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FCC Satellite Dish Q & A - Part 2

Q: Whose antenna restrictions are prohibited? A: The rule applies to restrictions imposed by local governments, including zoning, land-use or building regulations; by homeowner, townhome, condominium or cooperative association rules, including deed restrictions, covenants, by-laws and similar restrictions; and by manufactured housing (mobile home) park owners and landlords, including lease restrictions. The rule only applies to restrictions on property where the viewer has an ownership or leasehold interest and exclusive use or control.
Q: If I live in a condominium or an apartment building, does this rule apply to me? A: The rule applies to antenna users who live in a multiple dwelling unit building, such as a condominium or apartment building, if the antenna user has an exclusive use area in which to install the antenna. 'Exclusive use' means an area of the property that only you, and persons you permit, may enter and use to the exclusion of other residents. For example, your condominium or apartment may include a balcony, terrace, deck or patio that only you can use, and the rule applies to these areas. The rule does not apply to common areas, such as the roof, the hallways, the walkways or the exterior walls of a condominium or apartment building. Restrictions on antennas installed in these common areas are not covered by the Commission's rule. For example, the rule would not apply to restrictions that prevent drilling through the exterior wall of a condominium or rental unit and thus restrictions may prohibit installation that requires such drilling.
Q: Does the rule apply to condominiums or apartment buildings if the antenna is installed so that it hangs over or protrudes beyond the balcony railing or patio wall? A: No. The rule does not prohibit restrictions on antennas installed beyond the balcony or patio of a condominium or apartment unit if such installation is in, on, or over a common area. An antenna that extends out beyond the balcony or patio is usually considered to be in a common area that is not within the scope of the rule. Therefore, the rule does not apply to a condominium or rental apartment unit unless the antenna is installed wholly within the exclusive use area, such as the balcony or patio.
Q: Does the fact that management or the association has the right to enter these areas mean that the resident does not have exclusive use? A: No. The fact that the building management or the association may enter an area for the purpose of inspection and/or repair does not mean that the resident does not have exclusive use of that area. Likewise, if the landlord or association regulates other uses of the exclusive use area (e.g., banning grills on balconies), that does not affect the viewer's rights under the Commission's rule. This rule permits persons to install antennas on property over which the person has either exclusive use or exclusive control. Note, too, that nothing in this rule changes the landlord's or association's right to regulate use of exclusive use areas for other purposes. For example, if the lease prohibits antennas and flags on balconies, only the prohibition of antennas is eliminated by this rule; flags would still be prohibited.
Q: Does the rule apply to residents of rental property? A: Yes. Effective January 22, 1999, renters may install antennas within their leasehold, which means inside the dwelling or on outdoor areas that are part of the tenant's leased space and which are under the exclusive use or control of the tenant. Typically, for apartments, these areas include balconies, balcony railings, and terraces. For rented single family homes or manufactured homes which sit on rented property, these areas include the home itself and patios, yards, gardens or other similar areas. If renters do not have access to these outside areas, the tenant may install the antenna inside the rental unit. Renters are not required to obtain the consent of the landlord prior to installing an antenna in these areas. The rule does not apply to common areas, such as the roof or the exterior walls of an apartment building. Generally, balconies or patios that are shared with other people or are accessible from other units are not considered to be exclusive use areas.
Q: Are there restrictions that may be placed on residents of rental property? A: Yes. A restriction necessary to prevent damage to leased property may be reasonable. For example, tenants could be prohibited from drilling holes through exterior walls or through the roof. However, a restriction designed to prevent ordinary wear and tear (e.g., marks, scratches, and minor damage to carpets, walls and draperies) would likely not be reasonable provided the antenna is installed wholly within the antenna user's own exclusive use area. In addition, rental property is subject to the same protection and exceptions to the rule as owned property. Thus, a landlord may impose other types of restrictions that do not impair installation, maintenance or use under the rule. The landlord may also impose restrictions necessary for safety or historic preservation.
Q: If I live in a condominium, cooperative, or other type of residence where certain areas have been designated as 'common,' do these rules apply to me? A: The rules apply to residents of these types of buildings, but the rules do not permit you to install an antenna on a common area, such as a walkway, hallway, community garden, exterior wall or the roof. However, you may install the antenna wholly within a balcony, deck, patio, or other area where you have exclusive use.
