An answer to this question requires some history on the telecommunications industry. In 1996 Congress implemented the Telecommunications Act of 1996 ("Act"). That Act required that all persons were entitled to access the information highway. As such, Association control over the installation of satellite dishes on homeowner exclusive use common area or unit area was and is severely limited. Associations may not prevent the installation of satellite antenna or dishes one meter or less (approximately 39 inches in diameter) unless the installation of the satellite dish creates a legitimate safety concern or the building has been designed as a historical site. That said, however, when a unit owner installs their antenna or dish on their exclusive use common area (such as their balconies, patios or decks) they may still be restricted from installing the device on general use common areas. Restrictions on location can include the top of walls or patio railings, the side of the building within the patio envelope and, of course, the Association’s Common Area roof. The Board of Directors may establish rules and regulations concerning the placement of satellite dish and antennas so long as the rules and regulations do not (1) delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use of the antenna or satellite dish system, (2) significantly increase the cost of the antenna or satellite dish system or (3) significantly decease the efficiency or performance of the system. If the Board of Directors wants to establish an area on each owner’s balcony, patio or deck where the satellite dish must be installed it must first develop Rules and Regulations which do not violate the three referenced prohibitions and which designate the best location to receive the signal.
Make certain that any satellite dish Rules and Regulations (which are operating rules) are submitted to the homeowners for review and comment in compliance with Civil Code Section 1357.100 and 1357.130 if in fact the new rules will result in rule changes. In addition to the Telecommunications Act, Civil Code Section 1375 provides that any CC&R or recorded document which prohibits the installation of video or television antennas are void and enforceable at law. In no event can an application process be different than utilized by the Association for any other architectural modification to the property, Civil Code Section 1378.
As to the second part of the question, unless the Association is contracting for the service the Board will not need to negotiate or work with Direct TV and Dish Network to localize the installation of satellite dishes. The Board first must make a decision if it is going to allow homeowner/residents to install satellite dishes on the Association’s Common Area roof. Because the homeowner has no entitlement to install their satellite dish or antenna on the Common Area roof, I suggest that any agreement by the Association to allow the homeowners to do so should be subject to a covenant that runs with the land which is a recordable document which notices future owners of their repair and maintenance responsibilities to the Association’s Common Area and to the satellite dish. Once the Board makes a decision and if the Board intends to allow satellite dish installation on Common Area roof components, the Board of Directors, when approving a homeowner’s request, will direct the homeowner as to the exact location on the roof where the installation should occur.
Sandra L. Gottlieb is the Managing Partner of Swedelson & Gottlieb, Association Attorneys.