Unfair competition - cable and internet

7 Replies

I have two recent applicants trying to negotiate with me on rent.  I was told that two nearby properties - not as nice location wise, nevertheless only three blocks away, are including free high speed internet and "premium" cable TV with HBO, ESPN, NFL RED ZONE etc etc etc...after some inquiries I came to find out both of these are four plexes and the owner lives in one of the units, rented additional digital cable boxes under his  own name but wired coaxial cables to each unit, and shared his WIFI password with his tenants.  So this is how the tenants are getting "FREE cable and internet", these landlords are paying probably $80, $100 total for a residential account.

We have had previous discussions in this forum on the various pros and cons of providing internet and cable to tenants...

Should Landlords Ever Provide Internet

Not trying to rehash that discussion.  Just wondering what my options are.

- Do I explain to these applicants that this is illegal?  That they are actually a party to cable theft?

- If I want to provide cable and internet myself (and there seems to be more people asking for it especially younger professionals looking at 1/1 or 2/1s in multi family buildings), so I figure I ought to investigate.  I think my other tenants in the area use DirecTV or Comcast for cable TV, and most everyone use Comcast for internet.  I assume I will need a commercial account priced based on number of users/tenants?

For those who do provide cable and internet to existing tenants for free (included in rent), do you find that it gives you a appreciable competitive advantage?  Is it worth it compared to the down side (liability, illegal downloads, cable theft, support nightmare, additional cost...)?

Honestly those are not the kind of tenants i want personally. I just see that as a load of problems waiting to happen. I want tenants that take pride in providing for their wants and desires, and their own bills. 

These renters are trying to get your nice unit for the crap unit down the street and get free cable thrown in.

Why can't they get cable in their own name?? Probably much more to their stories.

No way would I cover cable for tenants EVER. 

I remember listening to a CD by Robert Kiyosaki and he said never be the cheapest. There is always someone else that is going to come in cheaper than you. In being self-employeed I have found this to be true. I tried to be the cheapest for a while but what I found was that most of those clients were high maintenance and had no loyalty to me. 

I wouldn't have a problem providing for free basic cable if the rest of the market were doing so, but it sounds as if just one landlord is doing it. That does not a market make.

I would never personally provide for internet; I would contract that out with another company were I forced to do so. The rules around liability for internet usage are continually changing. If your renter is doing bad things with their internet connection, like downloading illegal content or worse, who's name is on the agreement with the ISP?

That's why you always lock down your wireless router at home. You don't want a neighbor hooking onto your signal and then downloading 1000 songs from an illegal site. The fines for downloading of copyrighted materials can be huge! And since it's coming from your connection to the ISP, you'd be caught up in the troubles.

As far as your competition is concerned, maybe you should take a different approach? They really aren't being "unfair" (although they may be breaking their agreement with the ISP).

Do a little research on why sharing your signal with others is dangerous and could spell trouble. Find out about the potential fines or legal trouble someone can get in if something nefarious is done on their account. And then send the owner a note on the spirit of caring to let them know of these dangers. Make it anonymous if you want.

And once you've done this, forget about them. They are an outlier who will probably shoot themselves in the foot one day. It won't take an ISP very long to figure it out. Deliver good service in a good property and you'll be around long after this person.  

I would just comment when asked that you are aware of the situation and if it was you that you would not want to share internet with the  landlord and neighbors. I would not get into the legalities.

We did provide internet/cable to our student renters but this year we have not done so and just lowered the rent. It was common to do so in our market and it was an individual account for the house. I have thought about it in the Multifamily but if they want to share they can. I am sure there would be issues with bandwith given the different users.

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No way would I provide cable or internet to tenants, any more than I would provide water, electricity, or natural gas. All of these utilities are available, if the tenant wants them (in the case of electricity and water, they have to get them as per the lease). 

Never compete with the lowest guy, nor aim for the cheapest tenants. Your unit should be able to stand on its own rent figure on its own terms. If you are competing with the same crappy units down the street, you are attracting the wrong candidates for whatever reason. 

I never haggle on rent. I set the rent and the prospective tenant decides if they want to pay that or go somewhere else. If I feel I've set the rent too high, I may lower it, but without prodding or request of anyone else. So far (knock on wood!) I've always had my rent too low, if anything, and far more prospective tenants than I could ever rent to. 

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