Drilling through an exterior wall, e.g. to run the cable from the patio into the unit, is generally not within the protection of the rule because the exterior wall is generally a common element. You may wish to check with your retailer or installer for advice on how to install the antenna without drilling a hole. Alternatively, your landlord or association may grant permission for you to drill such a hole. The Commission's rules generally do not cover installations if you drill through a common element.
Q: If my association, building management, landlord, or property owner provides a central antenna, may I install an individual antenna? A: Generally, the availability of a central antenna may allow the association, landlord, property owner, or other management entity to restrict the installation by individuals of antennas otherwise protected by the rule. Restrictions based on the availability of a central antenna will generally be permissible provided that: (1) the person receives the particular video programming or fixed wireless service that the person desires and could receive with an individual antenna covered under the rule (e.g., the person would be entitled to receive service from a specific provider, not simply a provider selected by the association); (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.
Q: May the association, landlord, building management or property owner restrict the installation of an individual antenna because a central antenna will be available in the future? A: It is not the intent of the Commission to deter or unreasonably delay the installation of individual antennas because a central antenna may become available. However, persons could be required to remove individual antennas once a central antenna is available if the cost of removal is paid by the landlord or association and the user is reimbursed for the value of the antenna. Further, an individual who wants video programming or fixed wireless services other than what is available through the central antenna should not be unreasonably delayed in obtaining the desired programming or services either through modifications to the central antenna, installation of an additional central antenna, or by using an individual antenna.
Q: I live in a townhome community. Am I covered by the FCC rule?
A: Yes. If you own the whole townhouse, including the walls and the roof and the land under the building, then the rule applies just as it does for a single family home, and you may be able to put the antenna on the roof, the exterior wall, the backyard or any other place that is part of what you own. If the townhouse is a condominium, then the rule applies as it does for any other type of condominium, which means it applies only where you have an exclusive use area. If it is a condominium townhouse, you probably cannot use the roof, the chimney, or the exterior walls unless the condominium association gives you permission. You may want to check your ownership documents to determine what areas are owned by you or are reserved for your exclusive use.
Q: I live in a condominium with a balcony, but I cannot receive a signal from the satellite because my balcony faces north. Can I use the roof?  A: No. The roof of a condominium is generally a common area, not an area reserved for an individual's exclusive use. If the roof is a common area, you may not use it unless the condominium association gives you permission. The condominium is not obligated to provide a place for you to install an antenna if you do not have an exclusive use area.
Q: I live in a mobile home that I own but it is located in a park where I rent the lot. Am I covered by the FCC rule?     A: Yes. The rule applies if you install the antenna anywhere on the mobile or manufactured home that is owned by you. The rule also applies to antennas installed on the lot or pad that you rent, as well as to other areas that are under your exclusive use and control. However, the rule does not apply if you want to install the antenna in a common area or other area outside of what you rent.
Q: I want a conventional 'stick' antenna to receive a distant over-the air television signal. Does the rule apply to me?  A: No. The rule does not apply to television antennas used to receive a distant signal.
Q: I want to install an antenna for broadcast radio or amateur radio. Does the rule apply to me? 
A: No. The rule does not apply to antennas used for AM/FM radio, amateur ('ham') radio (see 47 C.F.R. §97.15), Citizen's Band ('CB') radio or Digital Audio Radio Services ('DARS').
Q: I want to install an antenna to access the Internet. Does the rule apply to me?  A: Yes. Antennas designed to receive and/or transmit data services, including Internet access, are included in the rule.
Q: Does this mean that I can install an antenna that will be used for voice and data services even though it does not provide video transmissions?  A: Yes. The most recent amendment expands the rule and permits you to install an antenna that will be used to transmit and/or receive voice and data services, except as noted above. The rule will also continue to cover antennas used to receive video programming.

 Q: I'm a board member of a homeowners' association, and we want to revise our restrictions so that they will comply with the FCC rule. Do you have guidelines you can send me?  A: The Commission does not have sample guidelines because every community is different. We can provide you the rule and the relevant orders, which will give you general guidance. (See list of documents at the end of this Information  Sheet. Some communities have written restrictions that provide a prioritized list of placement preferences so that residents can see where the association wants them to install the antenna. The residents should comply with the placement preferences provided the preferred placement does not impose unreasonable delay or expense or preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.
