L.Q. from New York writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Although I am in NY, I would appreciate your wise opinion. We received a newsletter that the condo has been offered a deal by the cable company for bulk rates for cable TV, internet, and telephone but require 100% of the owners to participate to receive the bulk rates. The rates would be locked in for 2 years but increase 5% over the next three years. The common charges would be raised $60 per month to pay for cable TV and internet, and the rest of the bill, ($42.00 per month) must be paid directly to the cable company. Some neighbors don’t have a house phone and/or use another provider for years and would have to change their phone numbers. Many elderly neighbors do not use the internet. Many of us have a “triple play” package which gives us lower rates, and others have been able to negotiate certain rates on their own with their providers. Bottom line; can the condo force us into a 5 year contract with this cable provider? What if you already have a contract with another provider, such as satellite or a phone company? Each unit is individually owned and we should have the right to decide what services we want and by whom they are provided. Cable, internet, and nowadays home telephones are luxuries, not necessities. Any advice you can offer would be more than greatly appreciated.
Mister Condo replies:
L.Q., everyone likes to save money and I am guessing that your Board took that into consideration when accepting this bundled services proposal from the cable provider wishing to provide all of these services to unit owners in your condo. However, as your question clearly points out, just because this bundle is good for SOME residents in your condo that clearly is not the case for ALL residents in your condo. Since your letter indicates that the condo has simply been offered this deal and not yet accepted it, I encourage you and your fellow condo unit owners to get in touch with Board members and tell them “NO”!
It is not so much a question of whether the Board can force unit owners into a 5 year agreement with this provider as it is a question of should they even consider it. In my opinion, they should not even consider it for all of the reasons you have stated. There are some condos that actually offer these services as part of their amenity package. In that case they should negotiate with service providers to get the best rates and packages from residents because the residents are expecting them to do so. In your case, these services were not offered as amenities and should be offered “a la carte”. If they can make an agreement that allows, not mandates, unit owners to take advantage of these bundled services and a reduced rate I have no problem with them doing so. But to make every unit owner obligated to spend money with this provider would be wrong and will likely end up with the Board being sued for overstepping their ability to obligate owners to expenses that are not part of the community association’s service offerings. All the best!