Please understand that the information discussed in this Memorandum is general in nature and is not intended to be legal advice. It is intended to assist owners and managers in understanding this issue area, but it may not apply to the specific fact circumstances or business situations of all owners and managers. You may need to consult applicable state and local laws. For specific legal advice, consult your attorney. Because this Memorandum discusses potential legal strategies, please do not distribute it outside of your organization.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given apartment residents the right to install a satellite dish of one meter or less in diameter (or a traditional stick-type antenna) providing that the dish (which hereinafter includes both dish and stick-type) is mounted within the confines of the leased premises (FCC 98-273, issued November 20, 1998). This reception device can be used both to send and to receive signals.
The resident has a right to install a dish to receive a signal, but the resident does not have an absolute right to receive a signal. Practically speaking, because satellites are located in the sky above the southern hemisphere, the FCC Order will usually pertain only to residents who have a balcony or patio that faces south.
The FCC has specifically ruled that its Order does not pertain to common areas. A resident does not have a right to mount a dish on common area ground. Thus, a resident may not mount a dish on an outside wall, a common stairwell, the roof or eaves, or outside the windowsill. Also, a resident on the south side of the building cannot feed a cable to another resident who otherwise cannot get a signal.
A property owner may reasonably restrict a resident from mounting a dish in an unsafe manner such as on an overly elongated vertical pole or an extension device that hangs out over a balcony.
A property owner may prohibit the drilling of any holes through an outside wall, window, or fire wall that enable the resident to then hook up to the inside television. The resident will have to use a cable that goes under a sliding door or something similar. A dish may be clamped to a balcony railing, but the drilling of holes can be prohibited.
While a resident may install as many dishes as he/she wishes within the leased premise space, the property owner may require that the dishes not be obtrusive (so long as a signal can be received). Similarly, the property owner may require that the dish be painted a color that meshes with the building’s exterior color or be masked so long as the signal is not impaired.
It is not unreasonable to require a separate refundable security/damage deposit of $100 (perhaps up to $400) because drilling through fire walls can result in very costly damage.
Property owners might want to request that a resident obtain some kind of liability insurance to cover the result of a falling dish if the property owner is not otherwise covered through its blanket property policy. Such a request must be reasonable. Do not request insurance for this if you are covered or already allow other potentially dangerous objects such as flower pots to be placed on balconies.
An apartment community owner does not have the right to require installation by a professional, and the apartment owner does not have the right to approve an installation plan in advance. However, we do encourage apartment owners to educate residents on safe and secure installations and each installation should be inspected after-the-fact (and remedial action taken/demanded if necessary) to enforce safety concerns.
Centralized Dish Systems
An apartment community may prohibit individual dishes under certain circumstances when the community provides programming to residents through a central dish system. Individual dishes may be prohibited if: (1) the centralized dish provides residents with the programming they want; (2) the cost for use of the centralized dish is not greater than the cost of an individual dish (for comparison purposes, the cost of an individual dish should include the monthly cost of programming, the amortized cost of the dish plus installation, and possibly some amortization of the amount of the damage deposit); and (3) the resident does not need/want a dish to transmit in addition to receiving.
Full DocumentFCC Satellite Rules
- San Francisco Files Appeal of FCC Preemption of Wire-Sharing Rule
- FCC Preempts San Francisco’s Article 52 and Seeks Input on MDU Triple Play Agreements, DAS Arrangements, and Rooftop Leases
- NMHC's Kevin Donnelly Appointed to FCC Working Group
- The FCC’s Confusing Attempt to Change a San Francisco Law
- FCC Issues Proposed Rule on Broadband in Multifamily