If you’re behind on your electricity or natural gas bill and face having your service disconnected, you may qualify for emergency financial help through the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP). There are also special customer service rules available for low-income households. You need to meet certain criteria to qualify for these programs, and must go through one of the intake agencies in Ontario listed below.
Do you qualify?
In order to qualify, your household income has to fall below a certain limit. The amount of income it takes to qualify depends on two factors:
- How many people live in the house
- Your combined household income
For example, a home with four people and an annual after-tax income of $37,000 would be eligible for a LEAP Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) grant. This chart shows if you are eligible.
LEAP EFA income eligibility criteria
|Household after tax income ($)||Number of people living in home|
|Less than 28,000||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Less than 28,000||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|39,001 - 48,000||✓||✓||✓|
|48,001 - 52,000||✓|
What help is available?
Emergency Financial Assistance
Low-income customers can get up to $500 in emergency assistance for their electricity bills ($600 if your home is heated electrically) and $500 for their natural gas bills.
The assistance is only available if you are behind on your bill – or in arrears – and may face having your service disconnected. You cannot receive more money than you owe on your bill.Therefore, you may not receive the full amount of the grant.
Emergency financial assistance is for emergency situations only and is not meant to provide you with ongoing help to pay your bills.
Step 1: Collecting your paperwork
You will likely have to meet with a representative of the social agency for an interview.
You will be asked to provide:
- Current electricity and gas bills
- A disconnection notice, if you have received one
- A copy of a rental contract, lease or mortgage documents
- Proof of household income – cheque stub, employment letter, income tax return for adult members of household
- A copy of your most recent bank statement
Step 2: Approving your status
The agency looking at your case will decide whether or not you qualify as low-income. As part of this process, the agency will contact your electricity or natural gas provider and ask them to pause any further disconnection or collection activity on your account until a decision is made. Your utility will also be notified if your application is denied.
NOTE: Emergency financial assistance is provided on a first-come first-served basis. Funds may be limited. Grants are issued on your behalf and paid directly to your utility. You will not receive a cheque.
You can take advantage of (or qualify for) these special rules if:
- You’ve received LEAP emergency financial assistance within the past two years, or
- you are receiving assistance under the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP). If you qualify, you should let your local utility or unit sub-metering provider know that you want to take advantage of the special rules for low-income customers.
Electricity utilities and unit sub-metering providers have to follow special rules when dealing with low-income customers; for example, waiving security deposits and allowing longer payment times under arrears payment plans.
You can ask to have your security deposit waived by your electricity utility or unit sub-metering provider.
If you previously paid a security deposit you can ask to have it back (as long as any outstanding arrears have been paid).
When your security deposit is returned, it will either be:
If the electricity utility made a mistake and overcharged you, they will refund that money by cheque immediately.
If the electricity utility made a mistake and undercharged you, you will have to pay that money back. As an eligible low-income customer, you can pay the utility back over a longer period of time than other customers. Note: if you are a customer of a unit sub-metering provider, then the special rules regarding billing errors do not apply.
You have 2 options:
You can pay it back over the same timeframe as you were under-charged, up to a maximum of 2 years. For example, if you were undercharged for 3 months, you have 3 months to pay back your utility.
Or you can pay it back over:
Equalized billing spreads your electricity payments evenly over 12 months. Equalized bills dont rise or fall suddenly even if your electricity usage does. Because of that, some consumers use it to help with their budget.
As an eligible low-income customer, you have the right to request equalized billing without paying by automatic withdrawal. Other customers who want this service are generally required to pay by automatic withdrawal.
NOTE: If you have a contract with an energy retailer, or if you are a customer of a unit sub-metering provider, then the rules regarding equal billing plans do not apply.
|Disconnection grace period||If your LEAP intake agency notifies your electricity utility or unit sub-metering provider that you may be eligible for emergency assistance, they must suspend any disconnection process for 21 days.|
|Arrears payment agreement||
Eligible low-income customers that enter into an arrears payment agreement are allowed more time to pay outstanding balances to their electricity utility or unit sub-metering provider. Those time periods are:
Your utility or unit sub-metering provider may also ask for a 10% down payment when you enter an arrears payment plan.
If you default on your arrears payment agreement twice, your utility or unit sub-metering provider can cancel it.
If your power has been disconnected by your utility, you will not have to pay the disconnection or re-connection fee. Non-payment fees and charges associated with any load control device installed by your utility will also be waived.
NOTE: Unit sub-metering providers are not required to waive disconnection or re-connection fees, or fees or charges associated with any load control device.
NOTE: Low-income customers are only allowed to receive these special rules after at least 12 months have passed since their last payment plan was completed. If you go on a 2nd payment plan within 12 months, it will be on same terms as all other customers.
Natural gas utilities have developed customer service standards and practices in dealing with residential customers, including special policies for low-income customers. Similar to the rules that we require electricity utilities to follow, these policies relate to:
- Security deposits
- Under billing adjustments
- Equalized billing and/or payment plan options
- Disconnection relating to non-payment
- Service charges and late payment charges
- Arrears payment agreements
- Special arrangements for low-income customers
We require Enbridge, Union Gas and Natural Resource Gas to set out their customer service-related standards and practices in a Customer Service Policy (also known as Conditions of Service) that must be available on their website. We require the utility to comply with its policy and to promptly notify customers of any changes to it. Contact your utility directly to learn more.
Contact your utility
For more information about your utility's customer service policy:
Learn more about rules that electricity and natural gas utilities have to follow in our Consumer Protection section.
If you believe that your electricity utility or unit sub-metering provider has broken our customer service rules, or that your natural gas utility has failed to follow its Customer Service Policy, we want to hear from you.