Recently, Congress enacted legislation that requires all over the air broadcast television signals to be transmitted in a digital format. This means that the aerial, “rooftop” and “rabbit ear” antennas designed to receive analog signals will no longer be of any use. In fact, if your television set is not capable of receiving a digital signal, you will need to purchase a converter box (or perhaps a new TV) to be able to continue watching your favorite programs.
This change (from analog to digital) will undoubtedly result in more subscriptions to satellite (i.e. DIRECTV) service. Owners will begin installing antennas and other devices to their units and lots. Thus, boards need to be familiar with the applicable federal laws governing the installation of satellite antennas.
The FCC addresses this situation in its Over the Air Reception Devices (“OTARD”) Rule to Section 207 of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. This rule prohibits a condominium or homeowner’s association from enforcing restrictions that unreasonably impair the installation, maintenance, or use of antennas used to receive video programming. The OTARD rule applies to video antennas, including direct to home satellite dishes that are less than one meter (39 inches in diameter), television antennas, and wireless cable antennas. The rule also applies to antennas that receive and transmit fixed wireless signals to access the Internet. However, the rule does not apply to amateur (“ham”) radio antennas, CB antennas or other antennas that do not receive video programming.
The OTARD rule applies to owners who place video (or Internet) antennas on property that they own or lease or on property that is within their exclusive use or control (such as a balcony or patio). The rule does permit an association to enforce reasonable restrictions that do not impair the antenna installation or the ability to receive a quality signal. Restrictions needed for safety or historic preservation, for example, would be acceptable and enforceable.
It is important to note that the OTARD rule and other FCC restrictions do not apply to the association’s common elements or common property. No owner has the right to install a satellite antenna (including wiring and related hardware), or anything else for that matter, upon, in or over the common elements or common properties. As such, boards may properly adopt and enforce rules restricting owners from installing antennas or other items on or across its common elements or common properties.