How can I get my landlord to replace my phone wiring?
July 18, 2011 5:05 PM   Subscribe

What rights do I have when requesting repairs to telephone wiring from my landlord?

I recently moved into an apartment in San Francisco. I brought over my DSL service from (my favorite ISP), which is a CLEC offering local loop service in Northern California. The service is somewhat unreliable, though, and the Sonic tech I had come out today said that part of the problem is the decades-old (cloth-wrapped untwisted pair) line from the building's AT&T cross connect to the jack in my apartment and that I should have this replaced.

I emailed my landlord to request that they upgrade the line to modern standards. Their response was a suggestion that I contact AT&T to order local phone service as AT&T would replace the line for free, something that I've never heard of. To the best of my knowledge, the telephone company (be it AT&T or Sonic) is explicitly not responsible for wiring beyond the NID (as of the 1992 CPUC statute) and would be within their rights to charge for the work. Moreover, I do not want to give AT&T my business, especially considering that their DSL product is inferior (Sonic can provide higher speeds than AT&T over the same line) and I don't need voice service.

What do I do next? I've read the relevant sections of the California Civil Code, Public Utilities Code, and Renter's Handbook; they imply that the landlord is indeed responsible for furnishing and maintaining one working telephone line to the apartment, but they don't define "working" or "maintaining", and don't mention broadband internet service at all. The line is fine for POTS, but by my standards it is unsuitable and not-working since my chosen data service does not work reliably.

Should I write back to my landlord to tell them that I do not wish to contract AT&T's services and that they should do the work themselves? Should I tell them that I will open the AT&T account, get the work done, immediately cancel it, and bill them (the landlord) for any and all charges? Should I have Sonic do the work and bill my landlord?
posted by spitefulcrow to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
I don't see how the landlord is responsible to take on expenses just so you can order the broadband of your choice. If it's really that important to you, maybe offer to split the cost of the wiring upgrade with the landlord.
posted by COD at 5:18 PM on July 18, 2011

I think you answered your own question: The landlord is required to provide a working telephone line. You have a working telephone line. Unless the apartment was rented to you as having upgraded wiring, high speed access, etc, my ethical take on it is that you're out of luck. When it comes to "your standards," it's your responsibility to consider this stuff when renting the apartment in the first place.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:19 PM on July 18, 2011

The apartment wasn't specifically advertised as having high-speed access, but I asked before signing if DSL was available and they told me yes; additionally it was advertised as renovated, which I would think means it should support modern communications.
posted by spitefulcrow at 5:27 PM on July 18, 2011

The San Francisco Tenants Union should be able to give you a definitive answer.
posted by dolface at 5:32 PM on July 18, 2011

If you can't get DSL to work reliably, I'd recommend which is another local ISP. I got them a few months ago, and it's pretty darn fast compared to my roommates' old DSL connection. They do need to put an antennae on your roof probably, but then they run ethernet to your apartment so you'd bypass the bad in-building wiring. MeMail me if you have any questions about it.
posted by polexa at 6:26 PM on July 18, 2011

I found a link to a guy on yelp that might be of service. One of the reviews actually mentions liking him.
posted by Sphinx at 9:37 PM on July 18, 2011

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