Beginning this week, utilities in Maryland are required to take more steps to notify residents and local governments when they shut off service to a home for alleged theft, the Maryland Public Service Commission announced.
The new requirements follow the deaths last year of eight family members from carbon monoxide poisoning in their Eastern Shore home. Rodney Todd and his seven children had used a gas-powered generator to heat the house in Princess Anne.
"Our goal with these regulations is to make sure individuals and families have every avenue possible to obtain utility services in a way that is safe and lawful," W. Kevin Hughes, chairman of the Public Service Commission, said in a statement.
"This new process also gives local governments the information and resources they need to assist residents whose utility service has been terminated for theft or for use without an active account."
Delmarva Power said it disconnected electricity in October 2014 at the request of the property owner. The Todd family moved in that month, but the utility said there was no request to restore service.
In March 2015, Delmerva Power found a stolen electric meter at the home and disconnected it, the utility said. Todd and his children, ages 6 to 16, were found by police on April 6, 2015, after Todd didn't show up to work.
Under the new requirements, utilities must notify the occupants of a home in person, by posting a written notice or in some cases by mail before shutting off service because of an allegation of meter tampering.
The notice must include information on energy assistance, how to have service reconnected and the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators.
Utilities must also notify the Public Service Commission within one day.
State Sen. James N. Mathias Jr., who represents Somerset County, lauded the changes.
"As electric consumption technology changes, the utility companies are better able to detect unauthorized use, thus causing enforcement action," he said. "However, innocent residents can be affected through immediate service termination."
The commission will maintain an electronic database of those addresses where service has been shut off due to suspected theft. The database will be available to local governments, which can provide information about assistance to those residents.
Utilities must also maintain records of service termination for suspected energy theft for three years and file annual reports with the commission.
If theft of energy is not alleged but service is being used without an active account, the utility must now provide written notice to the resident in person at least three days before cutting service, or by mail at least seven days before. The notice must include contact information for the utility and information on how to apply for service.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.