Comcast Is Renting Your Land And They're Not Paying Their Bill

When you don’t pay your bill Comcast cuts your cable off, but what happens when Comcast doesn’t pay its bill to you?

A Northeast Missouri family says that Comcast has been renting their land for a cable tower, but hasn’t been paying the bill for the last six months. The confusion started when Comcast took over another cable company that had been renting the land. The family tried negotiating with Comcast, but the cable company walked away from the table.. and kept using the land.

From the KHQA:

When Comcast walked away without paying its rent, the Williams’ decided to stop providing the service by shutting off the transmitter.

With the tower out of service, a Comcast employee had to come to the tower to turn it back on. That meant he trespassed onto the Williams property. That happened a couple of times before the Williams decided to turn the power off.

Again Williams told me a Comcast employee returned, trespassed and brought a generator to keep the tower going.

KHQA talked with Comcast officials to find out why the company would trespass. Here’s the explanation we got.

No power on the tower shut down emergency pagers for physicians, not to mention turned out the tower’s lights which serve as a warning for airplane pilots.

Comcast officials say they didn’t know about the contract negotiations or the backed up tower rent until they officially took over Insight Jan. 1.

Monday, the Williams signed a year long contract. But that hasn’t changed anything.

The Williams told us they contacted KHQA, because they want local customers to know what kind of company is serving the Quincy area.

She says it’s the kind that wants you to pay your bills, but won’t pay its own.

Comcast officials also told us the Williams’ rent check is in the mail.

Comcast paying their bills late? [KHQA] (Thanks to a Quincy resident !)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Manok says:

    I would have just knocked that shit down.

  2. bonzombiekitty says:

    While I understand their desire to not let Comcast use the tower for free, it’s kinda dangerous to turn off the power to a giant tower, particularly because of the lights for airplanes.

  3. whoareyou says:

    No suprises here.

  4. randombob says:

    beautiful.

  5. Darkwish says:

    If they don’t pay, yank the power and call the cops when the employee shows up. You know Comcrap would do the same.

  6. dualityshift says:

    Send them a 10-day take down notice. Let them remove the tower on their dime. If they do not comply, feel free to remove their junk from your land.

    Craigslist the tower.

  7. KJones says:

    Comcast can bring the cheque when they come to turn it on again.

  8. scoobydoo says:

    Since when does Comcast provide pager services for doctors? Unless the tower has more than just Comcast stuff on it?

  9. lesspopmorefizz says:

    One more reason why I did and will again cast my vote for Comcast as the Worst Company in America ’08!

  10. chargernj says:

    I wonder how much is a whole tower worth in scrap?

  11. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing Consumerist.

  12. B says:

    You sue them, and quickly.

  13. kelptocratic says:

    @dualityshift: “Craigslist the tower.” Well played, sir.

  14. chargernj says:

    @KJones: Also remember if they bring they check when they come to reconnect don’t forget to charge them an extra service fee for allowing them back onto your land as well as for the inconveinence.

    Kind of like the fee they charge when they send a tech out to shut you off. You can give the tech a check to stay connected, but they still charge you for them having to send a tech.

  15. Get some pit bulls and let them roam in the fence surrounding the tower, I doubt someone is going to come turn it on again.

  16. sleze69 says:

    Comcast once again demonstrates why it is a #1 seed in this year’s tournament.

  17. consumersaur says:

    They should tell them to come get their crappy tower on Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., then when technicians get there, find the gate locked. Then the technicians should have to suffer a robo phone menu, wait for 22 minutes on hold and reschedule for another appointment a week later from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

  18. Hoss says:

    Let them void the existing contract as Comcast has by not paying. Then establish a new contract for 4 times or 20 times the former contract. A good lawyer will love this one

  19. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    A dozen or so years ago, I temped for several months in the regulatory compliance department of a major cell phone company. I had to study up on the FAA and FCC regulations concerning cell phone towers.

    It is the responsibility of the tower owner to make sure the lights stay on on top of the tower to keep airplanes from hitting it. The cell phone companies lease the land the tower is on, so if they don’t pay the rent, the landlords are understandably going to turn off utilities to the property, same as if you don’t pay your apartment rent. If the tower owners don’t pay the rent and the lights get cut off, it’s their responsibility to get the lights turned back on within hours, per the applicable laws. They should have had a generator on site anyway to deal with potential power outages, but apparently didn’t, which might mean a violation right there.

