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FCC Rules on Antenna
Questions about antenna installation at your property? Here's the FCC ruling
from the FCC website
that should shed some light on it
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule
Preemption of Restrictions on Placement of Direct Broadcast
Satellite, Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service, and Television Broadcast Antennas
Quick Links to Document Sections Below
As directed by Congress in Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the
Federal Communications Commission adopted the Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule
concerning governmental and nongovernmental restrictions on viewers' ability to receive
video programming signals from direct broadcast satellites ("DBS"), multichannel
multipoint distribution (wireless cable) providers ("MMDS"), and television
broadcast stations ("TVBS").
The rule is cited as 47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000 and has been in effect since October 14,
1996. It prohibits restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of
antennas used to receive video programming. The rule applies to video antennas including
direct-to- home satellite dishes that are less than one meter (39.37") in diameter
(or of any size in Alaska), TV antennas, and wireless cable antennas. The rule prohibits
most restrictions that: (1) unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance or
use; (2) unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use; or (3)
preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.
The rule applies to viewers who place video antennas on property that they own and that
is within their exclusive use or control, including condominium owners and cooperative
owners who have an area where they have exclusive use, such as a balcony or patio, in
which to install the antenna. The rule applies to townhomes and manufactured homes, as
well as to single family homes.
The rule allows local governments, community associations and landlords to enforce
restrictions that do not impair, as well as restrictions needed for safety or historic
preservation. In addition, under some circumstances, the availability of a central or
common antenna can be used by a community association or landlord to restrict the
installation of individual antennas. In addition, the rule does not apply to common areas
that are owned by a landlord, a community association, or jointly by condominium or
cooperative owners. Therefore, restrictions on antennas installed in common areas are
On November 20, 1998, the Commission amended the rule so that it will also apply to
rental property where the renter has exclusive use, such as a balcony or patio. The
effective date of the amended rule is January 22, 1999.
This fact sheet
provides general answers to questions that may arise about the implementation of the
rule. For further information or a copy of the rule, call the Federal Communications
Commission at 888-CALLFCC (toll free) or (202) 418-7096.
Q: What types of antennas are covered by the rule?
A: The rule applies to the following types of video antennas:
(1) A "dish" antenna that is one meter (39.37") or less in diameter (or
any size dish if located in Alaska) and is designed to receive direct broadcast satellite
service, including direct-to-home satellite service.
(2) An antenna that is one meter or less in diameter or diagonal measurement and is
designed to receive video programming services via MMDS (wireless cable). Such antennas
may be mounted on "masts" to reach the height needed to establish line-of-sight
contact with the transmitter. Masts higher than 12 feet above the roofline may be subject
to local permitting requirements for safety purposes.
(3) An antenna that is designed to receive local television broadcast signals. Masts
higher than 12 feet above the roofline may be subject to local permitting requirements.
Q: What types of restrictions are prohibited?
A: The rule prohibits restrictions that impair a viewer's ability to install,
maintain, or use a video antenna. The rule applies to state or local laws or regulations,
including zoning, land-use or building regulations, private covenants, homeowners'
association rules, condominium or cooperative association restrictions, lease
restrictions, or similar restrictions on property within the exclusive use or control of
the antenna user where the user has an ownership or leasehold interest in the property. A
restriction impairs if it: 1) unreasonably delays or prevents use of, 2) unreasonably
increases the cost of, or 3) precludes a viewer from receiving an acceptable quality
signal from, one of these antennas. The rule does not prohibit legitimate safety
restrictions or restrictions designed to preserve designated or eligible historic or
prehistoric properties, provided the restriction is no more burdensome than necessary to
accomplish the safety or preservation purpose.
Q: What types of restrictions unreasonably delay or prevent
viewers from using an antenna?
A: A local restriction that prohibits all antennas would prevent viewers from
receiving signals, and is prohibited by the Commission's rule. Procedural requirements can
also unreasonably delay installation, maintenance or use of an antenna covered by this
rule. For example, local regulations that require a person to obtain a permit or approval
prior to installation create unreasonable delay and are generally prohibited. Permits or
prior approval necessary to serve a legitimate safety or historic preservation purpose may
Q: What is an unreasonable expense?
A: Any requirement to pay a fee to the local authority for a permit to be allowed
to install an antenna would be unreasonable because such permits are generally prohibited.
