Must tenants let landlord install equipment on their balcony?
Question: I rent an apartment in a large multistory building. There is a long balcony on my side of the building. Management sent me a letter telling me they wanted to install telecom and antenna equipment on this balcony so the local phone company can improve Wi-Fi reception in our area. The only access to the balcony is through two apartments, one of which is mine. Do I have a right to refuse to allow this installation? If they go ahead with the installation, do I have a right to refuse to allow the telephone technicians to use my apartment for access?
Answer: Use of a portion of your rental property for the benefit of another person or company is generally considered an easement. A road running through your property, for example, is a more typical easement.
You have no duty to permit an easement to place the telecom equipment on the balcony that is included in your rental property, unless your rental agreement gives that permission to the landlord. Otherwise, the easement can be granted only if you agree to amend your current agreement, or if the terms are changed as part of a new lease or pursuant to a notice of change of terms, if you are a month-to-month tenant.
California law permits a landlord to send a technician to your rental to repair or maintain your unit during normal business hours after giving you 24 hours written notice. As long as the landlord complies with these limitations, your permission is not required.
In this case, however, the technician is not entering to repair your rental property. He or she is entering to service the easement equipment. In that situation, entry is part of the easement and would require your permission or must be included in an amendment or change to your rental agreement, the same as installation of the equipment itself.
In this situation a negotiated agreement with the landlord might make sense. For example, you might permit the easement in exchange for some type of compensation.
Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for Project Sentinel, a mediation service based in Sunnyvale, Calif. To submit a question, go to https://www.housing.org.