What is the OTARD rule?

Hopefully, this has never happened to you. You want to upgrade your home entertainment system. Maybe you want a satellite dish. Maybe you want an antenna and you’re pretty far from the city center. Either way, you have to put something on the roof. As you make your plans, your landlord or HOA says, “Not so fast, bud.”

Maybe your landlord says you can’t drill holes in the moldings. Maybe the HOA says antennas are ugly. You agreed to certain things when you moved in, and you have to abide by those rules. I agree, you do. Except when there’s a federal rule that supersedes it.

The OTARD rule

The OTARD rule is a nickname for edition 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 1.4000, concerning over-the-air reception devices. That rule was put in place by the FCC, the government agency empowered by Congress to set policies for all telecommunications in the US.

You can get a lot more information at the FCC’s web site, but here’s the bottom line.

You absolutely have the right to put up an antenna or satellite dish as long as you follow these rules.

  • It has to be smaller than 39.37″ (one meter) in any direction. This covers all satellite dishes and most small to medium sized antennas.
  • If you want to put it in an area that can be seen by the public, you need permission.
  • If you want to drill holes in property you don’t own, you need permission.

If your HOA or landlord doesn’t believe you, send them that link to the FCC. If they still don’t believe you, you can file a complaint with the FCC and you’re allowed to use your antenna, within the rules above, while the complaint’s being reviewed. Realistically I think there’s about a 3 year wait time right now.

How can you stay within the rules?

The key to following the rules is finding an area on your property where they make sense. If there’s a courtyard or terrace that isn’t visible from the street, that could work. You just need to make sure that you can point the antenna or dish where it needs to be.

You can use a non-penetrating mount to secure the antenna or dish. This kind of mount uses cinder blocks or jugs of water to secure itself, so you don’t have to drill into anything.

If you don’t have a private area to use, it may be possible to put the antenna or dish on a part of the roof where it isn’t seen. You can run the cable down to your window and use a piece of flat RG6 cable to feed it through a window which can then close around the cable.

What if the HOA or landlord doesn’t believe you?

Most people are pretty reasonable when you send them to a government web site that explains everything. They tend to get even more reasonable when you tell them you’re filing a federal complaint. But let’s say they’re still giving you fits. I would contact the SBCA, which is the government advocacy group for satellite dish companies. They can help you explain things. Their web site has many resources and you can send them an email and they will help you with the FCC complaint if you need to go that way.