Can my apartment complex restrict my acces to cable Internet?
October 26, 2011 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Can my apartment keep me from receiving cable Internet from a 3rd party, if I don't order the apartment's basic cable plan? They shut off my Internet today, can they do this? Here's the deal - I moved in 2.5 months ago. the complex offers their own cable package through Time-Warner, for $45 dollars a month. I signed the paperwork to turn it down, but told them I planned on getting cable Internet. They never said I couldn't, or that it wasn't an option (there is only one cable company in the area, and DSL is available as an alternative). So the cable guy comes, hooks everything up, I have the Internet only for $29.95 a month, through Time-Warner, which i've been paying, to them. Sounds peachy, right? Not do much...

Yesterday as I'm leaving for work I see a letter taped to my door. it says I owe the complex $90 for 2 months cable, plus $140 in late fees; $50 in late fees on the first of the month, another 90 just a few days ago. Never before today have I gotten any notice from them that I owed them money for cable, much less a warning about late fees. So I went down to the office, they can't find the paperwork (of course, I still have my own copy), I tell them well I turned down your cable plan, but I have cable Internet. they say fine, I sign another form saying I don't want cable.
I get back from work and my cable access has been turned off. I call the cable company, they say there are no issues from their side, it was most likely shut off by the apartment, and I should talk to them to get it straightened out. at this point it's 6:30 pm. no one's in the office, of course, I left a message with maintenance that will be dealt with in the morning. i'm going to talk to them then, but as i have my iphone and am angry my question is:

does the apartment complex have a legal right to keep me from getting cable Internet if I refuse to sign up for their service? or am I legally allowed to get the same cable Internet anyone in a free standing dwelling is entitled to? I live in Nebraska if this at all helps the question.

what's with waiting 2 months, then giving me a huge bill with late fees, and then shutting off my Internet? is this a bait-and-switch tactic (in other words, don't tell them they can't get cable Internet, then wait a few months and say if you want it you have to pay these late fees), or just general administrative inneptness? And why shut off my Internet, right after I went in to talk with them?
posted by camdan to Law & Government (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If it's a normal setup, it's in your lease. It's either cable through the renting agency or nothing at all. Check the fine print. The renting agency signed an exclusive deal with TWC.
posted by introp at 9:19 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

introp is correct in that what is binding on you is written in your lease. your jurisdiction matters as well. They may not be able to prevent this.

OTOH, getting into a huge fight with them may not be a lot of fun.
posted by Mad_Carew at 9:37 PM on October 26, 2011

Everything should be in your lease. The wrinkle here is that you didn't want cable TV, which is what I think they were offering you.
posted by SMPA at 9:42 PM on October 26, 2011

Response by poster: I don't see anything in my lease about cable tv, just "utilities", I imagine they'd have to be more specific than that. there is a separate sheet about the stipulations signing up for their cable, there is nothing on there about Internet except that disconnection for any reason will result in dsconnection from other services that any additional services (like internet). I wonder if I'm the first person to do this and they're poking at the gray areas
posted by camdan at 9:48 PM on October 26, 2011

or just general administrative inneptness

The idea that 'cable' and 'cable internet' are two separate products is relatively new. Don't assume that your management has a huge amount of experience with people wanting internet but not TV. (Alternatively, they may have had experience with people who pay only for internet but split the signal and send one lead into their TV.)

But what everyone said: double-check your lease, and approach management on the assumption that they've got their wires crossed, to avoid things getting messy.
posted by holgate at 9:55 PM on October 26, 2011

talk to a lawyer.

but, i would think if there's nothing explicit in your lease that says you can't do what you did then i don't think they have much against you.

also, talk to the apartment management people, and give an update.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:57 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: two things: nothing in the lease about cable. nada. Second thing: when I said I didn't want their TV package, they said I'd automatically get channels 2-12 at no charge, regardless. that leads me to believe that they expect you'll splice your cable.
posted by camdan at 10:04 PM on October 26, 2011

I know nothing about apartments in Nebraska. Check with your local jurisdiction before freaking out. I'm pretty sure that cable is NOT a "utility." Utilities are electric and gas and water. I don't even think trash collection qualifies legally as a "utility."


You signed a form they routinely provide saying you do not wish to "opt-in" to their deal. This means you can refuse their pricing, unless the document you signed states otherwise, directly, that you may not sign this document and then contract on your own through the provider (Time Warner.)


Most leases and riders are automatically overridden by your state or local law. In most states, anyway. I could make you sign a rider to your lease stating you MUST own a monkey to be compliant, and it would never hold up in court. You dig?

Check into your local and state laws. I'm pretty sure this is bullshit and their maintenance crew needs to stop disconnecting your cable. Full stop.
posted by jbenben at 10:09 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks for your help guys, i should have been more explicit in that I opted out of their TV package if that was vague, and I just wanted Internet.

I'm looking at the opt-out form now, I see nothing on it about not setting up service on my own, and nothing at all about Internet. I'm going to bed now, but I have plenty of contact with lawyers, and there's a law clinic on campus here, if this doesn't get straightened out I guarantee I'll have some answers for you soon.
posted by camdan at 10:24 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Never assume a conspiracy when the facts can be explained by a cock-up.

Sounds to me like what's happened is that whoever is responsible for maintaining the apartment-provided cable has seen cable going to your place, assumed that it's one of theirs and proceeded on that basis, and that the possibility of you having organized your own independent connection from the same provider that they use has never even crossed their minds.

If you turn up at the office tomorrow morning working from the assumption that they have made an understandable mistake rather than that they're doing their best to screw you over, then you'll probably get the apology you're due and you'll part on good terms.

If you go in there all WTF APARTMENT MANAGEMENT then I would expect the issue to take longer to resolve.
posted by flabdablet at 11:12 PM on October 26, 2011 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Flabdablet is probably right. Or, as a slight alternative, they know you are getting your cable straight from the provider and are pissed that you are messing up their deal, where they likely get a cut of the cable tv bill.

If you can't get any traction talking to management, talk to someone at the cable tv company. I have found that walking into one of their offices (if they have them in your area) is WAY more useful than trying to call the 800 number. (Like the place you go to trade in your cable box for a new one.) I would bet that a local agent would know the laws and regulations.

Another scenario that happened to me was that in the early days of cable internet (@home!), the cable TV installer guys (*) really had no clue about this internet thing. When they would come through and do an audit to make sure nobody was hooking themselves up without paying. In variably, they would see my data-only connection, and snip it. After like two years of this happening every three months, they figured out that they should put tags on the lines that say what apartment it goes to, and what service is attached. Since then, it has pretty much stopped.

* As far as I can tell, there are three different kinds of "cable guys". There are the line techs, who make the physical cables work up to the demarcation point. They are usually pretty knowledgeable and tend to care about doing a good job. Then, there are two kinds of service techs, who install either TV or internet, and only deal with wires past the demarcation point. These guys vary greatly in their knowledge of how anything works and their level of giving a shit.
posted by gjc at 5:44 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: i think flabdablet has it right - i just talked to them over the phone, and yes they did put a block on my cable. i was as polite and non-conspiratorial as possible, and they said "they'd take care of it", so I think i'm out of the woods. I'll find out when I get home from work. so it's looking like a case of managerial ineptness rather than any attempt to force me into their contract.
posted by camdan at 9:03 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Experience has taught me that dickheads outnumber arseholes, and I'm glad to find a use for that knowledge. Well played.
posted by flabdablet at 10:14 AM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: yay! internet's back up. that only took a day and a half >:/
posted by camdan at 3:35 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

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