Monday, November 9, 2009

Dealing with satellite dishes in your community?

Have you seen a crop of satellite dishes sprouting in your community? Are some of them in unusual places? Have some been installed without obtaining board approval, or worse installed by a tenant in a unit where the owner is delinquent?

Be careful you understand what your board can and can't do under federal law with regard to satellite dishes. The first thing you need to know is that the telecommunications industry has one of the strongest lobbies on the planet. Their strength resulted in Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt the Over-the-Air Reception Devices (OTARD) rule concerning restrictions on viewers' ability to receive programming signals from, among other items, direct broadcast satellites.

That rule which has been in effect since October, 1996, prohibits restrictions by both governmental and nongovernmental entities that impair the installation, maintenance or use of satellite dishes that are less than one meter (39.37") in diameter. In the community association context, the association cannot pass rules that (i) unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use of the satellite dish (ii) unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use; or (iii) preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.

Be sure to speak with your association attorney to ensure that any rules you may have passed with regard to the approval process for satellite dishes, location of same or placement of concealing shrubs passes muster under the FCC Rules.

This does not mean that owners can install satellite dishes on the roof or by affixing them to the building's exterior. In fact, a condominium or cooperative owner can only install a dish pursuant to the OTARD rule to areas that are "within their exclusive use or control". Typically, that refers to a balcony or patio. Another alternative for a community that wants to prevent the installation of hundreds of individual satellite dishes is to install a community satellite dish subject, of course, to membership approval.


  1. Ah, This is exactly what I was looking for! Puts to bed
    some misnomers I've read

  2. I am still at a loss. This means my hoa cannot deny me me the right to put up a dish as long as it is on my back patio and under 1 meter?