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Satellite Dish Rules
By Scott A. Hunter, J.D.

Satellite Dish Rules
By Scott A. Hunter, J.D.

Are satellite dishes springing up everywhere in your development?  Is your association losing the battle against the dish?

The Federal Telecommunications Act was adopted in 1996.  The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted certain rules pursuant to the Act.  That Act and FCC rules override any contrary State or local laws, as well as contrary association rules and CC&Rs.  In this newsletter, we will examine some of the types of rules your association can and cannot adopt to help maintain the aesthetic appeal of your development.

Size of Dish.   Your association can prohibit all satellite dishes larger than one meter (39.37 inches) in diameter.  Most satellite dishes installed within associations are much smaller, usually about 18” to 24” in diameter.  However, larger dishes of up to one meter in diameter can be installed, as long as there is no violation of your association’s other rules.

Location.  Your association must allow satellite dishes to be installed within an owner’s separate interest (unit or lot), or in exclusive use common area.  Your association may, however, dictate the general location of the dish.

A.  Single Family Homes:  This means that owners of single family homes in an association may install their satellite dish on their own lot or residence.

However, the Association may dictate the general area within the lot or residence where the satellite dish must be located, as long as that location does not: 
(1) unreasonably delay the installation, maintenance, or use; (2) unreasonably increase the cost of the installation, maintenance, or use; or (3) preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.  For example, your association’s rules may require that the dish be located in the back yard and reasonably screened from view as long as that does not unreasonably delay the installation, unreasonably increase the cost, or preclude quality reception.

B.   Condominiums:  Condominium associations must allow installation of a satellite dish within the unit or the “exclusive use common area” adjacent to the unit, including areas such as a balcony, patio or private yard area.  The rules can state the preferred location for the installation, so as to reduce the visual impact of the satellite dish.  Again, this preferred location may not unreasonably delay the installation, unreasonably increase the cost, or preclude quality reception.  Your condominium association’s rules may also prohibit a dish from protruding into the common area.  For example, if a satellite dish is installed on a condominium balcony, then your association can prohibit the dish from extending beyond the boundaries of the balcony and into the common area airspace.  Your condominium association can also prohibit the installation of satellite dishes in the common areas of the Association, such as on the roof, chimney, or walls—this is true even if an owner cannot get a signal from their unit or exclusive use common area.

Screening From View.   Your association may require that the dish be painted to match its surroundings or to be reasonably screened from the view of others, as long as this does not unreasonably delay the installation, unreasonably increase the cost, or preclude quality reception.

Safety Concerns and Installation.    Your association may adopt rules to comply with clearly-defined safety concerns, such as fire code or safety code concerns.  Your association’s rules can require that the installation meet applicable fire and safety code requirements.  Additionally, your rules can prohibit an owner from drilling into or through the exterior of the condominium buildings, roofs, balconies, etc.  However, your rules may not require professional installation.

Prior Approval Not Allowed.   Your association cannot require approval from the association prior to the installation of the satellite dish.  Therefore, it is imperative that your association have reasonable rules in place which the owners can follow.  Prior “notification” to your association may be allowed, as long as it does not interfere with any other rule.  A rule which requires an owner to notify your association 7 days prior to the installation will likely be enforceable.  Prior approval may be required for well-defined safety issues or historic preservation purposes.

Multiple Dishes.   If multiple dishes are necessary for an owner’s desired services or channels, then multiple dishes must be allowed, as long as the owner has complied with all other association rules.

Tenants May Install a Dish.   Tenants and owners have the same rights regarding satellite dish installation.  A rule cannot prohibit a renter from installing a dish as long as the installation otherwise complies with your association’s rules.  A tenant cannot be required to obtain the prior consent of the landlord owner.  However, the landlord owner may impose further rules upon his or her tenant.

(2) the signal quality of transmission to and from the person's home using the central antenna is as good as, or better than, the quality the person could receive or transmit with an individual antenna covered by the rule; (3) the costs associated with the use of the central antenna are not greater than the costs of installation, maintenance and use of an individual antenna covered under the rule; and (4) the requirement to use the central antenna instead of an individual antenna does not unreasonably delay the viewer's ability to receive video programming or fixed wireless services.” (FCC Fact Sheet, July 2005)

If your association desires to install a central common area dish and require that owners remove existing individual dishes, then your association will generally need to pay for the costs of the removal.

Internet Satellite Dish.   A satellite dish designed to receive and transmit data and/or voice, including internet service, must comply with the same rules as a regular “television” satellite dish.

Commercial and Industrial Associations.   The same rules and requirements can be imposed on owners in commercial or industrial associations.

Burden of Proof.    If  an owner brings a legal challenge to your association rules, your association has the burden to show that the rules are enforceable and in compliance with the FCC rules.

Preparing Satellite Dish Rules.    Your association’s satellite dish rules must be in writing.  If you would like assistance in preparing satellite dish rules that comply with FCC rules, please feel free to contact us at (805)322-0410 or shunter@hunterlaw.net.

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