QI just moved into a new apartment. At first I was told that I could put up my satellite dish, but now I am being told I can't. I would understand if the owner doesn't want me mounting the dish on the roof, but I was told that the reason was that the owner had an agreement with the local cable company to be the sole provider of cable service to the building. What if the cable company doesn't provide the same programming? If the property owners don't want me to nail a dish to the roof, fine, but can I be prevented from using it inside the apartment and aiming out a window or off a balcony?

ALandlords' attorney

Smith replies:

A few years ago, after considerable debate, the Federal Communications Commission ordered landlords to allow their tenants the limited right to install a satellite dishes or receiving antennas in their leased premises.

A tenant may install a dish smaller than one meter; most are 18 inches wide, well within the limit. The dish must be placed inside the tenant's dwelling or in an area outside the tenant's dwelling such as a balcony, patio, yard, etc., of which the tenant has exclusive use. That rules out installation on a roof, exterior wall, window, windowsill, fence or common areas, including carports. The dish or antenna may not protrude beyond the vertical or horizontal space that is leased to the resident. That usually means that the dish must be recessed far enough into the balcony or patio so it does not extend over the railing. The tenant pays all costs to install and maintain the dish. If you install the dish according those requirements, it is unlikely that your installation would put the landlord in violation of his exclusive contract with the cable company.

Tenants' attorney Kellman replies:

Here are more details.

In 1996, the FCC adopted a rule known as 47 CFR Section 1.4000. It prohibits restrictions regarding the installation, maintenance or use of a "mini satellite dish" (one meter or less in diameter), a television antenna or a "wireless cable" antenna used for receiving video programming. The rule mostly concerned condo owners but it was amended to include tenants. In January 1999, the rule was changed to permit the installation of the antennas on parts of rental properties over which the tenant has exclusive use or control, such as a balcony or a patio.

You cannot, however, install such an antenna on the roof or in other common areas of an apartment building.

Unless your landlord's restriction about the installation of a mini dish antenna is based on a genuine safety issue or to preserve a historic site, it appears to be invalid and may violate federal law. In your case, the landlord's restriction is based wholly on a private economic interest in preserving an exclusive arrangement with a local cable company. Such a restriction may have been acceptable in the past but is no longer allowed.

Tell your landlord, in writing, about this law and again request cooperation with the installation of your mini dish antenna. If your landlord refuses to cooperate or threatens eviction, you may need to take legal action to protect your rights.

I am a month-to-month renter who is planning to buy a home soon. My rental agreement states that my monthly rent that is due each month; I also paid a security deposit before taking possession of my rental unit. There is no reference in the rental agreement to the security deposit being used as the last month's rent. When I give my landlord the proper 30-day notice that I am moving, do I have to pay rent for that month or can I use the security deposit to pay for the last month's rent?

Property manager Griswold replies:

Because your rental agreement does not state specifically that you have paid the "last month's rent" as part of your security deposit, then you must pay the last month's rent or face the possibility of legal action. You could ask the landlord to agree to use your security deposit as the last month's rent but most landlords will wisely refuse to make such an accommodation unless the tenant can convince them that the rental unit will be left in excellent condition.

In my book, "Property Management for Dummies," I advise landlords that they should never designate any portion of the security deposit as "last month's rent" because it limits the use of the security deposit when the tenant moves out. Another complication is when the rental rate has changed over the term of the tenant's occupancy and the landlord fails to properly notify the tenant of the need to increase the amount of money held as the "last month's rent."

Conversely, tenants are very wary of unscrupulous landlords who come up with fictitious or exaggerated charges to claim much or all of the security deposit. Tenants also are likely to need the money to put down as a security deposit at their next rental or to apply to the down payment on a home purchase.

Therefore, a tenant would strongly prefer to have the security deposit used to cover the last month's rent. If your landlord is willing to consider your proposal, I suggest that you offer the opportunity to inspect your rental unit.

E-mail your questions to Griswold at rgriswold.inman@retodayradio.com. Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.

{copy} 2002 Inman News Features

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