Landlords Can't Force You To Sign Up With One Cable Co… But Can Charge You Extra For Water If You Pick Wrong

from the loopholes dept

For many years, cable/telco/satellite companies would do “exclusive” deals with apartment buildings and other developers, which would limit what services could be offered in those buildings. Back in 2007, the FCC stepped in to say such deals were illegal. But, of course, there are always loopholes. Broadband Reports highlights how a bunch of buildings are using loopholes like telling you can chose any cable company you like… but if you choose a different one they have to pay an extra $40 for water and trash. And… the FCC says these kinds of deals are legal, for now, though it may move against them soon. But, in the meantime, your landlord can effectively force you to choose a cable/telco/broadband provider.

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Comments on “Landlords Can't Force You To Sign Up With One Cable Co… But Can Charge You Extra For Water If You Pick Wrong”

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53 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Seems like it would be hard to make this illegal...

I am unsure of why landlords are doing the way you describe. It would make more sense to advise tenants that if they go with a certain cable company that they get $40 off their monthly bill. This way the amount is an incentive rather than a penalty.

Because landlords could make this an incentive rather than a penalty, how could you legislate against it? Landlords add incentives all the times (sign a one year lease and get one month free, or a portion of the deposit is waived, etc.).

Regardless of whether we like what landlords are doing, we still live in a relatively free market. If people do not like what a particular landlord is doing, they can always choose another place to live.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Seems like it would be hard to make this illegal...

The management probably charges the resident the extra $40 because they (the management) is probably paying to subsidize the cost of the cable service. So, a way to recoup their losses is to charge the people who don’t use it. Seems like silly logic to me but, people in management positions seem to have wool over their eyes.

And it is indeed a free market and people have a right to choose their cable provider or even choose not to have a cable provided and be free of any frivolous penalties somebody wants to place on them for not choosing what they suggest. And what if this was taking place in a small town that only had 1 major apartment complex? There would be no realistic alternative. The “Free Market” argument goes both ways.

Greg Knaddison (profile) says:

what do we expect for nothing?

The apartment buildings get free or subsidized installation of wiring to their premises and sometimes into the building IF they then guarantee certain subscription levels to the telco provider. If they don’t meet the levels the apartment developer is on the hook to pay for the wiring that they previously got for free.

I guess the alternative is that apartments could be more expensive. I fail to see how that’s an improvement.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: what do we expect for nothing?

“The apartment buildings get free or subsidized installation of wiring to their premises and sometimes into the building IF they then guarantee certain subscription levels to the telco provider. If they don’t meet the levels the apartment developer is on the hook to pay for the wiring that they previously got for free.”

Okay, there are several reasons why this is a non-starter.

1. If the installs are free/subsidized, then it shouldn’t be a huge problem to pay what the normal fee would have been anyway if subscription levels aren’t up to par.

2. In your equation, the Telco gets a benefit of the deal, the building developer/owner gets a benefit of the deal, but what is the tenant getting out of all this? Certainly I, someone who has lived in several apartments throughout my adult life, have never seen any great price benefits in cable-uniformed apartment buildings.

“I guess the alternative is that apartments could be more expensive. I fail to see how that’s an improvement.”

How? It varies by area, but in Chicago apartments are already crazy expensive. The nice thing is that landlords are constantly at war with other neighborhoods, and this type of price hikes while not providing any benefit is the very reason why our neighborhoods constantly cycle in terms of popularity. One year Wicker Park is a dump. The next year it’s the reasonably priced home of artists.

Having said all that, I will be trying your Chicken Ragout recipe tonight. You damn well better hope it’s good, or feel the wrath of the Helmet thou shall….

Anonymous Coward says:

Years ago in Rockford, Illinois, cable came to town. In an attempt to “wire” apartment buildings, the cable company offered the apt. building owner “free” local service to their tennants for allowing the cable company to “wire” the building.

As years passed and the cable company would sell out to another cable company, the original deal has been forgotten. Even though COMCAST admits that such deals were frequently used to get apt. buildings “wired” for cable TV, COMCAST doesn’t feel that they are obligated to honor the agreement that was iitially made some 35+ yrs ago.

