A reader recently asked whether an association Board could prohibit him from installing a satellite dish on the compressor for the air-conditioning system which exclusively served his unit. This is an issue that has generated much discussion during the past few years.

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) enacted legislation which permits owners to install satellite dishes one meter or less in diameter on portions of property: 1) in which they have a direct or indirect ownership interest; and 2) where the owner has exclusive use or control. This compressor is an amenity in which the owner has direct ownership interest and exclusive use. Based on this, it appears the owner may install the dish. However, as the wiring and other apparatus had to pass through portions of the common elements which were not for the owner’s exclusive use, the Board could still prevent him from installing the dish.

What is interesting is that the FCC regulations have been in place for several years and there is still a lot of uncertainty as to the rights of the Association to limit satellite dishes. As Association Boards are confronted with the installation of more and more dishes, they should keep in mind the following Do’s and Don’ts.

The Board should:

  • Walk around the property and determine the least objectionable places where owners can install these satellite dishes.
  • They should keep in mind that the required area may not impair the signal from the satellite.
  • Require that the satellite dish, wiring and all other apparatus used to install the satellite dish does not encroach on any portions of property which are not within the owner’s exclusive use or control. Any apparatus that extends into the common elements may be removed at the owner’s expense.
  • Require that the satellite dish be installed in a safe and proper manner.
  • Require that the owner installing the dish on property within his exclusive use execute a Hold Harmless Agreement that will require the owner to indemnify and defend the association in the event there is any harm to person or property resulting from the installation, maintenance or use of the satellite dish.
  • Require that a certain color of satellite dish be used or that the satellite dish be shaded by landscaping or other material.

Please note that these types of requirements may not substantially increase the cost of the satellite dish. Allow a tenant to install a satellite dish which complies with the FCC regulations.

The Board shall not:

  • Require the owner to submit an application which must be approved by the Board prior to installing the satellite dish. The FCC has implied that even if the response is made by the Board within as little as two days, this is an unreasonable delay on the installation of the dish.
  • Require that the satellite dish be professionally installed. This was determined to substantially increase the cost of the dish. However, as stated above, if the owner has the satellite dish professionally installed, then the Board may require that the contractor be licensed and bonded.
  • Enact any rules which unreasonably increase the cost of the installation of the satellite dish, unreasonably delay the installation of the satellite dish or impair reception.
  • Require that owners pay a fee prior to installing the satellite dish. The FCC held that even charging as little as $5.00 is an unreasonable cost.
  • Require owners to prove that they cannot receive an acceptable signal from a certain area prior to installing the dish. This was held to be an unreasonable delay in installation.
  • Argue that since the Association has maintenance responsibilities over the property, that the owner may not install a satellite dish. The issue is exclusive use or control. Although the Association may maintain the property, it does not mean the owner does not have exclusive use.

Please note that the ruling also provides that an Association may install a central antenna system for all owners to use at the owner’s expense. Similar to cable installation, there are companies that install these systems for Associations. Generally, the expense is incurred by those owners who request the service. If an Association chooses to install such a service, the Board may require owners to use this service in lieu of installing their own dish, provided they can receive the desired service at a similar price without unreasonable delay.

By understanding the FCC regulations and taking a proactive approach to adhering to them, Associations can go a long way in upholding individual unit owner’s rights, while protecting the overall needs of the Association.


Since 1983, KSN has been a legal resource for condominium, homeowner, and townhome associations. Additionally, we represent clients in real estate transactions, collectionslandlord/tenant issues, and property tax appeals. We represent thousands of clients and community associations throughout the US with offices in several states including Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

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