Lessons in Landlording: HOA will Check, so Hide Those Satellite Dishes from Plain Sight!

You know, just when I thought things were going smoothly with the property rental, I had to go and write an update in my monthly expense report and whisk away all my good luck!

Fortunately, this latest issue was quickly resolved and didn’t require much participation from my end. I simply answered calls, scheduled appointments, and gave the “ok” for work to be completed. If this is what upper management feels like, I’m pretty sure I could get used to it 😉

Update

What was on the agenda this time around was a satellite dish installation that irked the Homeowner’s Association (HOA) so much that they had to send me an e-mail notice, 2x letters through the postal service, and place a phone call urging me to “hurry up and get the issue fixed”.

Last month, I gave my tenant the permission to run cable lines through each of the bedrooms in the house, plus the living room. At the time, she told me she was getting Comcast installed, and so the cable company forced me to sign a permission slip saying, “Yes, I approve of this installation”. They wouldn’t take a verbal confirmation over the phone, or a digital signature (talk about being old school). No, they required that I hand sign an “official” approval letter and hand deliver it to the cable installer (talk about a waste of my time).

To make matters even worse, they told me they would arrive between 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. I held out till the last minute, and didn’t show up until around 3:45 PM. I thought I was being clever, but little did I know, the cable installer himself wouldn’t arrive until 6:00 PM.

Still, with the installation finally completed, I breathed a sigh of relief thinking “I’m glad that’s over with”.

HOA Blues

And things were going smoothly again until I received that notice from HOA informing me of a satellite installation violation. They attached a photo in the notice, and from the photographer’s vantage point, it was easy to see that the installer of the dish couldn’t have picked a worst spot! The dish was completely visible from the street, and stood out like a sore thumb. The notice required me to remove the dish and repair the roof shingles in 7 days or else I would have to pay a late penalty fine each month I was tardy. Talk about short notice.

I immediately called the tenant to verify, and she confirmed that she tried out cable for a week, didn’t like it, so decided to go with satellite instead. This caught me a bit off guard, because on the day we signed the lease agreement, I sent her a .pdf file of the HOA rules and guidelines. The opening statement of the document states the following:

Satellite Dish and Antenna/effective 6-1-2001

  • No satellite dish or antenna is to be attached to the roof, fascia board, or any part of the outside structure, including exterior fences.
  • Satellite dishes are permitted, but must be attached to a pole or other device in the backyard, not visible from the street.
  • Antennas are permitted, but must be either in the attic inside the unit, or attached to a pole outside the unit, but not visible from the street.
  • A $25.00 fine will be assessed per month that the owner of the property is in violation of these guidelines.

Don’t forget the Rulebook:

I caught a break here. Had I not bothered to send her the rules, she could have pleaded her ignorance, and I probably would have gotten myself caught up in a sticky situation. But, since I provided her the document well in advance, even she realized it would be her responsibility to pay for any repairs associated with the “illegal” dish installation.

Repair Costs

The repairs weren’t cheap. First, the satellite company had to schedule in an appointment to remove the dish and re-install it in the backyard, via pole-mounting. This way, the dish was no longer an eyesore from the main streets, and not affixed to any part of the structure, which HOA basically controls. Total costs were $150.

Next, I had to call in the roofing company to come in and replace/repair the shingles. This didn’t seem like much work, but even this added another $150 to the bill. Since HOA deemed the removal process INCOMPLETE until the roofing company sent them an official receipt of the repairs, I had no choice but to hire them for this job.

So, the total costs billed to the tenant came out to be $300. Since her original idea was to switch from cable to satellite to save a few bucks, I’m sure she was feeling a little more than upset with the outcome of this decision. I’ll admit, I felt bad for her. This entire ordeal was a bit much, so I’m planning on giving her some gift cards this Christmas holiday to buy gifts for her kids. Hey, it’s the least I can do.

Section 207

The property I own does not in any way resemble that of a condo or townhouse. It looks just like a single family home. If no one told you, you wouldn’t even realize that there was a governing HOA, since they really don’t do a single thing (except complain).

Depending on how strict your HOA is, there may be a way to argue your case for installing a dish. Although from my own experience, the following rule won’t apply if you are trying to attach the dish to the roof, or building exterior, since by rule, these areas are not deemed qualified for your “own use or exclusive control”.

Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 states the following:

a) Any restriction, including but not limited to any state or local law or regulation, including zoning, land-use, or building regulation, or any private covenant, homeowners’ association rule or similar restriction on property within the exclusive use or control of the antenna user where the user has a direct or indirect ownership interest in the property, that impairs the installation, maintenance, or use of:

(1) an antenna that is designed to receive direct broadcast satellite service, including direct-to-home satellite services, that is one meter or less in diameter or is located in Alaska… is prohibited, to the extent it so impairs.

Summary

  • Make sure your tenant has a current copy of the HOA rules (if you have HOA). This will come in handy, especially if they end up violating a rule that requires capital to fix.
  • Satellite dishes are a headache. If your tenant wants to install one, make sure they understand they are doing so at their own risk. Insist they get cable instead.
  • If the HOA rules cover restrictions on satellite dishes, make sure to inform your tenant ahead of time, even if you don’t think they will install a dish. My tenant told me she was getting cable, then changed her mind!
  • If for some reason, they accept the risk and still elect to install the dish, then at least make sure they know to install it so that it isn’t visible from the street. HOA probably won’t ask you to remove the dish if they don’t know it’s there.
  • In this case, total costs to remove the dish, re-install it, and repair the roof came out to $300. It isn’t cheap.
  • You can try to argue Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. I tried, but didn’t have any luck. Your results may vary.

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Leigh
Guest

I’m surprised that the satellite company didn’t require permission since the cable one did. I had a landlord in college who didn’t shovel the snow off the sidewalks and expected us (the tenants) to do so, despite the city landlord/tenant regulations clearly stating that it was the property owner’s responsibility. I think it was a $200+ fine if the sidewalks weren’t shoveled! I don’t really understand what the point of an HOA is for a single-family home. For a condo, it’s pretty obvious, but for a SFH, what purpose do they really serve? Other than to send complaining letters and… Read more »

David
Guest

The single family home I am buying is governed by a HOA but they are very nonintrusive and the fees are very low…22/month and they maintain the commons and provide a clubhouse, a stocked fishing pond and a pool…I couldnt provide myself a pool or even maintain it for 22 so I think its a good deal, and even though the fees are low, it keeps the neighborhood looking good. Their biggest complaint is homeowners not changing out the bulbs in our security lights in our front yards.

Greg@ClubThrifty
Guest

Luckily, I have never lived in an area that has a HOA. That is a good and a bad thing. While I don’t have to follow any strict rules, I also have the risk of somebody leaving a car up on cinder blocks for months at a time.

David
Guest

Exactly, which is why I prefer the HOA dues, as long as they are very low. Especially living in the South–I am a native Southerner, so dont get me wrong here–the chances of having a car on blocks in their driveway is a little higher here, lol.

Compounding Income
Guest

Very interesting, thanks for reporting this. I do feel bad for your tennant though. I like the gift card idea. Perhaps a thanksgiving turkey before it’s too late.

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[…] -Real estate is another interest of mine, and also a fine way to earn some investment income. Financial Independence Fighter posted this week about some lessons learned in the real estate world. […]

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[…] issues came up this month with the rental property. First, there was a satellite dish problem, but that has since been resolved. This was more just a minor inconvenience than anything else. […]

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[…] my tenant as a Christmas present for being such a good sport after having to deal with the whole satellite dish fiasco back in November. Who says all landlords are […]

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