The net result is: any renter in an apartment building must pay for “basic” cable service.

Brandon says:

Now it happens!

Twice I’ve lived in apartments owned by the same company and in both cases, your only cable choice was their own cable. The maintenance shed had several large satellite dishes and in both places the cable consisted of something like 40 or 50 channels, and it was quite a bit extra if you wanted to add HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, or Starz, the only premium channels offered if I remember. And as for internet, unless you wanted dial-up, you had to use their own internet service as well! Of course, I guess both of those times were before 2007.

Lee Stevens says:

The cable companies are trying to achieve a monopoly over the
video signals that you receive.they want to charge the consumers as much as they can and pay the providers as little as they can so they can make the maximum profits.
They get away with this by saying running the cable and maintaining the equipment costs us a fortune. IT does not its all ready been paid for 20 times over.In large part because they havent done what they said they would do and that is wire the whole country.They go so far as to make deals with landlords to go the extra and illegal distance of hassleing and threatening eviction to people who want to put up Sat Dishes.Att was broken up only to come back.
Landlords unless they are paying for utilities as part of the rent have no business decideing what information pipe I use.Its also interesting to note that in this swindle they called upgrade to HDTV the broadcast bandwidth is being sold back to broadcasters to sell subscription broadcast TV on proprietary sets and devices.Im for getting rid of traditional TV cable going back to a free strong broadcast TV and high speed internet cable.In order not to undercut or overprice either market the broadcaster have to go one or the other not both.

Phillip says:

Insider view

As someone who negotiates these type of deals I can say they are bad deals. If your property wants to provide a certain brand of cable to its tenants but you don’t have our brand there then fine we will run it to you. If you want to tell us that you will only allow our company in and 75% of the units will use us then fine its free. If you tell me you don’t like that then its going to cost $50-75k to wire your building. I know they could have the building wired by a low voltage guy for oh maybe $5k and to hook up to us is about 10 minutes worth of work, but they don’t know that. Its all about making money in these kinds of deals for the cable company.

:) says:

Dumb Landlords.

Entering a exclusive contract for anything is not good if I was the landlord I would call all cable companies and milk each and everyone of them.

Better yet I would build my own wiring and make the cable companies pay me for letting them sign subscribers. They would be using my infra-structure to pass their signals so I would rent that for them.

Very quickly cable companies would pass some law forbidding the practice if there is not one already.

Coyote says:

People aren't being charged "Extra" for not using it...

They simply have to pay the $40 no matter if they use it or not. That’s the rub, so to say, of RUBs (Resident Utility Billing). A lot of places (like where I live) meter gas and water per building, and the bill is split based on occupancy and unit size. Not individual use. That’s fine for utilities where you don’t have a choice of provider (water,sewer,trash) and there’s a universal need for the utility. Some even make electricity a shared bill (though with a choice of energy providers it’s not a good idea.)

The problem with putting cable, internet, telephone on the RUB is that not everyone will want said utility. They might not have a use for it (landline? why???) or they might want a different provider, but they will pay for it because it is available in their apartment.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

I once had to move to get HD

In what was billed as a ‘luxury’ apartment building (a specious claim to begin with), the owning company had a lock down deal with a sat tv provider. Of course the sat company had no justification whatsoever to upgrade their equipment and wiring since every unit with TV was forced to buy their crappy service.

At least I have my priorities straight.

John says:

Re: Why shouldn't they be able too?

Landlords are not the consumer. Their tenants are. What right do they have to charge tenants for a product that they do not want or need? It may be their wiring and their pipes, but they’re being compensated for use of those already. It is called “rent”. The argument that one provider or the other will not “hack up” their wiring is flimsy. They all do it. It’s dependent on the individual technicians.

Ed C. says:

Info please!

