Although it is difficult to determine who is winning the race between cable companies and dish networks, there can be no question that more and more residents are opting to get their entertainment through a satellite dish. Can the manager refuse to let the resident install a satellite dish? Are there any restrictions?
The Federal Communications Commission
In 1998, the Federal Communications Commission enacted rules to help TV viewers (and the satellite television industry). The rules prohibit unreasonable restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of satellite dishes that are less than one meter (39") in diameter. The rules state that a manager cannot unreasonably deny a resident from having a satellite dish on the premises that is within the leasehold and under the exclusive use or control of the resident. The rules apply to managers, homeowners' associations, and condo associations (among others).
Placement of the Dish
The manager cannot stop the resident from erecting a dish if it is placed in an area that is under the exclusive control of the resident. That means areas where only the resident (and no one else) has the right to be present. Premises include the interior of the unit, balconies, balcony railings, terraces, patios, yards or gardens.
Premises DO NOT include outside walls, roofs (unless they are under a resident’s exclusive control), window sills, or other common areas. If the resident wants to erect the satellite dish in a common area, then the manager can prohibit the dish.
In the case of a condominium, all property is considered to be common area except the air space of the units and the portions designated as limited common elements (such as a patio or balcony). In other words, condominiums may restrict satellite dishes from being in the common areas. However, the resident has the protection of federal law if he wants to install the dish within the boundaries of the condo unit.
The resident is liable for any liability arising from the installation of a satellite dish. This is because the dish is located only in a location that under the exclusive control of the resident. The FCC includes this in its rules.
A manager can require that the installation of a satellite dish be done in a way that does not damage the premises. A manager can prohibit drilling holes in walls, using nails or screws, piercing roofs, or causing any damage more than ordinary wear and tear. Clamps or straps should be permitted.
Hopefully, the lease requires the resident to obtain written consent of the manager before beginning any alteration. Such a provision would give the manager a way to protect his property. Property managers should check for installation equipment, and if present, take photos.
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