Suspending Cable and Internet
A frequent question we are asked is “can an association suspend a delinquent owner’s access to cable and Internet?” While there has not been an appellate court ruling on the issue, it seems the inevitable trend is that cable and Internet will be considered a core/necessary utility and thus not subject to suspension from the association. The purpose of this post is to point to a recent memo from the White House that supports this overall trend.
Most association directors are aware that the Condominium Act and the Homeowners Association Act both allow the association to suspend a delinquent owner’s use of common elements and common facilities. See Fla. Stat. § 718.303 & 720.305. However, both preface this by saying the suspension does not apply to common areas used to provide access or utility services to the unit/parcel. Unfortunately, neither section defines the term “utility service.”
In the landlord/tenant world, utilities include gas, heat, electricity, water and sewer. There is little dispute that those core utilities also apply to community associations but what about cable and Internet?
Last month the White House put out an article about the transition of broadband Internet from luxury to necessity. From baby boomers to millennials, few people can go through their day without accessing the cable or Internet. It has taken the place of maps, libraries, newspapers, and generally every other form of communication. It is clear the trend these days is that Internet and cable are becoming less of an amenity and more of a “core utility.”
Several government programs are already in place to help extend the use of broadband Internet to poor and rural communities, including the creation of the Broadband Opportunity Council that was set up by President Obama and works alongside the FCC. This article put forth by the White House is not binding, but it does show a clear trend in the way that the government is thinking about the Internet.
It seems that there is every indication that the momentum is to accommodate an increasingly technological world. As such, it is my recommendation that associations use other means of collecting past due assessments rather than suspending access to cable and internet.