I just got blindsided with this BS myself and I would like to know where I can get info about the FCC ruling. My current ISP kind of sucks sometimes, but the new provider that’s taking over is more than $10 higher on their listed rates for the same speed tier I’m getting now. The landlord says that their “deal” will be cheaper, but it will probably be too late to do anything by the time I find out. I guess I could always look into DSL…

Hannah says:

Complex telling me I don't even have a choice

I read that complexes are allowed to say “use this company or pay extra”, but I’ve heard it’s not okay to say “You may only use this company and no other”. Well my apartment complex is telling me I can’t use any company except for Grande Communications. I had already signed up with AT&T and am due to have service installed in a week, however I have to get the apartments permission to install. Is this legal? They told me to cancel AT&T because they have a contract with this other company and that is the only company I am allowed to use. If this is legal, this is ridiculous.

Sara says:

I once had to move to get HD

Well it looks like I’m going to have to move too! (and I just moved in!)
$75 dollars for basic internet 1 Mgpr and TV cable (and I don’t have a TV). So basically its $75 for basic SLOW internet
Now competitors (att) have $40 for 12 GB
Thats less money and a lot more services

$75 ON TOP of the RENT!!! (not included with it)

anonymous says:

READ THIS!!! AND LET ME KNOW IF THIS IS RIGHT???!!!! PLS

I live in a complex where they charge me $40 for cable service and it is a seperate contrat that they print out them selfs. They told me that if I do not sign up I cannot sign up until my next lease renewal but if I sign up it is a whole 12 month lease to pay extra $40 on top of my rent every 1st. Now I was fine without it but I needed it internet so they told me that since the internet uses the same cable wire I would still need to pay them $40… Now other properties around my city which is the same property does not charge for cable and give it for FREE???? is this totally legal???? does someone know????

Linda Lievens says:

I had to move to a different building at
my complex because the foundation was coming through my floor. Well I got another apartment but I had to pay another deposit and then when I tried to get my cable company to switch me the complex would not allow them to put up the dish. New management said no. so I had to pay an early cancellation fee to my cable company, Now the complex has a contract with another cable company but I have had that company before and do not like it so I’m stuck with no cable.
What can I do if anything

FNet (user link) says:

Re:

I know that this thread is old but I couldn’t help myself to wanting to reply to this post:

“they want to charge the consumers as much as they can and pay the providers as little as they can so they can make the maximum profits”

Isn’t that how a business suppose to operate? I own a business, a computer repair and retail business. In my business I like to purchase my inventories (hard drives, routers, etc) for as little as possible and I like to sell them for as much as possible. Example: I purchase a Seagate 1 TB hard drive for $56 NEW at special, and then I sell them at $120 plus $80 for service and I not only get lots of willing customers, but my prices is still very competitive considering that Best Buy Geek Squad charges $456 for the same exact service.

So, the bottom line is that when you have a business its all about getting your supplies for the best possible price and selling it for the most possible price in order to turn the best possible profit. The cable companies does exactly this and I see nothing wrong with them wanting to pay the content providers as little as possible and then charge the customers as much as possible (while of course remaining competitive with other providers such as FiOS, Direct TV, etc). Its Business.

june says:

Been living 5 story apartment complex and have had dish network for tv service and earthlink/roadrunner for internet. I chose dish cause picture quality is greater than cable. It’s also cheaper than cable. I pay $50 for 120 channels including hbo and showtime. And now after 7 years of having dish network, this landlord posted note telling everyone with dish to take it down. We have 30 days to do so. Landlord probably getting bribed by Time Warner Cable. I take it there’s nothing I can do but hope that he/she croaks.

Susan says:

Forced into cable!

We just rented an apartment we signed the lease, after we asked the landlord if the apt was fios ready? He said No we only have tech, I said we don’t want that we already have fios! So it began he refused to allow them to come and connect! The reason if they connect everyone will want it! Ok and so that’s a bad thing? He said I have a contract with cable I asked well then do we receive a discount? He said you should! Well we don’t and the rent is high doesn’t state anywhere that we need to have cable, ok what can we do???

marcia wade (profile) says:

picking your own cable provider

where I live you are not to have any other provider but Comcast ..this causes them to be able to place high prices on cable ..most places up here are high-rises and seniors can not afford to pay for these services ..I have cable because I need the internet to pay bills as I don’t get out as much as I use to and I can see what is paid and what needs to be paid ..I have a package which costs a lot due to the fact if I had just internet and phone it would cost more than I pay now ..there needs to be something done about this as seniors all over need to be able to pick what they feel they can pay ..Comcast does not care about anyone

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:

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Access Asset Management, Inc. is the premier residential property management company in La Quinta and surrounding area. We believe in order to be the best, you must specialize in your chosen industry. Our focus is strictly property management with a sole interest in helping you achieve your investment objectives with professional, round the clock property management services you can depend on. Unlike some management companies, we do not sell real estate. We will evaluate your investment and refer you to trusted real estate agent to handle the transaction, should you choose to sell.

