that you must carry in person to the electric company. They will zero out your bill. You then can get service turned on, providing you make satisfactory deposit arrangements. Usually, the deposit would be 2 times an average bill, or 2 x $75.00. This may be payable in installments over several months.

So, you can see that, if you are severely behind in your utilities, and have enough other bills to warrant filing a bankruptcy, you can get your past due utility service up to date very quickly with very little money.

Cell phone carriers may shut off your service if you owe them money and file. The same with cable companies. Most will turn it back on when you provide them with the bankruptcy papers and catch up. Usually our clients only list those providers that are already shut off, so this is not a problem.

The only problem with clients whose utility bills are past due, is that it is a signal that the have problems that bankruptcy cannot solve. Not paying utility bills is like not paying your rent. Unless that is caused by a temporary disaster, you may need more income to live normally. If you don’t have enough income to pay necessities, you may find yourself back in the same situation again very soon after a bankruptcy. (see the Chapter on What Bankruptcy Won’t Solve)

Problem: Mrs. Wilson has 3 finance company loans, 4 credit cards, and a big hospital bill that was not covered by insurance. Her house payment is 2 months late, because she paid the other creditors instead of paying the house payment. Her gas bill is $600 behind, and her lights are off.

The Peter Francis Geraci Chapter 7 or 13 Solution: If she files a bankruptcy petition, her utilities can be “zeroed out”, and her outstanding balance reduced to nothing. She starts fresh with the utility companies, and will only have to put up a deposit in order to get service again. Of course, she will have to remain current in the future.

A Chapter 13 will pick up the past due mortgage payments and prevent collection by the other loans. Of course, there is no sense filing a Chapter 13 if she cannot meet her mortgage, utilities and Chapter 13 payment regularly in the future.

It may be better to file a Chapter 7 in such a case, and perhaps sell the house or live out the equity without making any more mortgage payments.

Author: Elizabeth Doren Paralegal at Geraci Law L.L.C.

I am a paralegal at Geraci Law L.L.C. (the greatest consumer bankruptcy law firm that ever was or will be!) I talk to thousands of people who are struggling financially.

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