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Standing to sue internet provider? Repairs, Maintenance

Discussion in 'Other Residential Landlord & Tenant Issues' started by tobias, Aug 13, 2020.

  1. tobias

    tobias Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
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    I'm the landlord. Tenant has AT&T fiber internet. AT&T did a shoddy job installing fiber line, it's very delicate & they installed behind siding w/o securing it in conduit.

    Siding needed to be repaired. The experienced contractor very carefully tried to remove the fiber service box during repairs but the line broke.

    AT&T is going to bill the tenant for repairs. I told the tenant I'd take care of it, since my contractor broke it. Question: do I have standing to sue AT&T if they refuse to fix it for free? Or would the tenant have to be the one to sue them?

    The repairs have not yet taken place; just trying to plan in advance as much as possible.
     
  2. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    Why shouldn't the contractor pay for the damage he caused?
     
  3. tobias

    tobias Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Because he took all proper precautions to avoid damaging the line. I'm still looking into the specific wiring codes but my understanding is that wiring installation is required to be done in such a way that it's not easily damaged and so that further repairs can be made, such as by securing it in a conduit or using cable clamps to ensure the line isn't pulled by its own weight.

    If their initial install was not up to code, then they are liable for the repairs, but since their contract is with the tenant and not myself, I didn't know if I had standing to sue them directly. Their neglect led to a monetary loss for me, even though it was indirect.
     
  4. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    You have a real can of worms there. You hired the contractor. Your contractor broke the cable. You are volunteering to cover the tenant's cost to fix the cable. You want to sue the cable company for your cost. You "think" there might be a code issue which means you don't know. I think you would be tilting at windmills. But good luck if you decide to.

    There are some costs that a landlord just has to eat. Been there.
     
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  5. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    Apparently not.
     
  6. tobias

    tobias Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Yeah, I know :D Repair will be about $200-300 so probably not even worth my time. I guess my question boils down to this:

    Aside from everything else, if I were to take AT&T to small claims court, would the case be dismissed outright for lack of standing or would I get a chance to make my case?

    (I've actually won a small claims case before against a landlord who improperly towed my vehicle so I'm generally familiar with civil process)
     
  7. tobias

    tobias Law Topic Starter New Member

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    That's why wiring codes exist. There are rules for how long you can run a length of wire, how it has to be attached to the frame, where splices occur, where junction boxes are located, and what type of pressure it has to withstand in order to prevent damage in the future.

    That's so that future contractors can assume that it was installed correctly and take necessary precautions to avoid damage. If the wiring install was done improperly, and it is damaged because it wasn't properly protected, that's the fault of the wiring installer, not the person who caused the damage.
     
  8. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    Your contractor caused the damage by his improper removal of the box. Your contractor should pay.
     
  9. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    You would be suing under the theory of indemnification so, no, I don't think it would be dismissed for lack of standing. The burden would be on you to prove that the wiring was improperly installed. Even in small claims court, your sayso isn't likely to be accepted and you would have to hire an expert to testify, probably at more than you would be suing for, and you don't get reimbursed for that. AT&T, of course, would have an expert to testify that the wiring was installed correctly.
     
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  10. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    And/or that the installation of the wiring (proper or improper) didn't cause the damage, rather, it was the improper removal of their equipment by an unqualified person.
     
  11. tobias

    tobias Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks! Exactly what I was looking for. I'm pretty sure I won't bother with it & just eat the cost, but I always like to learn from these type of things. At most I may hire an attorney to write a demand letter to AT&T that they refund the tenant for the repair.
     
  12. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    No. Nor would you (or your tenant) have any viable legal claim. Nothing in your post indicates that the fiber optic line wasn't working just fine until the contractor you hired caused damage. Why on Earth should the internet provider fix the contractor's damage for free? You should, however, expect your contractor to pay for the damage he caused.

    No he didn't, because, if he had, the damage would not have occurred.

    Don't over-complicate this. Pay for the repair and then demand reimbursement from the contractor (or simply demand that the contractor pay for the repair in the first instance). It's simple. Don't just "eat it." Demand that the contractor pay.
     
  13. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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    Another point or maybe not, we are talking about fiber here, not copper wire. Do local wiring codes even apply if they haven't been updated for fiber?
     
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  14. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    As the property owner I suspect you would have standing especially if you authorized the tenant to have the cable installed. Ultimately standing is a determination only the judge can make, not random shmoes on the internet.

    I did a quick search and found this relatively simple breakdown of NEC standards for fiber optics.

    https://www.ecmweb.com/national-ele...nec-and-optical-fiber-cable-and-raceway-rules

    The burden is on you to show the installer neglected to install the cable correctly. If you can not clearly show improper installation, only then would the contractor be responsible. That, however, could be subject to any contracts with the contractor before he started work.
     
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  15. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    The OP isn't the one who is being required to pay the bill.
     
  16. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Well...sure, but so is everything that gets discussed here. Am I liable for damages caused in this accident? That's also a determination that only a judge or jury can make. Did I infringe the copyright in that song? That's also a determination that only a judge or jury can make.

    This doesn't even make sense. The OP asked if he/she has "standing to sue [the internet provider] if they [sic] refuse to fix it for free." The landlord has no standing here. The landlord has suffered no harm as a result of the provider's presumed refusal to fix for free, and the only person/entity that arguably owed or breached a legal duty to the landlord was the OP's supposed "experienced [siding] contractor" (who probably lacks experience handling fiber optic equipment). Only the tenant was or will be harmed by whatever the internet provider does or doesn't do. Moreover, what would the landlord sue for? The landlord has no contract with the provider, so he/she can't successfully sue for breach. The OP's argument is that the internet provider (or the provider's contractor who did the install) did something negligently, but the only person harmed by that negligence is the tenant. The only way the landlord could have standing would be if the tenant assigned his/her claim against the provider.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2020
  17. flyingron

    flyingron Well-Known Member

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    It would be highly unusual to use conduit behind siding. I spent a long time running fiber data cabling over the years. It doesn't sound like the break had anything whatsoever to do with the fact the cabling wasn't in conduit. It sounds like despite being "careful" he didn't know what he was doing an "stretched" the fiber. Next time, consult AT&T or a qualified person to move the ONT rather than letting some siding guy touch it.
     
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  18. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    It sounds as if currently there is no bill, just an estimate to repair damage. This isn't about the service provided to an account rather the installation in the building, which the owner certainly has an interest in regardless of who the current tenant is
     
  19. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    I understand there isn't a bill yet. I think everybody here does.

    The building wasn't damaged...just the AT&T equipment. The tenant will (may) be required to pay AT&T for this damage. The OP has no damages.
     
  20. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    Not yet.
    The question is asking what to do if it isn't fixed at no cost. If the owner has to pay to fix a shoddy installation to his property, if that can be proven, then there may be something to work with. The first hurdle is finding something that supports that the installation was done wrong.
    However, I do agree with the above that the low cost likely isn't worth the hassle of court. A demand letter to ATT to fix it might possibly get something. They have the same problem- fix the low cost problem or pay an attorney a lot more. It may cost them less to just fix it and keep everyone happy.
     

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