Condo Board Encourages Satellite Dishes to Common Exterior

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D.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own and live in a condominium. My building is a row of one-bedroom condos, two stories high. I live on a corner unit. Recently, satellite dishes were permitted to be installed on the outside of the wooden staircases. There were two satellite dishes on my unit attached to the side; one for my unit and one for the unit below me. Recently, the staircases had to be replaced and the HOA told the owners of the dishes that their dishes had to be attached to the building itself and not the staircase. Now I have three dishes total right on the trim of my unit. The other buildings that had their staircases replaced have dishes on their staircases again. I called the HOA to complain about having three dishes within 3 feet of each other right outside my unit. It looks awful. The HOA said that what the homeowner did that ordered his dish to be placed on the outside of my unit is right to have done this. I read somewhere else that a dish owner can only install a dish as long as they have exclusive use. I don’t want any more dishes installed on my building. Do I have a legal right to ask for the third dish be removed and reinstalled back on the staircase near their home when the staircases are finished?

Mister Condo replies:

D.S., as you know, I am not an attorney nor am I familiar with the laws in your state regarding the installation of satellite dishes. Please consider my advice as friendly and not legal. For a legal opinion, I kindly ask that you check with a qualified attorney in your area.

As a matter of entertainment delivery, many people (including you) prefer satellite television. I have to agree with you that the dishes themselves are ugly and do not add to the overall good looks and curb appeal that most condominium associations strive for. However, the popularity of the satellite dish television reception cannot be denied and people are enrolled in record numbers around the country. Your question doesn’t deal with whether or not the satellite dish should be allowed but rather where can it be properly installed.

In the early years of satellite dish installations, many condominiums and homeowners associations attempted to ban their use by citing their size and ugliness and their lack of architectural conformity. The Federal Communications Commission and Congress fired back with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which created the rule you referred to that overrides an HOA’s authority to prevent the installation of a satellite dish in a limited common area that is under the unit owner’s control. In particular, the Act mentions balconies and patios.

What the rule doesn’t do is preclude associations like yours from adding to the areas these dishes can be installed. In other words, the area outside of your unit isn’t yours. It belongs to the association and if they choose to allow satellite dishes to be installed there, so be it. You can ask for the dishes to be moved and the Board may grant your request but I do not believe they are under any legal requirement to do so. Again, I advise you to check with an attorney to get a full legal opinion on this matter. All the best!

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