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Utility Liens and Shut-offs

  1. A county owns and operates the utility. (change)
  2. The utility chooses to cap the customer's sewer. (change)
  3. The person using the service is the owner. (change)
  4. The utility gave the customer proper notice. (change)
  5. The utility did not provide the customer an opportunity for a hearing. (change)

Conclusion

According to the information you provided, the utility may not cap the customer's sewer to enforce payment of delinquent sewer charges for the following reason:

  • The utility did not provide the customer an opportunity for a hearing before a staff member with authority at which the customer could object to the bill well in advance of the scheduled shutoff.

Explanation

  • Customers facing disconnection of their utility service must, prior to shut-off, be notified in writing and be given an opportunity for a hearing. Memphis Light, Gas & Water Div. v. Craft, 436 U.S. 1 (1978).
    • An opportunity for an informal hearing to dispute the charges must be made available.
    • The date of the hearing must be well in advance of the scheduled termination.
    • Inform the customer of available opportunities to present objections to the bill.
    • The hearing must be before an official or staff member with authority to resolve the dispute. (Such disputes need not be heard by the county council or other formal board.)

Legal Authority

  • RCW 4.16.040 – Six Year Statute of Limitations
  • RCW 36.94.020 – Powers – Sewerage, Water Systems
  • Memphis Light, Gas & Water Div. v. Craft, 436 U.S. 1 (1978)

Disclaimer

Regarding General Use of Information:

These materials are informational and are subject to change without notice. MRSC and SAO have made good faith efforts to provide reliable interpretations of Washington State and federal law relating to utility liens and shut-offs. This information is not intended to supplant due diligence by your agency's staff, and your agency may have established additional requirements that are not reflected in this tool. Always consult your agency's legal counsel, policies, and ordinances before pursuing a utility lien or shut-off. Neither MRSC or SAO or any officer, or employee of MRSC or SAO warrants the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any information or interpretation in these materials and shall not be liable for any losses caused by such reliance on the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of such information or interpretation. Neither MRSC nor SAO are legally bound by any information or interpretation set forth in these materials.

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Disclaimer

Regarding General Use of Information:

These materials are informational and are subject to change without notice. MRSC and SAO have made good faith efforts to provide reliable interpretations of Washington State and federal law relating to utility liens and shut-offs. This information is not intended to supplant due diligence by your agency's staff, and your agency may have established additional requirements that are not reflected in this tool. Always consult your agency's legal counsel, policies, and ordinances before pursuing a utility lien or shut-off. Neither MRSC or SAO or any officer, or employee of MRSC or SAO warrants the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any information or interpretation in these materials and shall not be liable for any losses caused by such reliance on the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of such information or interpretation. Neither MRSC nor SAO are legally bound by any information or interpretation set forth in these materials.

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This tool was developed by MRSC in partnership with the State Auditor's Office (SAO) Local Government Performance Center.