Q: What restrictions are permitted if the antenna must be on a very tall mast to get a signal?  A: If you have an exclusive use area that is covered by the rule and need to put your antenna on a mast, the local government, community association or landlord may require you to apply for a permit for safety reasons if the mast extends more than 12 feet above the roofline. If you meet the safety requirements, the permit should be granted. Note that the Commission's rule only applies to antennas and masts installed wholly within the antenna user's exclusive use area. Masts that extend beyond the exclusive use area are outside the scope of the rule. For installations on single family homes, the 'exclusive use area' generally would be anywhere on the home or lot and the mast height provision is usually most relevant in these situations. For example, if a homeowner needs to install an antenna on a mast that is more than 12 feet taller than the roof of the home, the homeowners' association or local zoning authority may require a permit to ensure the safety of such an installation, but may not prohibit the installation unless there is no way to install it safely. On the other hand, if the owner of a condominium in a building with multiple dwelling units needs to put the antenna on a mast that extends beyond the balcony boundaries, such installation would generally be outside the scope and protection of the rule, and the condominium association may impose any restrictions it wishes (including an outright prohibition) because the Commission rule does not apply in this situation.
Q: Does the rule apply to commercial property or only residential property?  A: Nothing in the rule excludes antennas installed on commercial property. The rule applies to property used for commercial purposes in the same way it applies to residential property.
Q: What can a local government, association, or consumer do if there is a dispute over whether a particular restriction is valid?  A: Restrictions that impair installation, maintenance or use of the antennas covered by the rule are preempted (unenforceable) unless they are needed for safety or historic preservation and are no more burdensome than necessary to accomplish  the articulated legitimate safety purpose or for preservation of a designated or eligible historic site or district. If a person believes a restriction is preempted, but the local government, community association, or landlord disagrees, either the person or the restricting entity may file a Petition for Declaratory Ruling with the FCC or a court of competent jurisdiction. We encourage parties to attempt to resolve disputes prior to filing a petition. Often contacting the FCC for information about how the rule works and applies in a particular situation can help to resolve the dispute. If a local government, community association, or landlord acknowledges that its restriction impairs installation, maintenance, or use and is preempted under the rule but believes it can demonstrate 'highly specialized or unusual' concerns, the restricting entity may apply to the Commission for a waiver of the rule.
Q: How do I file a petition or request a waiver at the Commission?  A:   See Guidance on Filing a Petition at the end of this document.
Q: Can I continue to use my antenna while the petition or waiver request is pending?  A: Yes, unless the restriction being challenged or for which a waiver is sought is necessary for reasons of safety or historic preservation. Otherwise, the restriction cannot be enforced while the petition is pending.
Q: Who is responsible for showing that a restriction is enforceable?  A: When a conflict arises about whether a restriction is valid, the local government, community association, property owner, or management entity that is trying to enforce the restriction has the burden of proving that the restriction is valid. This means that no matter who questions the validity of the restriction, the burden will always be on the entity seeking to enforce the restriction to prove that the restriction is permitted under the rule or that it qualifies for a waiver.
Q: Can I be fined and required to remove my antenna immediately if the Commission determines that a restriction is valid?  A: If the Commission determines that the restriction is valid, you will have a minimum of 21 days to comply with this ruling. If you remove your antenna during this period, in most cases you cannot be fined. However, this 21-day grace period does not apply if the FCC rule does not apply to your installation (for example, if the antenna is installed on a condominium general common element or hanging outside beyond an apartment balcony. If the FCC rule does not apply at all in your case, the 21-day grace period does not apply.
Q: Who do I call if my town, community association or landlord is enforcing an invalid restriction?  A: Call the Federal Communications Commission at (888) CALLFCC (888-225-5322), which is a toll-free number, or 202-418-7096, which is not toll-free. Some assistance may also be available from the direct broadcast satellite company, broadband radio service provider, television broadcast station, or fixed wireless company whose service is desired. 

December 2007