----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: I Hate the HOA--A Very Long Rant

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I Hate the HOA--A Very Long Rant

Do you live in a townhouse or a condominium? Then perhaps you can relate to my tale of woe...

Mr. Pink and I rented a lovely little condo back in August of 2004. He moved in, but I had to wait until after the wedding in October. (My father is so traditional!) Anyway, as soon as we rented the place, we got permission from the landlord to install a satellite dish so we could subscribe to the DISH Network. We knew the dishes (we need two to get all the basic cable channels...there's some weird deal here in the Bay Area) couldn't be installed on the roof, so we had them installed on the inner support of the private fence that surrounds our private patio.

All was well and good. Mr. Pink was thrilled to be able to subscribe to the NBA package so he could still follow the Lakers, even up here in Warriors/Kings territory, and I was delighted with our DVR, which I regard as an invention of genius. Then, one sunny afternoon in October of 2005, 14 months after we had our dishes installed, two random people walking in the open space behind our condo accosted my husband while he was out on the patio and told him the dishes had to be removed. I heard this and debated them, saying that there was an FCC rule that protected our right to have satellite. We also pointed out that we'd had the devices for more than a year with no complaints and that they couldn't even be seen from the street. No matter. These people said they were on the board of the homeowners association and they could see the dishes from their condo and they would have to come down. Well, Mr. Pink and I were supposed to be off to Napa for wine tasting and an evening on the Wine Train, so we let it go. Also, I failed to see the wisdom of arguing with two strangers who were peering into our backyard without so much as introducing themselves by name.

We never heard from those people on the hillside again, but I started to do research into the legality of our dishes. I found that the FCC has passed a whole rule protecting homeowners' and renters' rights to satellite service. You can read it for yourself, but essentially, it says that restrictions by homeowners associations or local governments that unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance, or use of a satellite, unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use, or prohibit reception of a quality signal are prohibited. This rule applies to condominiums, townhomes, manufactured homes and single-family homes, and it applies to both owners and renters. For renters, the dishes can be installed anywhere where a tenant has an exclusive use, which we do for our patio and fence. Great, I figured. We were in the clear.

Um, not quite. In the middle of January, I got a copy of a letter that was sent to my landlord, saying that two board members had spoken to us in October and had been assured that we would remove the dishes within a week or so (a blatant lie). It also said that the dishes had to be removed by January 31, or the HOA would start fine proceedings against the landlord. It said that the dishes could be installed on tripods but "cannot be attached to the roof, building, fence, retaining wall or other association maintained property, it must be kept in the patio out of view....and a Hold Harmless Agreement must be signed by you accepting responsibility for any damage to the property caused by the installation and use of the dish. The Hold Harmless Agreement is filed with the County of Marin and is recorded with the unit title."

This is just wrong on so many levels. First of all, reinstalling the dishes on tripods will cost at least $100, and the DISH Network has warned us that we probably won't get as good reception, so that contradicts the FCC rule by both increasing the cost of use and by precluding acceptable signal quality. Second, it will cost $50 for the landlord to file a Hold Harmless Agreement, which also unreasonably increases the cost of use. Third, the dishes are installed within an area of exclusive use, which is protected under the FCC rule. Finally, another owner has a dish installed on her chimney, and she is not being hassled. I checked with her.

Well, I wrote to the property manager, pointing out all these things to the property manager, but she says that the fence is owned by the association and is a common area, and personal property cannot be installed in the common area. Granted, the FCC does say, "The rule does not apply to common areas that are owned by a landlord, a community association, or jointly by condominium or cooperative owners hwere the attena owner does not have an exclusive use area." But I fail to see how we do not have an exclusive use area over the inside of the fence that surrounds our private patio and does not extend to any other unit. Still, the property manager was having none of it. My dad, a lawyer, sent her an email saying that we would file a petition with the FCC to let them decide the matter, and asking for the board members' names so he could serve them with notice, but she has ignored him. In fact, she wrote to the landlord saying that all communication about this matter must only come from the landlord or her agent, not from the tenants.

I am almost positive that the FCC would rule in our favor. However, our landlord wants to keep the peace and doesn't want to be fined, which is understandable. So, she is willing to pay the $50 for a Hold Harmless and the $100 for our dish reinstallation. But to me, it's the principal of the thing. Why are we being singled out, especially after we've had the dishes with no complaint for more than a year? Why is someone else allowed to have a dish on her chimney, which is clearly a common area? Why has another person been allowed to add onto her fence and create an arbor for her plants? Why has almost every other tenant attached things to their balconies or fences without harrassment from the board?

I think we are going to file our petition with the FCC. Our landlord has not objected specifically to that, and there's really no reason for her to be involved. Since the property manager won't communicate with us, maybe she won't even respond to the petition, and the FCC will automatically rule in our favor. In the meantime, I have an appointment scheduled for reinstallation on Feb. 2, but my landlord has asked me to hold off until I receive a copy of the CC&Rs from the management company. If I don't receive them in time, I may have to reschedule. Trust me, that wouldn't exactly break my heart.

Anyway, this has motivated me. If Mr. Pink and I can ever save up enough money, we will buy a single-family home, not a condo, preferably in an area with no HOA. And if any of you are considering renting or buying a place that's managed by Eugene Burger Management Corporation, I'd think again. Thanks for reading my rant. Putting it all down here has just convinced me of the strength of our arguments. So, stay tuned, and we'll see what the FCC has to say!


  • At 6:30 AM, Anonymous Tiffany said…

    I was just doing a little research myself when I came across your blog. I would love to know how it turned out because I am having the sam issue. The difference is, when I moved into my apartment, it wasn't wired for digital cable. Everyone here either had Dish or Directv. They got wired and now demand the dishes be removed from common areas. It will cost me almost $200.00 to break my contract, unless I move which will cost more.

    -Waiting to here!



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