Property Clinic: Individuals should be free to use satellite dishes without undue technical, administrative, urban planning or tax obstacles
Siobhán Durkan, Solicitor and Partner at our firm, recently featured in The Irish Times Property Clinic. You can read the original article here and or read the full article below.
I’m writing to you in relation to the installation of satellite dishes. Do you know where I could get advice which allows me to install a satellite dish on my balcony rack. Is there any organisation in Ireland where I could go with my query? It should be regulated by law, shouldn’t it?
My housing association refused my request to install a dish but some of my neighbours have installed them. They are tenants of the same housing body and they live in blocks next to mine. I read a newspaper article in which the European Court apparently ruled that having a satellite dish “is a human right”. I hope you will able to provide me with information on this matter.
The erection of a satellite dish on a house is classed as exempted development and therefore does not require planning permission, subject to a number of conditions, writes Siobhán Durkan. However, planning permission is required if a dish is to be erected or installed associated with an apartment. This is because an apartment is part only of a structure; the apartment lease usually gives the apartment owner ownership of the inside of the apartment, with rights and easement over the common parts. The common parts of the apartment block include the structural parts, foundations etc and are owned by the management company or developer. A balcony would usually be part of the common areas held by the management company and therefore the management company would be the party that would apply for planning permission for the installation of a dish.
Enforcement action can be taken against the owner/occupier of the dwelling on which an unauthorised satellite dish is located. Any person served with an enforcement notice is liable to refund the local authority with the full costs associated with investigating, enforcing and rectifying the breach of the planning code. Furthermore, failure to comply with an enforcement notice can result in substantial fines and criminal prosecution. Fines imposed by courts generally range from €1,500 to €2,000 plus costs.
Apartment leases usually impose restrictions on the part of the apartment owners to include prohibitions on alterations or changes to the apartment and restricting what can be placed on the common parts. Such restrictions usually include erecting signs, satellite dishes or hanging out clothes. It’s argued these are required for good estate management and to maintain the standard of the overall development.
Breach of lease obligations can leave the apartment owner liable for damages and could result in the lease being forfeited.
The European Commission has adopted a communication in which it states that private individuals should be free to use satellite dishes without undue technical, administrative, urban planning or tax obstacles. The right to do so flows from the free movement of goods and services, which are both fundamental to internal market freedoms.
The communication stresses that private individuals, as the final users of these cross-border services, can cite the free movement of goods and services, fundamental principles which must be directly applied in national law. In addition, the right to receive information via satellite dish is related to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which is established by the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Commission notes that concerns on architectural and town-planning grounds can be met by solutions which make it possible, where necessary and technically feasible, to minimise the visual and aesthetic impact of satellite dishes without impairing quality of reception, under reasonable conditions and at reasonable cost; such solutions can, for example, involve the location of the dish (indoors rather than outdoors) or the type of dish (eg, a collective dish rather than numerous individual dishes).
- The European Commission has confirmed that private individuals should be free to use satellite dishes without undue technical, administrative, urban planning or tax obstacles.
You should make inquiries with satellite dish providers to explore solutions that may be available to minimise the visual and aesthetic impact of installing a dish at a reasonable cost. On receipt of this, you should then revert to the housing association seeking their consent to install a satellite dish on the basis of your right to do so being recognised under EU law.
- If you have not already done so, make sure to attend any housing association tenant meetings for your block and bring the issue directly to the board of the housing association, so the directors can either let you know of any steps taken to date to address the issue or to consider what options are available to deal with the issues.
- If you are a tenant of a housing association or other voluntary housing organisation, your tenancy is now covered by the residential tenancies legislation. The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) provides a confidential dispute resolution service. You can start the dispute-resolution process if you are a tenant, a landlord or are otherwise directly affected by a problem (for example, if you are a neighbour).
Siobhán Durkan is a partner at P O’Connor & Son Solicitors