Ask Amy: Family says AT&T tech drilled hole through pipe to run cable

HOUSTON – Whether it's a broken window from a landscaper or a scratched floor from an appliance delivery person, when a business damages your personal property, you have a limited amount of time to get them to repair the problem.

One Houston couple called consumer expert Amy Davis when they thought a major company was dragging its feet to avoid having to fix their mistake. 

Jesse Sparks and his wife just wanted faster internet from AT&T. While they did get that, they also got a leak, black mold and then the cold shoulder from the company.

"It should have been a simple procedure, and it's turned into this gigantic headache," said Sparks.

The headache lasted for more than a year.

When an AT&T technician installed a battery pack in the Sparks' garage in 2017, no one noticed any problems. Later, the Sparks noticed a wet spot near their air-conditioning unit outside the garage, but they had no reason to believe it was related to the tech's work.

"We were told maybe there was a leak coming from a pipe underground, (or) maybe it was the AC," Sparks said. "So, we had the A/C and the pipes underground checked when they couldn't figure out the problem."

Months later, a plumber found the leak coming from a drainage pipe behind a wall in the garage. When they opened the wall up, they discovered the AT&T tech had drilled a hole in the pipe to run a cable through it to the other side of the wall.

For months, the pipe leaked inside the wall. By the time the Sparks realized it, and a plumber found it, the inside of the wall was filled with black mold.

Sparks said he paid the plumber to stop the leak and then filed a claim with AT&T on May 2 to mitigate the mold and repair this damage to his home. Days and weeks passed with no response from the company. 

"It was cheaper for them to string us along, string us along ... until the statute of limitations has passed and they're not liable for it," Sparks said.

Since February, dozens of people have written to Davis saying they have been waiting months for AT&T to pay up for damages caused to underground sewer, electric and water lines. Each time Davis calls, AT&T quickly responds.

The telecom company had a check for $8,400 sent to the Sparks within a week after Davis' call.

When Davis asked officials at AT&T what took so long in the Sparks' case a spokesperson emailed the following statement:

"We investigate damage complaints and address any outstanding issues. In this case, once we received all the information from the homeowner, we resolved the claim."

In Texas, the statute of limitations is two years from the date the damage was caused. If that date is nearing and you still have not received the repairs or money to make the repairs from the business, you should consider filing in small claims court. Before that time, reaching out to the Better Business Bureau or filing a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office may help. You can speed up the time it takes to process your claim by getting estimates of how much it will cost to repair that damage. When you file the claim, include the estimates so the company knows how much it will take to fix the damage it caused.