Rules for installing antennas and dishes at apartments or condos

Jason Fritz

Staff member
Can an HOA or apartment manager prevent you from installing an antenna or dish for receiving TV signals?

The FCC Over-the-Air Reception Devices ("OTARD") rule prohibits restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used to receive video programming.

Q: If I live in a condominium or an apartment building, does this rule apply to me?
A: The 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 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 Commission's rule. For example, the 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.
All of the information in this thread (and much more) can be found on the FCC's OTARD (Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule) webpage.
Those are rules for apartment and condos so if that is on the contract before entering the unit. I must try to ask some question to the landlord to verify those simple things.


Staff member
Those are rules for apartment and condos so if that is on the contract before entering the unit. I must try to ask some question to the landlord to verify those simple things.
I don't think they can put anything on your contract that would override the law if that's what you're asking.


They can't, Aaron, but the OTARD rule doesn't force the owner to accept damage resulting from multiple tenants lag-screwing different mounts into the side of his/her building, either. There's also nothing to prevent landlords from requiring antenna and dish owners to maintain renter's insurance to cover liability for injuries caused by an improper installation that falls or blows down and hits someone or something.

However, a renter who secures a mast to a balcony railing without so much as chipping the paint, or who uses the "mast-in-a-concrete-bucket" antenna/dish mount placed on a balcony, and who avoids drilling a cable hole through the wall by using a flat coax cable to snake the signals through a door or window frame -- IOW, one who leaves no damage after removing his/her equipment at the end of their tenancy -- is probably covered by OTARD.


An issue came up yesterday after I finally received all the paperwork I signed when I signed the lease. Included in that were Community Guidelines. In those guidelines were rules prohibiting placing items on the "window sill" that can be seen from the outside. I didn't think much of it when I signed the lease (yes I read through it all)...but now that I read it...I realize it could apply to the Antenna installation I did:

I'm pretty sure this would fall under the FCC guidelines mentioned above. The rules would apply to other items placed between the blinds and the window...but not to antennas since they are required to allow me to mount it in my "exclusive area" in a safe manner (ie doesn't violate safety rules). Any opinions?


There's no way of being absolutely certain without bringing a complaint, Thor, but I concur -- your assessment sounds pretty reasonable. Print a copy of the FCC's Over The Air Reception Devices rule information sheet so you'll have a copy on hand to show to the manager in case anyone starts making noise about the antenna.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for anything visible in your neighbors' windows, and don't be shy about taking a snapshot of anything you see or jotting down notes about length of time objects have been there. Your observations could come in handy some day.

This may be one of those rules they're not all that strict about, only enforcing it when somebody displays something offensive in the window or leaves a bunch of unsightly junk on the sill. On the other hand, lots of people like to place small potted plants in their windows. Are they seriously going to insist that a tenant can't have one or two plants there as long as they continue to look good and healthy?

Here's an example of a situation in which this blanket prohibition wouldn't fly in my state: A Colorado statute gives condo and apartment residents the specific right to display political signs in unit windows at election time, regardless of any rule to the contrary. The signs cannot be barred by associations or managers as long as they comply with local ordinances governing maximum size and length of time on display (typically, 30 days before an election and 3-7 days afterward). Illinois may have a similar law.


I put in a question to them a couple of days ago regarding this rule before I posted this...and they said they'd get back to me about it. I haven't heard anything back yet.

Did some searching for an ordinance or something barring prohibition of political signs...but couldn't find anything yet. Not that I'm that excited about any single candidate this year that I'd want to support them in that way.