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Pennsylvania Ops Win Apartment-Access Case

Operators in Pennsylvania can honor service requests by tenants without paying long-term tribute to landlords, a state Superior Court judge reconfirmed.

Operators must pay property owners for losing property value for the "permanent installation" of plant only, according to a decision late last month by Superior Court Judge J. Musmanno.

A state act, the Pennsylvania Tenant's Right to Cable Television Act, was passed in the early 1990s to clarify the rights of operators in regard to property access and compensation and to protect consumers from becoming hostage to landlords' exclusivity deals. It also sets a time line during which operators and landlords are to react to one another.

But when Adelphia Cablevision Associates of Radnor L.P. contacted a property owner late in 1994 to initiate a premises inspection in response to tenant requests, it was refused, according to the lawsuit. At issue is access to the Rosemont Plaza and Radcliffe House Apartments in Radnor Township.

The property owner, University City Housing Co., later consented to a meeting in 1995 and asked the cable company to present a memorandum addressing issues related to the proposed inspection. These included the possibility of asbestos removal, Occupational Health and Safety Administration requirements, site security and compensation for physical damage Adelphia responded by filing a complaint against the property owner, citing state law that the operator was responsible only for physical damage. No other compensation is to be discussed.

Attorneys for the property holder gave notice that they would challenge the constitutionality of the state law. As that was pending, the lower-court dispute proceeded.

In 1999, the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County ordered UCHC to grant Adelphia access. Employees were to inspect the property by April 30, 1999. Within 30 days of the inspection, the operator was to file a report with the property owner so that they could begin negotiation on the actual installation. But UCHC appealed.

The property owner's attorneys argued that the state law amounted to an unlawful taking of private property, as laid out in the Fifth Amendment.