  20. DogTown says:

    Start charging them conversation fees and also charge them for both access and departure to and from their tower if that so-called “check is in the mail” ever arrives. And if that check arrives be sure to re-negotiate a new contract with them to get whatever you else can from them. Also, be sure to charge them for opening and depositing their check and interest on all previously unpaid rent.

  21. IrisMR says:

    Well, that turned the airline warning lights off? No problem. Just knock the tower down. It’s on their lawn afterall. As for the physician pagers… Yo. That’s comcast’s problem, not the Williams’.

  22. Skankingmike says:

    why didn’t they just take them to court? Pretty simple tenant landlord case. Courts almost always rule in favor of the landlord when it comes to businesses…. Depending on your state.

    I would have filed suit and called a local newspaper personally.

    I agree that turning of the power is a bad idea for a large tower like that, the landlord would ultimately be responsible for any fines resulting in such an action.

  23. QuantumRiff says:

    If they weren’t paying their rent, you should have served them a proper eviction notice, and specifically stated you would confiscate any property after X date, and auction it. That would have really gotten attention.

  24. Cut the damn power off early morning, so the lights up top aren’t needed for low flying planes. They’ll show up within hours. Lock them out, notify local authorities that they have no rights to your property. Call up Comcast, tell them you’ve shut off all power, it will continue to stay off until the bill is paid in full, let them know security is at the access point to your property, and any trespassing will warrant an arrest. You contracted with the PREVIOUS company, not the current owner. The remedy? Draw up a new contract, and let them know payment in FULL for the previous months’ are expected up front including late payment fees, along with the new contract’s terms to specify payments are to be made in 4-6 month incriments, AHEAD OF TIME, plus if their payments are 1 week late, you reserve the right to shut off all power again and use legal authority to keep them off your land until payment made in full. It’s your land! F*CK ‘EM!!

  25. DogTown says:

    The folks that own the land should call the FAA immediately and tell them that the light on the tower can not be considered usable/available/reliable until this issue is solved one way or another.
    The FAA can then alert affected flights about the light and reroute flights around that area. They can also go after Comcast to fix the situation.

  26. Beerad says:

    I hope this gets resolved in favor of the landowners. The last thing I want to read about is how Comcast is now taking over people’s land through adverse possession.

  27. dualityshift says:

    @kelptocratic:
    I’d even help write the ad.

    **For Free**

    One Cellular tower, obtained from Comcast, in lieu of payment of rental property. Come get it. It’s yours. You will need your own dismantling tools, and a large truck to remove the tower. Also, please come to the house first, so I can shut off the power. I would hate to see you electrocute yourself, trying to score free stuff.

  28. dualityshift says:

    @mikeluisortega: and then the Comcast employee sues the dog owner. Even though the animals are on their property and presumably caged in the tower area, it’s still a situation where you might be charged and the animals destroyed.

  29. Buckler says:

    Notice letter + 90 days + hacksaw. Either that, or file a lien on the tower. See how much they’re willing to pay to buy their tower back from you.

  30. itsallme says:

    Send them a bill with all kinds of fees:

    Late fee
    Administration fee
    Tresspass fee
    Powerdown fee
    Power restoration fee
    Annoyance fee
    Legal fee
    Obstruction fee

    The options are almost limitless

  31. Falconfire says:

    @DogTown: Not going to work. Tower lights are rarely for commercial aircraft, but for private ones who can fly that low legally. The FAA has no real control on flight plans of non-commercial flights. Actually depending on your plane and license you might not even need to submit a flight plan, much like small rec boats have no legal requirement to submit plans of sail.

    The FAA could send out something to warn people, but thats about it.

  32. sleze69 says:

    @dualityshift: How long before this gets posted on Craigslist by a disgruntled comcast customer without the owner’s consent.[www.boingboing.net]

  33. evslin says:

    @consumersaur: Awesome.

    And make them show you their receipt when they leave.

  34. BugMeNot2 says:

    @Beerad:

    Adverse possession cannot be used if the owner of the land has expressed permission for the user of the land to be there, such as is the case in this instance, with a contract and all.

    @scoobydoo:

    Generally, towers like that will have multiple services on it. The tower owner (in this case, Comcast) will recoup some of their cost by renting space on it to other services (such as the paging service).

  35. KeithF says:

    If you advise the closest aviation authority (say, the FAA office at your local regional airport or somesuch) they should issue a NOTAM (NOTice to AirMen). Specified in Annex 15 (Aeronautical Information Services) of the Convention on International Civil Aviation), NOTAMs are issued to indicate both airborne hazards (severe weather, crazed parachutists, airshows, VIP flights) as well as problems with navigational aids (radio beacons, obstruction lights). The navigational aids on the tower (the obstruction lights) are definitely within this latter category. Light aviation folks as well as the guys who fly the heavies read those things (or should) before filing a flight plan.

