Tales from a Tenant: The Fight for Free Cable

Last Updated on August 17, 2020

I’ve mentioned before that the rental market where I live is garbage and that the landlords are even worse. (I’m still fighting with my last one even though I moved out 2 months ago!) So I was looking forward to renting with a property management company with our new place. I had assumed that dealing with a professional business would make being a tenant a lot easier – but of course, that hasn’t been the case.

A big selling feature of the townhouse R and I chose was the fact that they were offering a year of free cable and internet as a promotion to get tenants in the off-season. (Who wants to move in the middle of winter?) Since hydro and gas are not included in our rent, we were excited to have at least one less bill to worry about. It’s also been years since either of us have had cable, so we were looking forward to the novelty of it.

Back in January, about a week and a half before our scheduled move-in date, I called up our rental agent to book an appointment to sign the lease* and get the keys.

(*Let me side track here a little. Yup – up until this point we had not signed a lease. We filled out an application and handed over a $1000 deposit equal to last month’s rent. Once we got the call saying that we were approved, we set up our gas and hydro accounts, booked a uHaul, and started changing our address without signing a damn thing. I don’t know how I didn’t realize how dumb this was until it was pointed out to me. Thankfully, everything worked out in that regard and this isn’t a tale in “how to get your deposit back when you didn’t sign a lease”.)

Any who, we set up the appointment and everything was on track – until I got a call the next morning telling me that they couldn’t offer the free year of cable and internet after all. Apparently there was a “misunderstanding” and management couldn’t reach a deal with the service provider. Instead, they were offering us 30% ($300) off first months rent or the 13th month rent free ($1000).

I was bummed, but thought “Hey, a free month of rent!” (There was no way in hell I was taking the $300 option! What a joke!) But R pointed out that taking this offer would mean it’d be more than a year before we reaped any benefit and that we’d be committing to living there an additional month. What if we hate it? What if we want to move? What if we break up?! (Not happening.) And I wasn’t impressed that they were trying to short-change us when I figured out that a year of basic cable and internet costs upwards of $1150. (Yikes.)

So I called them back and told them that this wasn’t going to fly. And then we spent another week waiting for them to return my calls, freaking out, and seriously considering moving elsewhere.

They finally got back to us – once we started throwing around the phrases “bait and switch” and “false advertising” – and let us know that they would be honouring the original promotion after all, but with a different cable company.

A whole 36 hours before we moved in. Ugh.

But the battle didn’t end there, my friends. No, no.

It took another 2 weeks before our cable and internet were finally connected. This included more unreturned phone calls, a bit of Facebook-shaming, them blaming the cable company (who had no idea we had already moved in), another “misunderstanding” regarding our internet options, and then a whole kerfuffle with the installation itself (which, as it turns out, takes about 4 hours not just 1).

The lesson? Speak up and fight for what was promised to you. Don’t settle for less because of someone’s mistake. And you probably shouldn’t hand over wads of cash to anyone without signing some sort of contract. If I had been doing this on my own, I would have backed down and settled for one of their lesser offers – and then bitched and complained about it for the whole year. Instead, thanks largely to R, I pretended to be an assertive person and we now spend our evenings slowly turning into television zombies. And we enjoy every free second of it.

What would you have done if you were in this situation?

Have you ever had to fight to get a company to honour a promotion?

Amanda Kay

Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.

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20 thoughts on “Tales from a Tenant: The Fight for Free Cable”

  1. That is pretty crappy! I tend to be a push over so I probably would have taken the lesser option too however chances are my husband would have pushed for it. I’m glad you did. It’s really not fair to pull that on you and even if they don’t get the “deal” they thought they would they can still pony up the free cable to keep their word whether they want to or not. I’m sure they were just hoping most would take the other option.

    • I’m so glad I wasn’t alone in this fight!

      If they hadn’t made the deal with another cable company, we would have been pushing for them to reduce our rent for the year, at least $100/month so that we would could pay for cable/internet ourselves (but not actually pay more overall). Thankfully it didn’t come to that because I don’t think it would have ended well!