It may also be unreasonable for a local government, community association or landlord to
require a viewer to incur additional costs associated with installation. Things to
consider in determining the reasonableness of any costs imposed include: (1) the cost of
the equipment and services, and (2) whether there are similar requirements for comparable
objects, such as air conditioning units or trash receptacles. For example, restrictions
cannot require that relatively unobtrusive DBS antennas be screened by expensive
landscaping. A requirement to paint an antenna so that it blends into the background
against which it is mounted would likely be acceptable, provided it will not interfere
with reception or impose unreasonable costs.
Q: What restrictions prevent a viewer from receiving an
acceptable quality signal?
A: For antennas designed to receive analog signals, such as TVBS, a requirement
that an antenna be located where reception would be impossible or substantially degraded
is prohibited by the rule. However, a regulation requiring that antennas be placed where
they are not visible from the street would be permissible if this placement does not
prevent reception of an acceptable quality signal or impose unreasonable expense or delay.
For example, if installing an antenna in the rear of the house costs significantly more
than installation on the side of the house, then such a requirement would be prohibited.
If, however, installation in the rear of the house does not impose unreasonable expense or
delay or preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal, then the restriction is
permissible and the viewer must comply.
The acceptable quality signal standard is different for devices designed to receive
digital signals, such as DBS antennas, digital MMDS antennas and digital television
("DTV") antennas. For these antennas to receive an acceptable quality signal, a
DBS antenna or other digital reception antenna covered by the rule must be installed where
it has an unobstructed, direct view of the satellite or other device from which video
programming service is received. Unlike analog antennas, digital antennas, even in the
presence of sufficient over-the-air signal strength, will at times provide no picture or
sound unless they are placed and oriented for optimal reception.
Q: Are all restrictions prohibited?
A: No, many restrictions are permitted. Clearly-defined, legitimate safety
restrictions are permitted even if they impair installation, maintenance or use because
they are necessary to protect public safety. Examples of valid safety restrictions include
fire codes preventing people from installing antennas on fire escapes; restrictions
requiring that a person not place an antenna within a certain distance from a power line;
electrical code requirements to properly ground the antenna; and installation requirements
that describe the proper method to secure an antenna. The safety reason for the
restriction must be written in the text, preamble or legislative history of the
restriction, or in a document that is readily available to antenna users, so that a person
wanting to install an antenna knows what restrictions apply. Safety restrictions cannot
discriminate between objects that are comparable in size and weight and pose the same or a
similar safety risk as the antenna that is being restricted. The safety restriction also
cannot impose a more burdensome requirement than is needed to ensure safety.
Restrictions necessary for historic preservation may also be permitted even if they
impair installation, maintenance or use of the antenna. To qualify for this exemption, the
property may be any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure or object
included in, or eligible for inclusion on, the National Register of Historic Places. In
addition, restrictions necessary for historic preservation must be no more burdensome than
necessary to accomplish the historic preservation goal. They must also be imposed and
enforced in a non-discriminatory manner, as compared to other modern structures that are
comparable in size and weight and to which local regulation would normally apply.
Q: Whose antenna restrictions are prohibited?
A: The rule applies to restrictions imposed by local governments, including zoning,
land-use or building regulations; by homeowner, townhome, condominium or cooperative
association rules, including deed restrictions, covenants, by-laws and similar
restrictions; and by manufactured housing (mobile home) park owners and landlords,
including lease restrictions. The rule only applies to restrictions on property where the
viewer has an ownership or leasehold interest and exclusive use or control.
Q: If I live in a condominium or an apartment building, does
this rule apply to me?
A: The rule applies to viewers who live in a multiple dwelling unit building, such
as a condominium or apartment building, if the viewer 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.
Q: Does the rule apply to condominiums or apartment buildings
if the antenna is installed so that it hangs over or protrudes beyond the balcony railing
or patio wall?
A: The rule does not prohibit restrictions on antennas installed beyond the balcony
or patio of a condominium or apartment unit if such installation is in, on, or over a
common area. An antenna that extends out beyond the balcony or patio is usually considered
to be in a common area that is not within the scope of the rule. Therefore, in most cases
the rule does not apply to a condominium or rental apartment unit unless the antenna is
installed wholly within the exclusive use area, such as the balcony or patio.
Q: Does the fact that management or the association has the
right to enter these areas mean that the resident does not have exclusive use?
A: No. The fact that the building management or the association may enter an area
for the purpose of inspection and/or repair does not mean that the resident does not have
exclusive use of that area. Likewise, if the landlord or association regulates other uses
of the exclusive use area (e.g., banning grills on balconies), that does not affect the
viewer's rights under the Commission's rule. This rule permits persons to install video
antennas on property over which the person has either exclusive use or
exclusive control. Note, too, that nothing in this rule changes the landlord's or
association's right to regulate use of exclusive use areas for other purposes. For
example, if the lease prohibits antennas and flags on balconies, only the prohibition of
antennas is eliminated by this rule; flags would still be prohibited.
