By: Helsing Admin
HOA restrictions on the placement of satellite dishes are a common concern for association members. In 1996 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules for Over-the-Air Reception Devices (“OTARD” Rules). These rules protect a property owner’s right to install, maintain or use an antenna to receive video programming from direct broadcast satellites and some other distribution services. You can read the FCC guidelines directly here, and I would encourage you to do so. In summary, however, the rules as they apply to common interest subdivisions is that if it is your property, you can basically install a satellite antenna of 39.37 inches or less.
If you live in a community association, however, some confusion may exist regarding your property rights and HOA restrictions. If you own a single-family home, your property is pretty easy to figure out. If you live in a “townhome”, your property depends on if your townhome is mapped as a condominium or if you own the structure and the land it sits on. If you own the structure and the land it sits on, then generally speaking you can put your antenna where you desire. The association can adopt HOA restrictions, but quite frankly they are very narrow and very difficult to enforce. So, if you are a Board member considering adopting rules that affect single family home or townhomes where the homeowner owns the structure, you should make sure any proposed rules get a good legal review – quite frankly, there is very little you can do to control where the owner places the antenna. The OTARD rules also make it clear that it is ownership that drives this issue, not maintenance responsibility. So, in the situations we are talking about here it does not matter if the association maintains the roof or the siding; if the owner owns it they can put a dish on it. The association should address through rules what happens if the dish needs to be removed for maintenance.
If your home is a condominium (townhome or otherwise), and your unit is the traditional type where you own from the back of the interior paint to the back of the interior paint – then the structure (which includes the walls and roof) is not your individual property and the association can prohibit the installation of satellite dishes on the structure, or roof. For the purpose of the OTARD rules, however, exclusive use common area is considered your property and you may put a dish in your exclusive use common area. Typically, however, your exclusive use common area stops at the exterior wall of the building, the floor of the deck, and the inner boundary of the patio railings. That pretty much limits the owner from installing the dish on anything but a stand-alone tripod without permission, and does allow the association to prohibit the owner from allowing the wiring to penetrate the building, or for the dish to overhang the outer boundary of the patio or deck. In short, if you live in a condominium, don’t be penetrating the building surfaces until you find out what restrictions the association has in place. If you live in a condominium and the unit boundary happens to be to the exterior of the building (yes, that does happen and not that rarely) then the structure is the homeowner’s and…you guessed it, you can probably put your antenna on the structure because you own it.
The bottom line – ownership is the key. Firstly, make sure you know what you own. Secondly, see what HOA restrictions your community may have on satellite dishes. If you own your structure, chances are there will be few or no restrictions, and if there are prohibitions they can probably be challenged. If you don’t own it, dishes can probably be (and probably are) prohibited.
The Helsing Group, Inc.
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