If you have
ever lived in a neighborhood with a Nazi-like homeowners association (HOA), then
you understand how frustrating it can be when you have to get permission from "the
board" for something as innocuous as planting some bushes in front of your home.
Having lived in a few such locations, I can tell you that not once was I voluntarily
provided with a copy of the restrictive covenants even though the sales contract
contained a statement declaring that I had received and read the rules. Real estates
agents sometimes seem annoyed when you bother to ask for a copy. If you agree to
abide by the restrictions as part of the sales contract, you are bound to everything
in it. I have never entered into a contract without knowing full-well what I was
signing up for.
Those restrictions can work both for and
against you. For instance, the last neighborhood in which I lived with an HOA prohibited
cars from being parked on the road (except for a few hours during an event). They
also promised to prosecute people who allowed pets to roam or that had incessantly
barking dogs. Disrupting the peace of your neighbors was not tolerated. The HOA
document did make accommodations for requesting permission to erect an external
antenna "for broadcast and reception." A copy of that provision is shown below.
There were, in fact, a couple homes in the development that had modest amateur radio
In 1985, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to codify law that would ensure
no governmental agency - local, state, or federal - could prohibit reasonable installations
of antennas for Ham operations. As has always been the case (and I do mean "always"),
amateur radio operators have volunteered time and equipment to communities for providing
communications services during times of emergencies. It has been the consistence
and reliability of such services that has retained Hams' license to set up and operate
over federally regulated airwaves, and the Feds have, to their great credit, assisted
in protecting the domain. To wit in 1985:
Opinion and Order in PRB-1 "... Because amateur station communications
are only as effective as the antennas employed, antenna height restrictions directly
affect the effectiveness of amateur communications. Some amateur antenna configurations
require more substantial installations than others if they are to provide the amateur
operator with the communications that he/she desires to engage in. For example,
an antenna array for international amateur communications will differ from an antenna
used to contact other amateur operators at shorter distances. We will not, however,
specify any particular height limitation below which a local government may not
regulate, nor will we suggest the precise language that must be contained in local
ordinances, such as mechanisms for special exceptions, variances, or conditional
use permits. Nevertheless, local regulations which involve placement, screening,
or height of antennas based on health, safety, or aesthetic considerations must
be crafted to accommodate reasonably amateur communications, and to represent the
minimum practicable regulation to accomplish the local authority’s legitimate purpose."
As so often happens, over time the original intent of the law has been reinterpreted,
diminished, or outright dismissed by individual agencies and governing bodies to
the point that once again the ARRL found it necessary to petition the government
to clarify and enforce its stance regarding the rights of Hams to build and operate
communications equipment. Its current incarnation is in the form of The Amateur
Radio Parity Act of 2015 -
H.R.1301 in the U.S. House of Representatives and
S 1685 in the U.S. Senate . The primary intent is to prohibit
homeowners associations from flat-out denying an amateur radio operator the ability
to erect an antenna. Rather, an opportunity must be provided to request and accommodation
for some form of external antenna structure. This does not mean that massive antenna
farms must be permitted, simply that some leeway must be considered.
In order to promote The Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015, the American
Radio Relay League has produced a short video titled "Clarity on Parity" (embedded
below). As pointed out in the video, Amateur radio does not require an extensive
infrastructure like cell towers, land lines, or satellites. Hams pay for their own
equipment to provide emergency services, and it is NOT tax deductible (although
some mileage can be claimed for travel while providing services).
Fortunately, once again the 'powers that be' in the federal government remain
convinced based on a century of service provided by volunteer Ham radio operators
that those operations are not just appreciated, but entirely necessary to ensure
reliable, effective, and orderly communications in times of trouble. Per FEMA director
Craig Fugate, "...seeing how amateur radio, in a disaster, in a crisis, was often
times the one thing that was still up and running." Further, "Amateur radio is always
that last mile... a system that when everything else fails, a Ham transmitting can
mean the difference between life and death."
"Parity on Clarity" seeks to assure HOA groups that The Amateur Radio Parity
Act of 2015 is not an attempt to usurp control of and supersede previously
agreed upon terms, but to ensure pre-existing law is upheld when decisions regarding
antenna installation is being considered. HOA boards are fond of reminding residents
that 'ignorance of the law' is no excuse for not having read the covenants they
signed their names to, so this is fair turn-around for them. It is in fact reasonable.
Per the video, the Act will not lead to giant radio towers nor does it take away
jurisdiction or impact HOA agreements that are aligned with all laws. HOAs, not
Hams, decide on height and placement of antennas.
"Clarity on Parity" Video Produced by the American Radio Relay
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