Satellite Dishes on Common Area Roofs

Homeowners and renters within associations have rights under state and federal statutes to install satellite dishes on their respective “separate interests” (their lots or units), as well as exclusive use common areas such as patios or balconies, notwithstanding restrictions in an association’s governing documents to the contrary. (See “Satellite Dishes (Generally).”) In the context of condominium developments, associations may reasonably restrict (and in some instances prohibit) homeowners and renters from installing satellite dishes on common area roofs.

Townhomes with Exclusive Use Roofs
If an association’s CC&Rs define the roofs of townhomes as exclusive use common area, owners and tenants have federally protected rights to install satellite dishes on their respective exclusive use roofs. (FCC Declaratory Ruling, 2003.)

General Common Area Roofs
Civil Code Section 4725(b)(2) references a restriction that requires approval before a satellite dish may be installed on the “separate interest” owned by another.  The term “separate interest” does not include association common area. (Civ. Code § 4095(a).) Civil Code Section 4725 therefore allows for an association to restrict or prohibit the installation of satellite dishes on common area roofs where the satellite dish would be visible from streets or other common areas. (Civ. Code § 4725(a); See also “Satellite Dishes (Generally).”)

Federal Preemption: Telecommunications Act and OTARD Rule
Parts of Civil Code Section 4725 have been preempted by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (“TA”) (47 USC § §151-615b) and Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule (“OTARD Rule”) (47 CFR §1.4000). The TA and OTARD Rule generally provide an association’s members and their tenants with federally protected rights to install satellite dishes on their separate interests (their lots or units) and exclusive use common areas (i.e., balconies, patios, etc.) notwithstanding the visibility restrictions contained in Section 4725. However, members and tenants do not have a federally protected right to install satellite dishes on common area components that are owned and maintained by the association (i.e., roofs, building exteriors, etc.)

“The [OTARD 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 [OTARD 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 [OTARD Rule]. For example, the [OTARD 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.” (FCC Information Sheet – OTARD Rule, Published Dec. 2007 (Emphasis added).)

Approval Requirement; Assumption of Maintenance Responsibilities; Indemnity & Reimbursement
Where an association permits, or is required to permit, the installation of a satellite dish on a common area roof or exclusive use roof, Civil Code Section 4725(b) allows for the association to impose “reasonable restrictions” that require the member or tenant to:

  • Obtain the association’s approval for the installation;
  • Assume the maintenance and repair responsibilities for the roofs or other building components that are impacted by the satellite dish’s installation, maintenance or use; and
  • Require the installer of the satellite dish to indemnify or reimburse the association or its members for loss or damage caused by the satellite dish’s installation, maintenance or use.

Related Topics

Related Statutes

Related Links

FCC Guide to the OTARD Rule

Preemption of Restrictions on Placement of Direct Broadcast Satellite, Broadband Radio Service, and Television Broadcast Antennas.