Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Help Me Howard: ClearChannel
You might have heard of a neighbor putting a portion of a fence, maybe some trash on someone else's property -- but have you ever heard of a company putting a massive billboard on someone's property? It's true. Now the problem -- they didn't want to pay for it and didn't even want to acknowledge it. So the property owner did what smart South Floridians do -- he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Frank Fugy sells used cars.
Frank Fugy: "This car is going to Virginia."
But he doesn't sell them from a car lot -- instead over the internet.
Frank Fugy: "And we now use exclusively eBay Motors and built up a great reputation and now we are selling cars all over the world."
With demand soaring, Frank decided to build a new facility on property he acquired from his father-in-law.
And that's when he unearthed a little surprise.
Frank Fugy: "We had to slow up the project because of the sign."
The sign Frank is talking about is this ClearChannel billboard. Look at it and look at Frank's property line.
Frank Fugy: "The property starts right at the flags here. It goes straight down to the end, from the pole over. About 95 percent of that sign is on our property."
Frank did two surveys to confirm it.
The news shocked his father-in-law who had owned the land since the mid-80's.
Ed Goodman: "How many rent checks have you gotten from this billboard?"
Frank Fugy: "I haven't got a one."
Ed Goodman: "Did you know it was on your property?"
Frank Fugy: "At the time, no."
Ed was always told the billboard was on the convenience store's property.
So, in March, the contractor started trying to get in touch with ClearChannel.
"Scott ignored us completely."
In June, Frank's attorney sent this letter telling them the billboard was on Frank's property and he wanted the encroachment removed -- but nothing happened.
Frank Fugy: "That's why I called Help Me Howard. My attorney said, 'That's a great idea.'"
Frank says the billboard has to go, so he can get his new facility built.
But, of course it can stay, if ClearChannel wants to pay.
Frank Fugy: "I would like to see the sign moved -- or if they want it, good -- just pay us the rent that is owed to us. Either way, move it or pay."
But what can you do to a company that you think has a billboard on your property?
Let's talk to the guy you never want to see on a billboard.
Howard Finkelstein: "First of all, even though it's been there a long time, judges frown upon what the law calls 'self-help' -- don't tear it down. As for back rent, that portion of the law could take years in court to sort out. The simple, easy solution -- it's ClearChannel's billboard on Frank's property, and they have to pay rent immediately."
When I called ClearChannel in San Antonio, Texas, they referred me to a PR person in New York who told me we have no comment on whether our billboard is on his property.
But finally things started happening.
ClearChannel agreed to pay frank $6,000 for using the property for the last year and then $500 a month to keep their billboard there for the next three years.
Frank is happy.
"We keep a hundred car inventory."
He can continue to expand his internet car business -- and with a ClearChannel check in his pocket -- add more pins to the map of his customers.
Frank Fugy: "We have our pins here, and it's quite impressive to see where these people will travel from. It's amazing to see how far people will travel for a good quality used car."
Patrick Fraser: "Technically, Frank could have tried to get back-rent for several years. But the risk there -- the billboard company could argue it had been there so long that they owned the right to stay for free. That's why compromises are often the best solution -- and how did it get there in the first place? It happened decades ago, and the people and paperwork to answer that question are not around."
A problem plastered in front of you, want to remove it completely? Contact us. We don't advertise it, but we like to help people.
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