Q: Does the rule apply to residents of rental property?
A: Yes. The Commission recently amended the rule, and the effective date of the
amendment was January 22, 1999. Renters may install video antennas within their leasehold,
which means inside the dwelling or on outdoor areas that are part of the tenant's rented
space and which are under the exclusive use or control of the tenant. Typically, for
apartments, these areas include balconies, balcony railings, and terraces. For rented
single family homes or manufactured homes which sit on rented property, these areas
include the home itself and patios, yards, gardens or other similar areas. If renters do
not have access to these outside areas, the tenant may install the video antenna inside
the rental unit. Renters are not required to obtain the consent of the landlord prior to
installing a video antenna in these areas. The rule does not apply to common areas, such
as the roof or the exterior walls of an apartment building.
Q: Are there restrictions that may be placed on residents of
A: Yes. A restriction necessary to prevent damage to leased property may be
reasonable. For example, tenants could be prohibited from drilling holes through exterior
walls or through the roof. However, a restriction designed to prevent ordinary wear and
tear (e.g., marks, scratches, and minor damage to carpets, walls and draperies)
would likely not be reasonable.
In addition, rental property is subject to the same protection and exceptions to the
rule as owned property. Thus, a landlord may impose other types of restrictions that do
not impair installation, maintenance or use under the rule. The landlord may also impose
restrictions necessary for safety or historic preservation.
Q: If I live in a condominium, cooperative, or other type of
residence where certain areas have been designated as "common," do these rules
apply to me?
A: No, not if the only place you can install an antenna is on a common area, such
as a walkway, hallway, community garden, exterior wall or the roof. However, a resident of
these types of buildings may install the video antenna on a balcony, deck, patio, or other
area where the individual resident has exclusive use.
Q: If my association, building management, landlord, or
property owner provides a central antenna for video programming, may I install an
individual video antenna?
A: Generally, the availability of a central antenna may allow the association,
landlord, property owner, or other management entity to restrict the installation of video
antennas by individuals. Restrictions based on the availability of a central antenna will
generally be permissible provided that: (1) the viewer receives the particular video
programming service the viewer desires and could receive with an individual antenna (e.g.,
the viewer would be entitled to receive service from a specific DBS provider, not simply a
DBS provider selected by the association); (2) the video reception in the viewer's home
using the central antenna is as good as, or better than, than the quality the viewer could
receive with an individual antenna; (3) the costs associated with the use of the central
antenna are not greater than the costs of installation, maintenance and use of an
individual antenna; and (4) the requirement to use the central antenna instead of an
individual antenna does not unreasonably delay the viewer's ability to receive video
Q: May the association, landlord, building management or
property owner restrict the installation of an individual video antenna because a central
antenna will be available in the future?
A: It is not the intent of the Commission to deter or unreasonably delay the
installation of individual antennas because a central antenna may become available.
However, viewers could be required to remove individual antennas once a central antenna is
available if the cost of removal is paid by the landlord or association and the viewer is
reimbursed for the value of the antenna. Further, an individual who wants video
programming other than that available through the central antenna should not be
unreasonably delayed in obtaining the desired programming either through modifications to
the central antenna, installation of an additional central antenna, or by using an
Q: I live in a townhome community. Am I covered by the FCC
A: Yes. If you own the whole townhouse, including the walls and the roof and the
land under the building, then the rule applies just as it does for a single family home,
and you may be able to put the antenna on the roof, the exterior wall, the backyard or any
other place that is part of what you own. If the townhouse is a condominium, then the rule
applies as it does for any other type of condominium, which means it applies only where
you have an exclusive use area. If it is a condominium townhouse, you probably cannot use
the roof or the exterior walls unless the condominium association gives you permission.
Q: I live in a condominium with a balcony, but I cannot
receive a signal from the satellite because my balcony faces north. Can I use the roof?
A: No. The roof of a condominium is generally a common area, not an area reserved
for an individual's exclusive use. If the roof is a common area, you may not use it unless
the condominium association gives you permission.
Q: I live in a mobile home that I own but it is located in a
park where I rent the lot. Am I covered by the FCC rule?
