TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: SBC New Low Price

SBC New Low Price

Wed, 08 Jun 2005 09:39:53 -0700

Excerpts from a recent long-running thread [1] on ba.internet:


>>>> There's a law that the landlord must provide a working phone jack.

>> This isn't a Berkeley or SF law, it's CA State Law. A working phone
>> line is a required feature of a residential rental, the same as hot
>> water, running water, electric service, no vermin, etc.
> Contrary to your post, a working phone line is not required for
> habitability. Only a functional jack and inside wiring to that jack.
> Whether or not there is breakable dialtone, or whether there is a good
> drop bridged to the inside wire, is not the responsibility of the
> landlord.

>>> The law requires landlords to
>>> maintain inside wiring to one phone jack. It does not require them to
>>> maintain the drop or the service. It does NOT require them to act on
>>> the tenant's behalf to fix billing or service problems with phone
>>> companies.

>> ... the landlord does have the responsibility to
>> provision a working pair to the unit *when the tenant moves in*.
> No, he doesn't. The law covers only the inside wiring, that which was
> divested from telco years ago. It doesn't cover anything else.

I have no dog in this fight, but am just curious at this point as to
what the truth really is. Anyone able to provide it?

[1] "Re: SBC new low price" on ba.internet: The specific incident that
started it was one where a departing tenant vanished, leaving a
sizable phone bill unpaid; the telco allegedly refuses to release the
line to a new tenant until the old bill is paid; and the landlord is
supposedly trapped in the middle, unable to provide phone service to
the new tenant unless he's willing to pay the unpaid charges for the
old tenant.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Who had the responsibility for the
phone service in the first place; the tenant or the landlord? If the
landlord was _historically_ providing the phone service (and
collecting on same from tenants), then landlord is responsible. This
type of situation usually only occurs when the landlord is providing
phone service in a hotel/motel type situation, where telco believes it
is more convenient for a landlord to deal with transients than it is
for telco. In those cases, telco usually provides a commission to
landlord in exchange for handling the collection and customer service
functions. In a _really transient_ situation, such as overnight or
weekly tenants, telco is generally obligated to quote any charges for
service as they occur, to give the landlord a reasonable opportunity
to 'post' the charges and make collection for same. If telco fails to
quote time and charges in a timely way and as a result tenant is gone
before landlord can collect, that is telco's problem. There are all
kinds of audit trails and proofs on whether or not telco made the
quote in a timely way, operator ticket serial numbers, etc. In those
cases, if telco was advising landlord of the bill due on telephone
service, the landlord was diligently 'posting' these entries to a
ledger and the tenant skipped without payment, then it is indeed the
landlord's problem. After all, says telco, we were paying you a
commission on traffic revenue to attend to this sort of thing.

On the flip side of the coin, if tenant was _historically_ paying
for telephone service (that is, an apartment or similar but with his
own wiring and jack and his own obligations to telco) then the
problem is telco's unless telco can demonstrate fraud on the part of
some third party such as landlord. If I, independently, contracted
with telco for service, at some point was unable or unwilling to
pay for same, and skipped then telco is responsible. Telco could have,
after all, installed a pay-station outside my door or in the parking
lot or wherever, but instead chose to take my word (based on credit
reports or whatever) regards my ability and willingness to pay for
service. So I guess my question would be _who_ originally agreed to
pay for the service of the tenant who skipped? We would need more
details on this.

Telco is protected against attempts to defraud it, however. If telco
can demonstrate that something transparent took place, then telco is
entitled to withhold service until the problem is cured. For example,
several years ago here in this Digest, we learned of the case of a
person who skipped with unpaid bills, then that person's mother and
father 'conveniently' took over the very same apartment, and kept
insisting 'not responsible for the bills of other person', which may
in fact have been true, but telco was unwilling to accept that
transparency. Is this case by any chance that very same one from
several years ago? _That one_ was on the west coast somewhere, and
either the child had run off not paying his bills and the parents did
not feel responsible or maybe it was the other way around. Are we
still dealing with that case?

In that case in the Digest from years ago, I think we detirmined that
tenants had historically paid their own telephone bill; that tenant
had skipped; and that tenant's family members had moved in. The new
person kept insisting landlord 'had to' help them explain the problem
to telco; landlord attempted to do so, and telco would not accept the
explanation. Is this the same case? AES, you said this was a 'long
running thread in ba.internet' ... the suggestion made in that long
ago case here was that if the landlord felt so strongly inclined to
help the tenant, my suggestion was to either give telco a personal
guarentee (_not_ a corporate guarentee, telco is not a bunch of fools
after all!) on payment or pay the bill and collect it from the new
tenant, or perhaps supply the new tenant with a cell phone under the
same kind of personal guarentee conditions until the problem got

Assuming telco is correct, that it is all just some transparency
intended to rip them off, then appeals to the Commission won't help;
telco will stick to it's guns, rightfully. If telco is incorrect, and
tenants/landlord can prove it, then they will get phone service,
albiet perhaps grudgingly, and perhaps with a substantial deposit
required. In the meantime, (appeals to the Commission can go on for
months until resolved) for phone service for these wonderful new
wrongly accused put-upon tenants, if landlord _must_ get involved,
then get them a cell phone, and a new rental lease which makes it
very clear: Each time the tenant pays any money, the money is _first_
applied to the telephone bill, then it is applied to any rent due.
Reasoning is, in the 'unlikely' event the new tenant decides to try
the same thing as the old one and stall on paying his bills _due to
you_ i.e. rent and by default his phone bill, it is always easier
for a landlord to evict a tenant on non-payment of rent than for
non-payment of sundry items. PAT]

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