TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Cold Weather Rule, a rule that helps Kansans who have fallen behind on their utility bill payments, begins today, Nov. 1. and will remain in effect through March 31.

Under the rule, utility companies cannot disconnect service when temperatures are forecast to drop below 35 degrees Fahrenheit within the following 48 hours. The rule also requires utility companies to offer a 12-month payment plan to allow consumers to maintain or re-establish service.

Any residential customer with a past due balance qualifies for payment arrangements, but they must contact their gas or electric company to make those arrangements. To maintain or restore service, customers must agree to pay 1/12th of the total amount owed, 1/12th of the current bill, the full amount of any disconnection or reconnection fee, plus any applicable deposit to the utility.

According to the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC), the cost of keeping warm this winter is expected to rise significantly. Figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that Midwest households heating with natural gas could see their bills increase by 33%.

Those using electric heat could pay 8% more. If the weather is colder than expected, those numbers could be higher. The KCC says that with those possible spikes in prices, the Cold Weather Rule is more critical than ever.

For more information about expected heating costs this winter, click here. For more information on the Cold Weather Rule, click here.