Condominiums and Satellite Dishes
A consistent request received by board members and community managers is the installation of satellite dishes. Often times, we hear a phrase along the lines of “we know we can’t prohibit the installation of a satellite dish, but can we limit its placement?” Generally, this is true, but what happens when your community is a condominium building without patios and balconies? Satellite dishes (of one meter or less in diameter) used to receive video signals are subject to a Federal Statute known as the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (the “Act”). Section 207 of the Act adopts the Over-the-Air Reception Devices (“OTARD”) rule.
The OTARD rule prohibits most restrictions that:
unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use;
unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use; or
preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.
Effective January 22, 1999, the Act protects viewers who place video antennas on property that they own or property within their exclusive use or control, including owners who have an area to which they have exclusive use, such as a balcony or patio.
An association may prohibit the satellite dishes on any common areas within the community where the antenna user does not have an exclusive use area. The OTARD rule only applies to property owned by the antenna user or that is within that user’s exclusive use or control. Therefore, an association may prohibit installation on the roof or exterior wall of the condominium building. Additionally, the OTARD rule does not prohibit restrictions on antennas installed beyond the balcony or patio of a condominium unit if such installation is in, on, or over a common area (breaking the plane). Therefore, installations on top of the railing may be prohibited if the dish hangs over the common area. The antenna must be wholly within the exclusive use area, such as the balcony or patio.
Community associations should always be cautious when attempting to enforce restrictions on the placement of satellite dishes, and questions on whether a restriction could lead to a FCC violation should be directed to the association’s legal counsel for review.