Typical folk-lore that results from half-reading California PUC rules.
After wiring on the customer side of the NID became the customer's property and responsibility to maintain, the California PUC established some state rules pertaining to inside wiring. The rule on-point is that the landlord is the owner of inside wiring in rental untils, not the tenants. So, either through a SBC maintenace program, an outside maintenance program, or on his own, the landlord has to keep the inside wiring (and presumably one jack) in good repair.
Whether dial tone is established on that viable pair is not the landlord's obligation in any manner. That is a service that the tenant has to decide to provide for himself. Now, California also has highly subsidized basic dial tone service for those who certify an income below a threshold level, that varies with the number of household dependants. But, there is still a small monthly fee and it is strictly up to the tenant whether he wants to pay that low fee for dial tone.
There is nothing mandatory about providing this "life-line" subsidized service except on the part of the LEC and then only if the subscriber orders it and qualifies by certification. None of this has anything to do with the landlord in any case. The low-cost "life-line" service is subsidized by all other California wireline subscribers, who do not qualify for socialized telephone service.
A more interesting twist is where the property has affluent renters and perhaps some of them want multiple phone lines, which the landlord cannot practically provide. I believe it has thus far been the practice of the CAL PUC to force this inside wiring mandate for only one line per rental unit. But, I could be wrong on that one.[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: As I read the original thread here, I was of the impression it was not the wire pair(s) in question, it was getting dial tone on that pair which telco would not supply because of a billing dispute with a previous tenant. Telco could care less about the wire pair; run as many of them as you wish, but then get telco to interconnect. Was I wrong on this assumption? PAT]