It's the Law: Cable and satellite TV should be available to condominium owners

Q: I live in a condominium. The board of directors has voted to provide bulk cable television service to owners as part of the condominium budget. I do not want cable and especially not the cable provider selected by the board. Is there anything I can do?

A: As cable television service became more available, condominiums attempted to provide cable television service as a common expense. Prior to 1991, the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Home opined that a condominium association could not properly include cable television service as part of the condominium budget.

In 1991 the legislature amended the Condominium Act to specifically allow cable television service as a common expense. The statutory amendment provided that cost of a master antenna television or franchised cable television service pursuant to a bulk contract would be deemed a common expense if so provided in the declaration of condominium. If the declaration did not so provide, bulk cable television service could still be contracted by the board of directors and it would be a common expense if designated as such in that contract.

By allowing cable television to be a common expense, owners paid for bulk cable service in the same proportion that they paid other common expenses. A number of owners felt this was unfair and that cable television service should be paid on a per unit basis, even where maintenance assessments were based on size of the unit or otherwise.

In 1998, the legislature again amended the Condominium Act to provide that if the board of directors enters a contract for bulk cable television service and the declaration does not provide that such service will be a common expense, the cost is allocated on a per unit basis rather than a percentage basis. The law even provides that if a contract was entered before its effective date and the cost was not divided equally among all unit owners, internal allocation of the cost could be made on an equal basis by vote of a majority of the voting interests present at a regular or special meeting of the association.

The statute provides associations with an opportunity to obtain cable television service. That service must be obtained in accordance with the declaration of condominium, where the declaration addresses cable television. If the declaration does not include provisions addressing cable television, the board of directors can arrange for bulk service with the cost allocated on a per unit basis.

There was some concern that either condominium associations would add a surcharge to the cable television rates or the cable company itself would charge condominiums a higher than usual rate. In 1981, the legislature adopted a statute that made it illegal for any resident of a condominium, whether tenant or owner, to be denied access to any available franchised or licensed cable television service. The statute also provides no condominium resident can be required to pay anything more for service than charges normally paid by single family homes within the same franchised or licensed area, except for installation charges and other charges agreed to between the resident and the cable service provider.

That statute should allow you to obtain cable television service from the provider of your source, although you may have to pay installation and related charges that might make obtaining that service unattractive.

If you are still unhappy with available cable services, the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 and rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission provide that all condominium units are entitled to install satellite television dishes that are less than one meter in diameter. Although the condominium association can adopt rules regulating such antennas, the rules cannot unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use, unreasonably increase cost of installation, maintenance or use, or preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal. The rule applies to owners. It also applies to tenants where the tenant has an exclusive use area, such as a balcony or patio.

Both Florida and Federal governments have gone to great lengths to insure availability of cable and satellite television services. Nevertheless, some associations may refuse to abide by the applicable law. I recommend you discuss your circumstances with an experienced attorney for specific advice concerning options in your case.

William G. Morris is an attorney with offices at 247 North Collier Boulevard on Marco Island, Florida. His practice covers a broad range of subjects, including civil litigation, real estate, business and corporate law, estate planning and probate, domestic relations and contracts. He writes this column periodically with respect to legal matters that frequently affect non-lawyers. The information contained in this column is not intended as legal advice and, of necessity, is generalized. For questions about specific circumstances, the reader should consult a qualified attorney.

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William G. Morris is a lawyer with offices at 247 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island. The column is not intended to be legal advice for specific circumstances. General questions can be sent by e-mail to wgmorrislaw@earthlink.net or by fax to (239) 642-0722. Read other columns at http://www.wgmorris.com.

© 2007 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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