Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dish Antennas - an Update

Satellite dish antennas are a little like starlings -- or cockroaches. Where you see one, you're likely to see more.

That's exactly what happened to us.

A tenant moved into an owner's unit and ordered a high-definition (HD) satellite dish antenna. Toward the end of the day, the installer arrived, and casually asked the tenant if he had permission to install the dish.

"Yes," replied the tenant, having obtained verbal approval from the owner (who had not read the CC&Rs).

Soon, a second installer arrived, and in order to help them both finish up their day, assisted. Situating the antenna isn't something that the tenant or owner had considered, so the installers solved the problem by installing the dish on the limited common area that belongs to the neighbor upstairs.

"When you turn everybody in the building on to HD, we won't have to install another dish," promoted the installer.

When informed about the illegal installation, the tenant pointed to a (standard TV -- non HD -- satellite) dish attached to another building. (The standard TV device mounts in a linear fashion that could be accommodated on the wood trim of the building.)

"We saw that antenna and thought it was okay to install one," came the tenant's explanation.

The board sent a formal Notice of Violation to the owner, who acknowledged not having read that permission from the board was required in order to install such a device.

Upon receipt of the owner's petition, the board decided that we would allow the installation, but in a spot that was away from the center of the "beauty shot," center-of-attention, aesthetically, for the complex, and on the common area of the building. We agreed on an elevated installation at the back corner of the building, away from the street and more or less out of sight. We also asked for a damage deposit sufficient to cover the cost of repairing our building when the device was removed.

When the new installer came to move the device, we discussed the installation options for reception and for aesthetics. Bottom line: the triangular-shaped installation footprint required could only be accommodated by drilling through the side of the building, thus compromising its waterproof membrane.

As well, there was no area within the limited common area deck available to the tenant where this extraordinary footprint could be accommodated.

The FCC rule allowing dish antenna devices states that the device must fit within the one-meter-in-diameter limit, but makes no mention of the installation footprint. (This device required an 'L'-shaped footprint about 35" along the base of the 'L' and about 20" up the leg.)

We burned up nearly three week's time for the board; the tenant and owner produced an untold amount of consternation.

Our resolution was to deny the petition based on there being no place in the common area where the HD dish antenna's installation footprint could be accommodated.

Given the FCC ruling that a board cannot deny anyone's ability to consume satellite TV signals, we asked the owner to petition the board for installation within the confines of their limited common area, a deck. We required an installation plan that covered the installation process: either drilling into the floor of the deck or installation using a tripod.

In the final analysis, the owner and the tenant decided not to offer another petition, based on the increased damage deposit required should they choose to drill into the floor of the deck, and the liability involved in mounting the device on a tripod, which subjected it potentially to the vagaries of wind and weather, and the damage it could cause should it become loose.

(The owner paid the cancellation fee.)

Governing Tips:
  • Review your governing documents in light of the FCC rule, and verify that you can manage device installation within your physical community. HD dishes are larger than standard TV dishes, although still within the one-meter-in-diameter size limit, but their installation footprint is significantly different.
  • Require a complete description of the device in your petitions for installation, including its installation footprint. Ask for photos and dimensions of the installation hardware and the weight of the device.
  • Require a damage deposit sufficient to cover any repairs when the dish is removed.

Here's an FCC link you may find helpful.

Practical Tip: If you know that dish antenna installation requires board approval and you notice that an installation about to happen, run, don't walk, out to the installer and ask to see the written permission from the board to install the device. If none can be produced, ask the installer for written confirmation that s/he is about to install a device without permission. Your board will thank you!

Punch Line: The satellite vendor doesn't want the dish. When cancelling the contract, the customer is required to return the 'boxes' from inside the home. Removing and disposing of the dish is the customer's responsibility.

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