When it comes to satellite dishes in HOA communities, there are certain regulations that apply. Whether you're a homeowner or a board member, it is important to understand these regulations.
When it comes to satellite dishes in HOA communities, there are certain regulations that apply. Whether you’re a homeowner or a board member, it is important to understand these regulations.
Although the age of streaming services is in full swing, there are still homeowners who tune in to broadcast television. To get a good signal, broadcast television often requires the installation of satellite dishes or antennas. Typically, these satellite dishes or antennas sit at the highest point of a home, such as a roof or a balcony. For homes in HOA communities, though, homeowners don’t have complete freedom on architectural changes or additions.
Homeowners associations are notorious for regulating — or even outright prohibiting — certain alterations. For example, an HOA may prohibit owners from building sheds or fences. But, when it comes to satellite dishes, federal and state laws do offer some protection.
At the federal level, these protections come in the form of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule (OTARD Rule). Both the Telecommunications Act and the OTARD Rule prohibit homeowners associations from banning the installation of satellite dishes and antennas.
Several states have also enacted their own laws protecting the rights of homeowners to install and use satellite dishes in HOA communities. One example is California under Civil Code Section 4725.
The OTARD Rule prohibits HOAs from imposing restrictions that impede a resident’s ability to install, maintain, or use a satellite dish or antenna covered by the rule. This rule not only applies to homeowners associations and condominiums but also to government entities.
According to the rule, a restriction impedes if it:
Restrictions prohibited under the OTARD Rule are considered void and unenforceable in homeowners associations.
The OTARD Rule does not completely strip away an association’s power to place restrictions on satellite dishes in HOA communities. Homeowners associations can still enforce legitimate safety restrictions related to satellite dishes and antennas. This is true even if the safety restriction impedes a resident’s ability to install, maintain, or use the dish. However, the restriction must be necessary to preserve public safety.
Additionally, associations can also enforce restrictions that support historic preservation. As with safety restrictions, historic preservation restrictions also apply even if they impede the installation, maintenance, and use of the satellite dish. To impose such restrictions, HOAs must qualify for historic preservation. This means the community must have a property, site, structure, or object that belongs to the National Register of Historic Places (or is at least eligible for inclusion).
Both types of exemptions must pose no additional burden than necessary to ensure safety or achieve historic preservation.
You may wonder whether an HOA can limit the number of satellite dishes on a single property. According to the FCC, a rule may not allow only a single antenna if more than one is needed to transmit and receive service.
Homeowners associations have common areas that are open to all members. These can include parking lots, walking trails, swimming pools, clubhouses, and fitness centers. And, in general, homeowners can’t install satellite dishes in common areas owned by the HOA. Federal and state laws only give homeowners the right to do so on their own property or in exclusive common areas.
Speaking of exclusive common areas, it is important to define what counts as such in an association’s governing documents. If the CC&Rs say that townhome roofs are exclusive common areas, then owners can install satellite dishes there as dictated by an FCC declaratory ruling.
One of the pitfalls of living in an HOA community is that owners don’t have the liberty to make architectural changes as they please. This is in stark contrast to homeowners who live outside of such communities. But, this pitfall is also an advantage.
The purpose of an HOA’s architectural guidelines is to protect property value. Associations want to maintain a certain aesthetic for their neighborhoods in order to preserve their character. This, in turn, enhances curb appeal and boosts property values in the community.
As a homeowner, you naturally want to protect perhaps one of the biggest investments of your life. Property value is not only dictated by your own home but it can also be affected by your neighbors’ homes. With an HOA ensuring everyone mows their lawn and maintains their property, you’re more likely to keep the value of your property high.
If residents want to install satellite dishes in HOA homes, they will usually need to go through an approval process. This is the same process that owners have to go through when they want to make other architectural changes.
But, what does this process entail? While the exact steps can vary from one association to another, this process typically involves the following:
Satellite dishes in HOA communities are becoming less of a common sight. Still, that does not mean associations can ban them altogether. Homeowners do have a right under federal and state laws to install and use satellite dishes or antennas. Understanding these laws is imperative in ensuring the HOA stays out of trouble.
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