    Advise the FAA, Comcast, and the local media, then cut the power… :-)

  36. dennyabraham says:

    @scoobydoo: A lot of carriers subcontract coverage in regions where they don’t have transmission hardware themselves, so that might be the case.

  37. TPS Reporter says:

    Comcast here told me once that the bill is actually due the day it is printed out, so by the time you get the bill in the mail it is technically 7-10 days “late”. The due date on the bill is actually already 30 days late. So if you pay 2 weeks past the due date, you are 45 days late and they will shut you off.

  38. Blackneto says:

    oh man.
    so many options here.
    this would only go on 3 months with me.
    Then I would find a law-talking-guy and have the contract declared null.
    then I would give them one month to remove thier property or renegotiate.
    My negotiations would double the rent and demand payment in advance for each month.
    3 months without payment and the power gets cut again and they can only get it turned on by paying a reconnection fee equal to 6 months rent.
    If they fail to comply with any of the terms the local salvage company gets a call.

  39. SabrinaFaire says:

    Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.

  40. vastrightwing says:

    Naw! Just get a big German Sheppard and don’t feed him too much.

  41. nonzenze says:

    “While I understand their desire to not let Comcast use the tower for free, it’s kinda dangerous to turn off the power to a giant tower, particularly because of the lights for airplanes.”

    Exactly. The landowner here is obviously in the right but it’s important not just to be right but to do right.

    Small Claims anyone?

  42. nonzenze says:

    Blackneto – at your rate, you’ll scare them away and make it more profitable for them to move the tower elsewhere. You aren’t allowed to keep property hostage.

  43. katylostherart says:

    if they don’t pay the rent can she knock it down? i would rather do that than collect the rent. just to shove it up comcast’s ass.

  44. catnapped says:

    Nobody here is going to post on Comcast’s behalf? Surely it must be the family’s fault for not doing something sooner!

    C’mon–you people are slipping!

    /sarcasm

  45. lonewolf333 says:

    Comcast is truly evil.

  46. Blackneto says:

    @nonzenze: Then i woulnd’t have to deal with their shit anymore, would I?

  47. Youthier says:

    @MrBill38: Really? My Comcast doesn’t turn you off until you are 60 days past. Not that I know from experience…

    But the area I live in has deadbeats that were up in arms when the city turned off their water because they were 6 months past due so maybe we’re all more relaxed here.

  48. BugMeNot2 says:

    @MrBill38:

    Apparently Comcast uses the same billing software one of the local dental offices uses. It happens to be the best around, so wife and I use it, but it’s annoying that every single time we get a bill from them, it shows as “past due, pay immediately”, usually with a “past due” time of 30 days or greater. Even if you get the bill in the office, the day of the visit, it shows as ‘past due.’

    @catnapped:

    No, we are being entirely consistent. In this instance, Comcast is the consumer and the land owner the eeeeevil business. It just so happens that in this case, as happens in others posted on this site, the consumer actually is in the wrong and the business in the right.

  49. azntg says:

    Any chance of garnishing Comcast’s assets for deliberate and repeated non-payments?

  50. Burgandy says:

    I love love love this story. I used to work for a simaliar company and all the “emergency” payments went through me. Tack on all the charges you can, late fees, service fees, access fees (so the tech can walk across your property), reconnection fees, go to town. They will pay it. More than once did a payment request come across my desk with notes like “Land owner armed and is refusing tech access until check clears.” Those always made me laugh. When you get your new contract, make sure the late fees are huge (I’d wait 2 days for an extra grand, wouldn’t you?)

  51. @sleze69: I don’t know. Time/Warner Cable gives them a good run for their money.

  52. TPK says:

    Hmm…. Comcast has been caught in a “Hillaryism”… How can both of these statements be true:

    “After contract negotiations {with former company Insight} failed, Comcast took over negotiations in September.”

    “Comcast officials say they didn’t know about the contract negotiations or the backed up tower rent until they officially took over Insight Jan. 1.”

    OOPS…

  53. pal003 says:

    consumersaur at 10:57 AM: Seriously awesome.

    And yes, please make them pay lots of late fees, especially those past due fees that do not make sense because they are making me pay in advance – for a time period when I have not yet watched tv!

    Make them pay now for the next 50 years use of that tower!

  54. orielbean says:

    I love the craiglist idea. I would leave the dismantling tools around for any prospective dis-assemblers.

