Homeowners Association Sues To Get Out Of Cable Contract

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune

By Laura Kinsler

Published January 3, 2008

NEW TAMPA - Homeowners in the Live Oak Preserve gated community have complained about their cable TV and Internet service for years. Now, their homeowners association has sued the developer-owned cable company to get out of the 15-year contract.

Live Oak's homeowners association filed the complaint Dec. 13, saying the contract with Century Communications is unenforceable.

The association also accused Century of breach of contract for failing to "provide good television and Internet signal" to the homeowners, who are charged for the services even if they elect to go with another provider.

Residents have complained that the Internet service is too slow and the cable TV service antiquated. Century's high-definition programming is limited, it doesn't offer digital videorecorders and it's not compatible with TiVo, residents say.

About half of the homeowners association dues - $1.6 million - go to Century Communications each year.

Century is owned by the Falcone family, which also founded Transeastern Homes. Transeastern was Live Oak's original developer and initially controlled the homeowners association. However, it was replaced by Engle Homes when parent company TOUSA bought out the Falcones' interests.

The Federal Communications Commission voted Oct. 31 to prohibit cable companies from using exclusive contracts for television service in apartments, condos and other private developments. However, Century Communications, which provides cable TV, Internet and home security monitoring in Live Oak Preserve and The Hammocks, was exempt from that ruling.

General manager Bill McKissock said the ruling did not apply to private companies whose cable lines do not cross public streets. He also said Century's contract with Live Oak is not exclusive because it has not stopped satellite providers or Verizon from selling their services in the community.

But the bulk billing arrangement means that residents are required to pay Century even if they use another service provider.

The FCC is considering whether to extend the ruling to satellite TV providers and private cable companies, and whether to prohibit bulk billing arrangements, such as the one in Live Oak Preserve.

The commission announced it would make a decision by mid-April. The FCC decision, however, likely would not take effect before June, and it would be specific to cable TV service. So even if the ruling nullified part of the contract, it might not prevent Century from raising its fees for home security monitoring and Internet service to make up for losing the cable revenues.

Unavailable for comment were attorney Joshua Burnett, who represents the homeowners association; the Engle staff; and McKissock.