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Satellite dishes OK if owner has ‘exclusive use’

DEAR BENNY: I live in a small, 15-unit condo complex.

As you can imagine, we have various restrictions on what homeowners can do to the exterior of their units.

I understand, though, that there is a federal law regulation that permits residents — even nonowner renters — of multiunit properties to install satellite dishes for TV reception even if the CC&Rs prohibit such exterior devices.

Is that true? If so, is there any option for the homeowners association to prevent the random installation of those dishes, which in my opinion are unsightly? — G.O.

DEAR G.O.: Before I respond to your specific question, I want to repeat — once again — my favorite pet peeve: Don’t call a condominium a homeowners association or vice versa.

You initially said you live in a condo, but made reference to your CC&Rs.

In a condominium, the legal documents are generally the declaration and bylaws and any rules and regulations promulgated by your board of directors.

In a homeowners association, on the other hand, the legal documents are generally the CC&Rs, which stands for “covenants, conditions and restrictions.”

There is a difference between the two legal entities, and people who live in a community association should use the proper terminology. More importantly, don’t call yourselves “tenants.”

Now, back to your question.

Back in 1966, Congress enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1966, which directed the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a rule regulating “over-the-air reception devices,” referred to in government language as the OTARD rules.

According to these rules, if you as a homeowner have exclusive use in your unit or house in which to install the antenna, which includes satellite dishes, your association cannot prohibit this.

What is “exclusive use”?

In a condominium, for example, there are three basic elements: common elements, units and limited common elements. The common elements include such areas as the entrance lobby, the roof, any elevators and all mechanical equipment that services the entire complex.

Your “unit” is the “box” in which you live, defined as wall to wall and floor to ceiling.

A limited common element is something that, while not within the unit, is not accessible to all unit owners. The classic LCEs are parking spaces and decks and patios. Only you, or less than everyone, can use it.

According to the FCC, the OTARD restrictions apply only to those areas of exclusive use. But, for example, if you have to drill through exterior walls (i.e., common elements) to install your satellite dish, the rules do not restrict your association from prohibiting this. Furthermore, the rule does not prohibit your association from restricting antennas or dishes that extend beyond the balcony or patio, because that space is a common element.

It’s not really confusing, but a good source of information can be found on the FCC website at http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html.

DEAR BENNY: In applying for a homestead exemption for my disabled wife, I was informed that she was not eligible for the exemption because she was not shown on the warranty deed or title policy when it was issued several years ago.

As the loan was in my name only, she does not appear as having an ownership interest on any legal documents.

Is it possible to have her added in a “joint tenancy” with a new warranty deed? Would this be permitted by the mortgage holder?

We did not realize at the time of closing that I was to be listed as the sole owner. The real estate tax bill, however, comes every year under both of our names. — John

DEAR JOHN: You have every right to add your wife to the title of your house.

Back in the 1980s, Congress enacted legislation prohibiting lenders from asserting the “due on sale” clause that exists in most mortgages (deeds of trust). One of the exceptions involves a “transfer where the spouse or children of the borrower become an owner of the property.”

The “due on sale” clause was created by lenders who did not want homeowners who had a favorable, low interest rate to sell their property and allow the buyer to assume (i.e., take over) the existing low-interest-rate mortgage.

So, the law specifically prohibits a lender from asserting the due on sale clause where a spouse conveys his/her title to the other spouse or, as in your case, adds the spouse to the title. You are free to add your wife to the title.

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