A: Yes. The rule applies if you install the antenna anywhere on the mobile or
manufactured home that is owned by you. The rule also applies to antennas installed on the
lot or pad that you rent, as well as to other areas that are under your exclusive use and
control. However, the rule does not apply if you want to install the antenna in a common
area or other area outside of what you rent.
Q: I want an antenna to receive a distant television signal.
Does the rule apply to me?
A: No. The rule does not apply to television antennas used to receive a distant signal.
Q: I want to install an antenna for radio, amateur radio or
internet service. Does the rule apply to me?
A: No. The rule only applies to antennas used for video reception. Antennas for
AM/FM radio, amateur ("ham") radio or internet are not covered by this rule.
Q: I'm a board member of a homeowners' association, and we
want to revise our restrictions so that they will comply with the FCC rule. Do you have
guidelines you can send me?
A: We do not have sample guidelines because every community is different. We can
send you the rule and the first and second Report and Order and the Order on
Reconsideration, which will give you general guidance. Some communities have written
restrictions that provide a prioritized list of placement preferences so that residents
can see where the association wants them to install the antenna. The residents should
comply with the placement preferences provided the preferred placement does not impose
unreasonable delay or expense or preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.
Q: What restrictions are permitted if the antenna must be on a
very tall mast to get a signal?
A: If the mast is more than 12 feet above the roof line, the local government,
community association or landlord may require you to apply for a permit for safety
reasons. If you meet the safety requirements, the permit should be granted.
Q: Does the rule apply to commercial property or only
A: Nothing in Section 207 or the rule excludes antennas installed on commercial
property. The rule applies to property used for commercial purposes in the same way it
applies to residential property.
Q: What can a local government, association, or consumer do if
there is a dispute over whether a particular restriction is valid?
A: Restrictions that impair installation, maintenance or use of the antennas
covered by the rule are preempted (unenforceable) unless they are no more burdensome than
necessary for the articulated legitimate safety purpose or for preservation of a
designated or eligible historic site or district. If a viewer believes a restriction is
preempted, but the local government, community association, or landlord disagrees, either
the viewer or the restricting entity may file a Petition for Declaratory Ruling with the
FCC or a court of competent jurisdiction. We encourage parties to attempt to resolve
disputes prior to filing a petition. Often calling the FCC for information about how the
rule works and applies in a particular situation can help to resolve the dispute. If a
local government, community association, or landlord acknowledges that its restriction
impairs and is preempted under the rule but can demonstrate "highly specialized or
unusual" concerns, the restricting entity may apply to the Commission for a waiver of
Q: What is the procedure for filing a petition or requesting a
waiver at the Commission?
A: Petitions for declaratory rulings and waivers must be served on all interested
parties. For example, if a homeowners' association files a petition seeking a declaratory
ruling that its restriction is not preempted and is seeking to enforce the restriction
against a specific viewer, service must be made on that specific viewer. The homeowners'
association will not be required to serve all other members of the association, but must
provide reasonable, constructive notice of the proceeding to other residents whose
interests may foreseeably be affected. This may be accomplished, for example, by placing
notices in residents' mailboxes, by placing a notice on a community bulletin board, or by
placing the notice in an association newsletter. If a local government seeks a declaratory
ruling or a waiver from the Commission, the local government must take steps to afford
reasonable, constructive notice to residents in its jurisdiction (e.g., by placing
a notice in a local newspaper of general circulation). Finally, if a viewer files a
petition or lawsuit challenging a local government's ordinance, an association's
restriction, or a landlord's lease, the viewer must serve the local government,
association or landlord, as appropriate.
All allegations of fact contained in petitions and related pleadings before the
Commission must be supported by an affidavit signed by one or more persons who have actual
knowledge of such facts. An original and two copies of all petitions and pleadings should
be addressed to the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, S.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20554, Attention: Cable Services Bureau.
Certificates of service and proof of constructive notice must be provided with a
petition. In this regard, the petitioner should provide a copy of the notice and an
explanation of where the notice was placed and how many people the notice might reasonably
Be sure to include the exact language of the restriction in question with the petition.
General or hypothetical questions about the application or interpretation of the rule
cannot be accepted as petitions.
Q: Can I continue to use my antenna while the petition or
waiver request is pending?
A: Yes, unless the restriction being challenged or for which a waiver is sought is
necessary for reasons of safety or historic preservation. Otherwise, the restriction
cannot be enforced while the petition is pending.
