In the last two and a half months, TAPS has seen an increase in the number of people on income assistance or with Person With Disabilities status (PWD) coming in with BC Hydro disconnection issues. Most of these people have been on BC Hydro Equal Payment Plans (EPPs). In many cases, the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (the Ministry) has set up these BC Hydro EPPs for the client. The people we are seeing have run into difficulty when BC Hydro altered their monthly EPP charges, or the anniversary date of the person’s plan has come up and they were assessed as using more hydro than they had been paying for monthly. Our clients have received disconnection notices in these cases because they have either unknowingly carried an account balance or they have found themselves unable to pay the large bills issued by BC Hydro on the anniversary of their EPP.
While TAPS is working on this issue on a systemic level, it is important for clients on income assistance and those with PWD status to know what their rights and responsibilities are when it comes to EPPs, BC Hydro and the Ministry, particularly as we enter into the colder fall and winter months. Here is what you need to know:
- Equal Payment Plans are based on your last 12 months of consumption: you pay the same amount each month for your hydro usage and, at the end of the 12 months, BC Hydro determines whether you have paid enough, too much or too little based on your actual hydro usage during the year. As a result, you may get a credit from BC Hydro or you may owe them money.
- If you have applied to the Ministry for a crisis supplement in the past due to issues with paying your BC Hydro bills, the Ministry, as a policy, enters into an EPP on your behalf with BC Hydro. In some cases, they pay BC Hydro directly, in others, they merely establish the EPP plan and you pay your bills.
- If the Ministry has entered into an EPP on your behalf, regardless of whether they are paying your EPP directly to BC Hydro or not, the Ministry does not receive monthly bills for your account. It is your responsibility to check the bills to see if: there have been changes made by BC Hydro to your required monthly payment amount, when the anniversary date of your EPP is, and if your hydro usage is more than your monthly EPP is set up for.
- BC Hydro’s computer system is supposed to automatically audit your EPP every 105 days. Based on the audit, your EPP monthly payment may stay the same, increase or decrease. Given this, it is important you check your monthly bill and report any changes in payment amounts to the Ministry promptly to avoid a disconnection of your services.
- BC Hydro has a policy whereby it can terminate your EPP if you carry a balance on your hydro account for more than 63 days. If your EPP is cancelled, the total amount you owe to date will become due. (This is why reporting changes to your EPP monthly amounts is incredibly important.)
- When you read your monthly BC Hydro bill, if you find that there have been changes made to your EPP by BC Hydro, or you notice that your EPP anniversary date is coming up, you are responsible for reporting these changes to the Ministry and asking for assistance with the matter.
If you find yourself with a BC Hydro disconnection notice because you did not know about these policies and procedures or because you faced an unexpected expense, please contact TAPS and ask to speak to an income assistance legal advocate as you may qualify for a crisis supplement from the Ministry, depending on your circumstances. Crisis supplements are rarely given out on the spot and they are not guaranteed, so it is important to look at your monthly bills and report any changes as soon as possible to the Ministry.
If you have had a major issue with your EPP and/or BC Hydro, we want to hear from you! Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org with a short description of the issue and whether/how it was resolved.