Coach says provider demanded he pay for cable box destroyed in fire

Coach says provider demanded he pay for cable box destroyed in fire (Image 1)

A Belmont baseball coach who lost everything in a house fire earlier this month says his local communications provider demanded he pay for a cable box destroyed in the blaze.

The devastating fire, which claimed the life of the family's dog, broke out on the morning of October 8 at Coach Matt Barnett's La Vergne home.

“The house was a total loss. The only thing we got out of there was the clothes on our backs,” Barnett told Nashville's News 2 Investigates.

One day after the fire, Barnett called TDS, his cable and Internet provider, and told them he no longer needed their service.

“I spoke about the fire and told them I no longer had service so they suspended the service from that point forward, but they never mentioned the cable boxes, so I didn't worry about it,” he said.

Barnett continued, “I called to get service at my new house in Smyrna and they don't offer service in Smyrna, so I said then I have to cancel the service. They said, ‘Well, we will have to charge you a $225 cancellation fee.' Then five minutes later they called my wife and said, ‘Oh, by the way, turn in your cable box and pay $750 in equipment.'”

Barnett said he immediately contacted the service provider and explained to them the cable equipment was lost in the fire.

“I can't turn this in, I said. You should have told me this on the first phone call when I could have included it in my insurance. I neglected to write down the cable box. That never crossed my mind. They never said I should so I turned in my insurance claims sheets without listing that. This is the last thing on my mind when I'm going through every room in my house and I'm trying to replace everything.”

On Barnett's behalf, Nashville's News 2 Investigates contacted TDS about the $1,000 added to the family's bill.

Within an hour, a spokesperson called back and said the balance had been removed from Barnett's bill and said it was resolved on Thursday despite Barnett saying no on from the company had communicated that information to him.

“It's a terribly tragic situation and we look at each situation independently,” TDS Spokesperson Cindy Tomlinson said. “We are sorry he has had to go through this situation.”

A residential insurance agent told News 2 that most homeowners insurance plans should cover the cost of satellite and cable equipment damaged in a fire.

An official with Comcast did not respond to a request for information on the company's policy on charging customers for equipment damaged in fire.

DirecTV has prices listed on its website for the amount charged for damaged receivers and remote controls. An HD DVR receiver can cost as much as $135 to replace.

A Dish Network employee says customers are always responsible for damaged equipment.

A fund has been established for Barnett and his family. Cash and gift cards to local retailers can be dropped off in the athletic offices within the Curb Event Center or sent to the Belmont Baseball office at:

Belmont University Baseball
ATTN: Coach Barnett donations
1900 Belmont Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37212-3757

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