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Utility Liens and Shut-offs

  1. A water-sewer district owns and operates the utility. (change)
  2. The utility chooses to pursue a shut-off. (change)
  3. The account has been delinquent for 30 or more days. (change)
  4. The person using the service is the owner. (change)
  5. The utility did not give the customer proper notice. (change)

Conclusion

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

  • The utility failed to properly notify the customer that their service is subject to termination and inform them of available opportunities to object to the bill.

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).
    • The written notice must, in clear, layman's terms:
      • Notify the customer that their utility service is subject to termination.
      • Inform the customer of available opportunities to present objections to the bill.
      • Provide the telephone number, address, and department of the person who will handle the complaint.

Legal Authority

  • RCW 4.16.040 – Six Year Statute of Limitations
  • RCW 57.08.081 – Rates and charges, Delinquencies
  • 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.