November, 2019

9.5 Utilities

Summary of Policy

In addition to accommodation costs, the shelter allowance is also provided for costs associated with an energy source. An energy source includes the cost of utilities, water, sewage, and the rental of a hot water heater. The cost associated with heating is covered under a separate directive.

Legislative Authority

Sections 31(1)(8) and 45.2 of the ODSP Regulation

Summary of Directive

  • Verified utility costs can be included in the shelter calculation if they are not included in the rent or accommodation cost.

Intent of Policy

  • To recognize the actual cost of utilities as a shelter-related cost and to include them in the shelter allowance up to the maximum amount.

Application of Policy

Utility costs are the costs for electricity, gas, kerosene, propane, naphtha, wood or any other energy source for usual household purposes such as lighting, cooking and hot water heating. Utilities also include the cost of water and sewage services. The rental of furnaces, water heaters and other units rented for utilities will be included as part of the shelter cost, up to the maximum allowable amount.

Additional utility costs, are also to be included as a shelter cost up to the maximum allowable amount. For example, recipients who reside in subsidized housing and have utility costs included in the rent may be charged an additional amount for the excessive use of electricity to operate special equipment or to accommodate a disability. These additional costs are to be calculated as part of the shelter.

In addition, where there is room in the shelter allowance, utility connection/reconnection costs may be included as a shelter cost up to the maximum.

If a recipient pays separately for utilities, the actual cost (for the members of the benefit unit) must be determined and verification provided. Utility costs can be averaged over a 12-month period and added to the rent/mortgage amount up to the maximum shelter allowance based on family size.

HST charged on the utility is to be included in the shelter calculation. Late payment charges are not to be included as part of the shelter calculation.

Exempt Credits on Electricity Bills

The value of grants, payments, credits , services or items provided by Ontario utilities and regulators, municipalities, and the Governments of Ontario or Canada, for the purposes of energy efficiency, conservation or affordability, are exempt as income for social assistance purposes. The value of such payments or benefits should not reduce the amount of shelter allowance otherwise payable to the benefit unit.

Effective November 1, 2019, the Ontario government is introducing a new electricity rebate, the Ontario Electricity Rebate (OER), to replace the former 8% rebate and Global Adjustment Refinancing under the previous government’s Fair Hydro Plan. The OER will appear as a single line-item on bills labelled “Ontario Electricity Rebate.” Low-income households may save even more from additional, targeted affordability credits such as the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) and First Nations On-Reserve Delivery Credit (FNDC).

All such credits/benefits are exempt as income for social assistance purposes and should not reduce the amount of shelter allowance otherwise payable to the benefit unit.

To better show consumers the total savings from all bill-related provincial support programs, most bills will include a new summary statement that reads “Total Ontario Support on this bill” followed by the amount of savings from all programs.
Calculating Electricity Costs

  1. With a bill that shows a Total Ontario Support amount:

    Total Ontario Support amount
    + Total Electricity Charges (or amount owed)
    = Total Costs for social assistance purposes
  1. With a bill that does not show a Total Ontario Support amount:

    Sum of all exempt credit amounts (e.g. OER, OESP, FNDC)
    + Total Electricity Charges (or amount owed)
    = Total Costs for social assistance purposes

Note: in some cases where the amount owed is different from the “total electricity charges” (e.g. equal billing), the amount owed should be used for the calculation instead.

More information about programs and credits to reduce electricity bills can be found through the following link: https://www.ontario.ca/page/find-programs-reduce-electricity-bill

When Utility Costs Have Increased For Period Under Review

Upon request, or at the time of update, shelter costs are reassessed for the period under review to ensure the correct amount of assistance was provided. Verification of utility costs should be reviewed to determine if the average monthly amount input for utility costs was too high or too low.

If the verified average monthly amount was too low, and the recipient is not receiving the maximum shelter amount, the shelter allowance can be adjusted retroactively up to the maximum amount allowable in the shelter table. If the average monthly amount input was too high, an overpayment will be established and recovery will commence.

Rental of Water Heaters

Rental charges for a water heater or other utility unit is to be included as part of the shelter calculation up to the maximum amount based on family size.

Water and Sewage

Monthly utility costs may include water and sewage charges. These costs are included in the shelter calculation up to the maximum amount based on family size.

The cost of pumping a septic system may be considered for inclusion when calculating the shelter allowance. This is not a monthly cost so it must be averaged into the monthly shelter allowance.

The cost of bottled or transported water is included in the calculation of the monthly utility cost when bottled water must be purchased because the local water supply is verified as contaminated.

Energy-Conservation

A recipient may be issued a one-time payment of up to $50 assist with the payment of low-cost energy-conservation measures to his/her principal residence. All recipients who own and reside in their principal residence as well as those who reside in a rental unit are eligible for the benefit (where it is clear that the landlord is not responsible for the requested items).

Examples of low-cost energy-conservation measures include. sealing or weatherstripping around doors and windows, insulating hot water pipes and hot water tanks, insulating blankets for electric water heaters, fluorescent light bulbs, clothes line/rack and clothes pins (see Directive 9.16 Discretionary Benefit For Low-Cost Energy-Conservation Measures).

Utility costs do not include:

  • refundable utility deposits;
  • purchase associated with a hot water or propane tank; or
  • hook-up or monthly service charges for telephone or cable television unless these items are mandatory for a building’s security system. Mandatory cable or telephone costs are eligible for inclusion in the shelter calculation subject to the shelter maximum.

Note: Cable costs which are not mandatory but are required to access the building’s security system may be permitted if it is determined to be reasonable and necessary for the use of the dwelling place. This would include cases where the client chooses to connect to the building’s security system for reasons related to a disability.

Shared Accommodation

The amount payable for utilities shall be divided by the number of adult persons and the costs equally shared when a recipient is residing with another adult person(s) who is not a member of the benefit unit.

Related Directives:

3.1 Reviewing Eligibility
6.1 Basic Needs Calculation
6.2 Shelter Calculation
9.3 Heating Costs
9.16 Discretionary Benefit For Low-Cost Energy-Conservation Measures
11.1 Recovery of Overpayments