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Landlord Tips and Techniques • October 1, 2002

Dish TV and Landlord Rights

Dish TV and Landlord Rights

by Mark Tarses

 

            Up until a few years ago, most people with satellite dish TV lived in rural areas or small towns that didn't have cable TV. For those people, the only way to get any TV reception at all was with a TV dish.

            However, over the past decade, a significant number of urban apartment dwellers with access to cable TV have switched to dish as well. There are many reasons for this. Dish is often cheaper than cable, and for sports fans, a deciding factor is often that dish TV broadcasts baseball and football games that are blacked out on broadcast TV and cable. But whatever the reasons, the popularity of dish TV in urban areas is growing rapidly.

            Dish TV creates a lot of problems for landlords, far more than cable TV. Mounting a TV dish on a building usually requires drilling holes into an exterior wall. In addition, the installer will usually have to put a hole through the building's exterior wall in order for the reception cable to reach the tenant's television. Not surprisingly, many leases ban dish TV.

            Can a landlord legally ban TV dishes? No!

            In 1999, the F.C.C. gave tenants everywhere in the U.S. the legal right to install dish TV, even if it is specifically prohibited by the lease! Tenants have the right to install TV dishes on a building's exterior, but only in areas where they have "exclusive control", like a patio or balcony.  Yes, this rule has been challenged in the courts by property owners, but without success.

            However, parts of the F.C.C. rules are ambiguous. For example, the F.C.C. rule allows landlords to prohibit tenants from damaging the building during installation, including drilling a hole through a wall, but usually a hole is the only way to get the cable from the dish to the TV set inside.

            As a result of the confusion over the FCC rule, some apartment owners reject all requests for satellite installation, while other routinely allow them.

            My own policy is this: When I get a request from a tenant for a TV dish, the first thing I do is check the proposed location for the dish. All TV dish satellites travel around the Equator. That means that for us, living in the Northern Hemisphere, in order to get dish TV reception at all, a dish must have an unobstructed line of of sight to the south at 30 to 50 degrees above the horizon. Many buildings don't have this. If you can't line up a dish with a satellite, that's too bad. I can't turn my building around or tear down a taller building on the south side of mine so a tenant can get dish TV reception!

            Second, I require that any TV dish be professionally installed by an employee or sub-contractor of DirecTV or Dish TV. Never let a tenant install a TV dish himself! DirecTV and Dish TV both offer installation at nominal price or free as part of a package deal.

            Third, I require that the installer show me exactly where he will install the dish, how he will attach it to my building, and where he will put his hole through the exterior wall into the apartment. I do not allow dishes to be installed directly on roofing (rain gets in the holes) or in conspicuous places that adversely affect the aesthetic appearance of the building, like directly over the front door. It is pointless and illegal for landlords to try to ban dish TV, and it is unnecessary. With rules and careful supervision over the installation, satellite dishes need not damage your building or spoil the visual appearance of your property.

 

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