Q: Who is responsible for showing that a restriction is
A: When a conflict arises about whether a restriction is valid, the local
government, community association, property owner, or management entity that is trying to
enforce the restriction has the burden of proving that the restriction is valid. This
means that no matter who questions the validity of the restriction, the burden will always
be on the entity seeking to enforce the restriction to prove that the restriction is
permitted under the rule or that it qualifies for a waiver.
Q: Can I be fined and required to remove my antenna
immediately if the Commission determines that a restriction is valid?
A: You will have a minimum of 21 days to comply with an adverse ruling. If you remove
your antenna during this period, in most cases you cannot be fined.
Q: Who do I call if my town, community association or landlord
is enforcing an invalid restriction?
A: Call the Federal Communications Commission at (888) CALLFCC (888-225-5322),
which is a toll-free number, or 202-418-7096, which is not toll-free. Some assistance may
also be available from the direct broadcast satellite company, multichannel multipoint
distribution service or television broadcast station whose service is desired.
Relevant Orders and the Rule
- (First) Report and Order, FCC 96-328, released August 6, 1996: [ Text Version |
WordPerfect Version ]
- Order on Reconsideration, FCC 98-214, released September 25, 1998: [ WordPerfect | Text
- Second Report and Order, FCC 98-273, released November 20, 1998: [ Text | WordPerfect |
Acrobat | News Release and Statements ]
- OTARD Rule, 47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000: [ Text | Acrobat ]
FILING A PETITION
Q: What are the procedural requirements for filing a Petition for
Declaratory Ruling or Waiver with the Commission?
A: If you wish to file either a Petition for Declaratory Ruling or a Petition for
Waiver pursuant to the Commission's Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule (47 CFR Section
1.4000), you must file an original and two copies of your Petition on the following
Office of the Secretary
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
Attn: Cable Services Bureau
Petitions for declaratory rulings and waivers must be served on all interested parties.
If you are a viewer, you must serve a copy of the Petition on the entity seeking to
enforce the restriction (i.e., the local government, community association or landlord).
If you are a local government, community association or landlord, you must serve a copy of
the Petition on the residents in the community who currently have or wish to install
antennas that will be affected by the restriction your Petition seeks to maintain. For
example, if a homeowners' association files a petition seeking a declaratory ruling that
its restriction is not preempted and is seeking to enforce the restriction against a
specific viewer, service must be made on that specific viewer. The homeowners' association
will not be required to serve all other members of the association, but must provide
reasonable, constructive notice of the proceeding to other residents whose interests may
foreseeably be affected. This may be accomplished, for example, by placing notices in
residents' mailboxes, by placing a notice on a community bulletin board, or by placing the
notice in an association newsletter. If a local government seeks a declaratory ruling or a
waiver from the Commission, the local government must take steps to afford reasonable,
constructive notice to residents in its jurisdiction (e.g., by placing a notice in
a local newspaper of general circulation). Finally, if a viewer files a petition or
lawsuit challenging a local government's ordinance, an association's restriction, or a
landlord's lease, the viewer must serve the local government, association or landlord, as
An entity seeking to impose or maintain a restriction must include with its petition a
proof of service that it has served the affected residents. Similarly, a viewer seeking to
challenge the permissibility of a restriction must include with the petition a proof of
service that the viewer has served the restricting entity with a copy of the Petition. The
proof of service should give the name and address of the parties served, the date served,
and the method of service used (e.g., regular mail, personal service, certified
Q: What are the substantive requirements for filing a petition
for waiver or declaratory ruling?
A: To file a Petition for Waiver, follow the requirements in Section 1.4000(c) of
the rule. The local government, community association or landlord requesting the waiver
must demonstrate "local concerns of a highly specialized or unusual nature." The
petition must also specify the restriction for which the waiver is sought, or the petition
will not be considered.
To file a Petition for Declaratory Ruling, follow the requirements set forth in Section
1.4000(d) of the rule. Set out the restriction in question so that we can determine
whether it is permissible or prohibited under the rule. In a Petition for Declaratory
Ruling, the burden of demonstrating that a particular restriction complies with the rule
is on the entity seeking to impose the restriction (e.g., the local government,
community association or landlord).
While a petition for declaratory ruling or waiver is pending with the Commission or a
court, the restriction in question may not be enforced unless it is necessary for safety
or historic preservation. No fines or penalties, including attorneys fees, may be imposed
by the restricting entity while a petition is pending. If the restriction is found to be
permissible, the viewers subject to the ruling will generally have at least 21 days in
which to comply before a fine or penalty is imposed.
- FCC -
For more on antenna rulings, read these:
If you have any questions or comments about the info above, please visit the FCC
website at http://www.fcc.gov.