  55. Brine says:

    I don’t imagine the trespassing claims will hold up, as Comcast surely had an easement to legally access the land.

  56. huadpe says:

    @nonzenze: This isn’t small claims. That much back rent is way over the small claims limit, especially if you want to add suits for trespassing and the other stuff.

  57. mike says:

    @bonzombiekitty: I’d agree. There are some unintended consequences here that have nothing to do with Comcast. I would have put a lock on their gate (if they had one) and left notice that they are trespassing.

  58. marzak says:

    i like scrap metal

  59. Saboth says:

    @Manok:

    Wonder how much you could get for the scrap metal. I’m with you. Someone puts that crap on my land, trespasses and thinks they can get away with not paying bills? We don’t live in a world where big business IS the government…yet.

  60. axiomatic says:

    Lock them out, sell the hardware. Trust me, someone will want that gear to tear it apart and figure out how it works. Or to use it for their own purposes.

  61. chartrule says:

    sounds like the OP should just hire a lawyer

  62. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I wonder if Comcast will appeal to try to get the land for free via Emminent Domain.

  63. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    @TPK: Glad I’m not the only one who spotted that goof!

  64. scoosdad says:

    I once threatened to take Comcast to small claims court over some money that they owed me as a refund but wouldn’t release to me.

    And I told them that if I won and they didn’t pay, I was going to ask the court for a lien on the pay-per-view billing computer at their nearest headend as compensation….. I got the check two days later. Just gotta know where to hit them where it’ll hurt the most. Cutting off the power to this tower was a brilliant move.

  65. Whatever is done, I’m hoping the owners of the tower tell consumerist what has happened, or what action they’ll take.
    I somehow hope they do attempt to craiglist the tower. >_> That’ll be a good read.

  66. TheUncleBob says:

    @Brine: I would assume that would only apply as long as Comcast was holding up their end of the bargain…

  67. BugMeNot2 says:

    @超外人:

    Especially the story about someone being seriously mangled or killed from trying to dismantle a several hundred foot tower with guy wires under tension. That’ll be absolutely hilarious!

    (You’re not the only one posting about them dismantling it, or letting someone else come do it, but you have bet best “reply to” screen name. Wasn’t singling you out.)

  68. Crymson_77 says:

    @Brine: Not if they didn’t have a contract as that would be necessary to have an easement.

  69. kbarrett says:

    Don’t play fast and loose games with landlord-tenant law. You don’t cut the power, and you don’t lock out the tenant on a whim. You could find yourself on the bad side of a court order pretty quick.

    You pay an attorney to handle an eviction properly.

    If Comcast wants to avoid eviction, they can negotiate and pay upfront for the privilege of a new lease.

    If they don’t, then the attorney will tell you when and how to craigslist the tower.

  70. Doctor_Flarb says:

    The Craigslist idea is the best thing I’ve read on Consumerist since I started frequenting this site. The fallout from such a move would be crazy to witness.

    I hope that if there are any updates on this situation that they get posted here. I don’t want to miss anything.

  71. Softly-with-a-Big-Stick says:

    I’ve had issues with Comcast and their lines and towers for years and every time I bring it up I’m told there is nothing I can do.

    See, I have property that in my 1947 Deed gives the POWER COMPANY easement to get to THEIR lines and poles. When Cable came out all of a sudden all the cable companies were using it, which among other things caused a lot more traffic in a private area.

    When I asked how they could do this, I was told the power company could give permission to use the easement. With a company as large as Comcast I should just forget trying to fight them. Not my style, but they convinced me.

    The way I see it they are using MY property without MY permission, climbing a pole where they have full view of my yard and home over an 8 foot privacy fence, and in my opinion are just a nuisance. If they want to use the pole on MY property to provide cable to my neighbors I’ll allow them access and use in exchange for FREE cable connection to my house. Yah, like that will ever happen.

    More to come…the Power Company has decided to bury the power line which most likely will mean moving their line to the FRONT of my property on the street. Will they abandon the pole? Take it with them? Or just leave it for Comcast to use?

    Trying to pick my battles, this one seems like a losing one. I’ve learned there is no such thing as “Private Property” in our society. Those of you who are not home during the day would be shocked at who “officially” enters your property and you never know.

    May have to get out my Big Stick if Comcast is the only one using the pole. That might be a whole new game.

  72. XTC46 says:

    @scoobydoo: most companies lease the lower space out to other people to help lower the cost. So it may be a comcast tower, who then subleses for cell companies or pager companies.