We offer truly full service property management. Need to leave the country and trust someone to pay your HOA fees? We can do that. Need help with a problem tenant? We can do that too. Need someone who can estimate and hold back property taxes and make sure they are paid twice a year? We specialize in making it easy to own rental properties in La Quinta. Best of all, there is no additional fees associated with this level of service.

Access has been managing single family homes, condos & multi-family residential buildings since 2009. We are dedicated to providing our clients with excellent customer service. This website serves as a tool for owners, and tenants. We encourage you to browse our FAQ section, read our property managers blogs, meet your management team, see our available rentals, or sign-up for informative emails related to real estate investing and property management. Most of all, we want you to know that we are readily available to answer your questions or concerns when it comes to La Quinta property management, maximizing investments, tenant concerns, or anything else that may be on your mind. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Victor says:

Above topic of land lords forcing a cable bill on a tenent!!

why and how use choose your source of Tv and billing should be the TV owners choice only!!!! And Since The Fcc tells the TV networks they must make it available to all for news weather and normal programing ..these people Who pass these laws must be getting kick backs and be removed from office in the poublice intrest! I smell a bunch of crooks..And since they are always trying to tax or jail the little guy they should taste the same and any judge that disagrees with that statement should also be removed or disbarred! " Next they’ll count the rolls of sheets we use to wipe our butts with that paper or make us go paperless for a fee! I guess old folks don’t count or poor people..so for enternatment we’ll just sign up to walk around the blocks untill todays youth kill us off!

Tia says:

New Owners "PROHIBIT" Satellites period

I moved to my townhome rental in 2013 and had DiSh on my patio on cement blocks (not attached to the building) then switched to Verizon only to find that Verizon only offers DSL in my area(super slow) and I was stuck because I really did not know it would be that slow. Now I have Cox and they are ridiculously high and customer service is horrible. I want to cancel I’m willing to pay the cancellation fee but new property management Prohibits any satellite dishes at all. Then I found out that is illegal so I have to go talk to them. According to the FCC it is also illegal to even put that in a contract if you have a private patio or balcony space.

http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html.
s directed by Congress in Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Federal Communications Commission adopted the Over-the-Air Reception Devices (“OTARD”) rule concerning governmental and nongovernmental restrictions on viewers’ ability to receive video programming signals from direct broadcast satellites (“DBS”), broadband radio service providers (formerly multichannel multipoint distribution service or MMDS), and television broadcast stations (“TVBS”).

The rule (47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000) has been in effect since October 1996, and it prohibits restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used to receive video programming. The rule applies to video antennas including direct-to-home satellite dishes that are less than one meter (39.37″) in diameter (or of any size in Alaska), TV antennas, and wireless cable antennas. The rule prohibits most restrictions that: (1) unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use; (2) unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use; or (3) preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.

Effective January 22, 1999, the Commission amended the rule so that it also applies to rental property where the renter has an exclusive use area, such as a balcony or patio.

On October 25, 2000, the Commission further amended the rule so that it applies to customer-end antennas that receive and transmit fixed wireless signals. This amendment became effective on May 25, 2001.

Juanita Peters says:

Seems like it would be hard to make this illegal...

how about an apartment complex partnering with a cable company and then advising the tenants after they moved in and signed a lease that they will now have to get cable though the apartment complex, giving them no option to have their own account with that cable company and that cable company is the only cable provider in the area. do you advise the tenant to just move, breaking their lease, having an eviction on their record forever, preventing them from renting elsewhere because that eviction shows up like a bad credit mark? really is that what you are advising?

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