  2. First – my boyfriend is also “R” and I have 2 cats as well! Awesome. That’s awful you had to go through all of that, though. I guess they didn’t think it was smart to make sure they could arrange the deal before promoting it. This is one of the things I am worried about with renting an apartment in a complex. I hear about a lot of empty promises. I totally would have fought for it after all that, and I’m glad everything finally worked out for you! I might have a story to share after we get another place to live…hopefully not a bad one.

    • Yay for R’s and 2 cat households!
      If you do go for any rental that has promotions, etc. – get everything in writing, and keep copies for yourself. Had this gone badly, it would have been so hard for us to fight because we handed everything over to them. We won’t be doing that again!

    • From what we’ve been able to tell since, upper-upper management seems to be fairly decent, and it’s the local office that’s dropping the ball. But yes, we now get everything in writing!

  3. Ugh that sucks! I’ve had some super dodgy landlords and it’s one of the reasons I can’t wait to buy and never have a landlord again.

    • Same. The rental market in Auckland sucks and I’ve had so many bad experiences not just with terrible houses but terrible LLs.

      If you like I could do a post detailing like my top 3 horror renting anecdotes! Probably can’t flesh a single one out for a whole post though.

      • Thanks so much! It would be awesome if you wanted to write a post. I’m pretty open and flexible with both the requirements and timing, so let me know what works for you 🙂

    • I’m quickly learning that it may not be my city that cursed with crappy landlords, after all. Everyone seems to have the same problem!
      And thank you so much for including this post in your Blog Love post!

  4. Whats up Amanda. Who needs cable when you can watch just about anything in the net, oh wait, i have cable hehe. Its true that they were using false advertising to lure people in. Good thing you fought for it because other people will fall for that trap. Justice is served. Retirement plans for dummies, don’t cheat people and be true to your word. How many channels does your cable have?

  5. My landlords have always been pretty decent, but honestly, I’ve only had two… Though, I suppose the first wasn’t that great because I had a leak in my ceiling that was dripping on my bed and all they did was put a drop cloth under it to funnel it to a bucket. And never fixed the huge paint rips as a result. After awhile I guess I forget about the details?

    I would have been so annoyed if they tried to offer me $300 instead of roughly $100/month for a year! Cable and internet are so expensive that we actually only have internet. Glad you got it all done, even if it was a total bait and switch, and then a huge headache.

    • Oh for sure! I forgot about most of my landlord nightmares until I started thinking about starting this blog series – then they all came rushing back. Although, I never had any instances like “fixing” a leak with a bucket.

      I doubt we’ll keep the cable once we have to pay for it. It’s awesome to have, but not worth the cost these days.

  6. Ahhh… the free internet or tv scam. Quite common in these parts. I just assume landlords are lying when they say that they offer free internet and cable!

  7. Hey Amanda and glad you got it all worked out in the end. I would have been like you without R and probably would have just said “ah, don’t worry about it guys. I understand!”

    Thankfully in Montreal, we have a great third party landlord/tenant system that either party can use when s**t like this happens!

    Personally though, I’ve never seen rental ads that feature cable or internet as part of an incentive deal, but it’s not like I check up on these things daily! I have however, in the past, been fortunate to move into an apartment that for some reason still had cable, even though the last tenant had cancelled it. That was a sweet ten month free cable gift 🙂

    Take care Amanda and enjoy the novelty! All the best.


    • Hi Lyle.
      I don’t think the promo deals are common, but most of the landlords I have experience with only own one or two buildings. Our current property managers own probably 40 townhouses, and have a “headquarters” office down in Toronto. So I’m assuming they are quite the large company and can afford to offer promotions?
      I also once had “free cable” after the tenant before me cancelled it. It was only a handful of channels, but I got to see “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” each week 🙂

      • Hey Amanda…

        “I also once had “free cable” after the tenant before me cancelled it. It was only a handful of channels, but I got to see “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” each week :)” – How cool is that!! Those kinds of things make life that much sweeter 🙂

        Take care and all the best.


  8. You were in serious trouble and it is a big hassle to run after the company for the things which they promised. But If I were in this this situation then I might have taken the 30% option.

  9. Unfortunate that you were in this situation to begin with. Having said that, I would have pushed for them to honour the agreement as well. Glad that it worked out in the end. Or did it?

    Do you like the place?

    Besos, Sarah
    Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo


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