  73. Ganyon says:

    @Softly-with-a-Big-Stick:

    The power company didn’t give Comcast the right to your easement, the local franchising authority did. If Power is going to bury their lines odds are that Comcast will too and even if they didn’t you still wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. I imagine this why every piece of property (I’m sure there are exceptions, I just don’t know of any) has an easement so companies, whether it be power, phone or cable, can actually access their equipment.

  74. jwissick says:

    Give them 10 days to remove it then call a scrap yard or like the other idea, craigslist it after you remove all the copper and recycle it.

  75. mrsultana can't get a password to work says:

    Here’s a newer idea: use Consumerist for the opposite intent of the site!
    1) Search for the worst debt collection agency in America.
    2) Sell the debt to them.
    3) Give them every Comcast executive’s personal number for them to call an illegal amount of times a day to collect.
    (I’m not sure if this is an anti-executive carpet mail bomb or advocating illegal debt collection practices, but it would feel good)

  76. con-sue-md says:

    1. Find out what pager service is leasing space on the tower.
    2. Contact the pager company and inform them that their service will be interrupted and to contact Comcast for more info.
    3. Disconnect power.
    4. Collect back rent and let the negotiations begin.

  77. D-Bo says:

    @consumersaur: well played sir

  78. ywgflyer says:

    I wonder if Comcast ever notified the FAA to NOTAM the tower light unserviceable. U/S lights like that are the company’s responsibility to report in order to have a NOTAM filed for pilots (probably 80% of notams out there are for tower lights)…and IIRC, there’s a hefty fine for not doing so.

  79. skilled1 says:

    Simple solutions. At the gate, or entry to said location. Posted signs to read “NO TRESSPASSING” “BEWARE OF DOG” “TRESSPASSERS WILL BE SHOT”

    Also, I agree with just taking Comcast to court, lucky on their behalf they decided they would rather pay upfront about it.

    I would still keep the “TRESSPASSERS WILL BE SHOT” Sign up for good measure, and inform them that they need to make a call to you any time they wanted someone to take a look at the tower.

  80. Red_Eye says:

    Am I the only one who thinks;
    Ma and Pa rent out their land to Bubba Gump cable co for a pittance.

    Comcast buys out Bubba Gump.

    Ma and Pa say well hold on there fella we gotta rethink these here rates, yall have deeper pockets than Bubba.

    Comcast says screw you, there is a contract in place between you and Bubba and we bought Bubba’s comapny and its assets and walks away. Ma and Pa say well you can talk to our lawyers and Comcast says ok and informs their AR people to stop payment because once its between the lawyers they dont do diddly.

    Ma and Pa, feeling burned violate the patriot act and commit crimes against US air space, endangering innocent civilians because they weren’t able to gouge Comcast.

    Comcast just wants fair access to their asset which was part of the package when they bough Bubba out.

    Look I dont like Comcast anymore than the next dude but they are in the right on this one. Unless Ma and Pa have a Contract that states they can renegotiate at will they dont have a leg to stand on, if thats what they were trying to do. They now have a shiny new contract and can sue Comcast in small claims court if they dont pay.

  81. dirk1965 says:

    A cutting torch is all I would need!

    Red_Eye: Read the progression of the damn story! The family didn’t try to renegotiate until after Comcast hadn’t abided to the contract for 6 months. The family is well within their rights for breach of contract. What they should actually do is sue the pants off Comcast!

  82. psyop63b says:

    I’d love to see them sabotage or destroy the thing, but there may be civil liability for destroying Comcast’s equipment, even if it’s on your land.

    Try to get a court injunction to prohibit the use of the transmitter. Contact the FCC.

    Worst case, tell Comcast if they don’t work something out you’ll consider the transmitter as Comcast’s trash being left in your yard, and you will dispose of it.

  83. @Manok: Destruction of Property. It might be on your land, but it is still theirs.

    Now then, how about a few citable offenses filed with the police department in the trange of Criminal Trespass and a civil suit due to their failure to pay.

  84. LUV2CattleCall says:

    @KeithF:

    Not to nitpick, but it’s actually NOtice To AirMen…I screwed that one up on my PPL Oral exam so I thought I’d pass it on…. Also, apparently a Snowtam is a real thing.

  85. Anonymous says:

    WOW! That’s awesome. Y’know, they’re quick to the trigger to shut down your cable when you don’t pay. Then, the same goes to them. The lights should’ve been wired to another circuit so the Employee couldn’t use that excuse. Simply beautiful. I think you guys should start implementing fees of your own after this contract runs out.