In a novel and potentially precedent-setting legal case, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in Glendale ordered Dish Network to pay for the removal of three satellite dishes from an apartment building whose owner says were ordered by tenants without his approval, but who have since moved out.
Christopher Spencer was awarded $850 in small claims court for the cost of removing the equipment from his apartment building in Burbank and $110 for court costs.
Spencer, who is president of a legal services company, said he researched cases involving apartment owners and could find none where a landlord sued a satellite dish provider.
Leon Khachooni, manager of the Foothill Apartment Assn., said that while he’s heard of cases where landlords take tenants to small claims court because they didn’t have a satellite dish removed, this is the first time he’s heard of a landlord going after the satellite company itself.
Spencer purchased the apartment building at 432 N. Lomita St. in 2007 and found the unauthorized dishes on the roof and outside walls in March 2010.
He said there’s somewhat regular turnover at the building and the tenants who lived in the units linked to the dishes said they didn’t have Dish Network service. The lines from the dishes had been disconnected, he added.
Federal regulations allow tenants to install dishes in any area under their control, such as balconies, terraces and patios. But they prohibit installation without the owner’s permission in common areas owned by the landlord, such as outside walls and roofs.
Spencer said he had the equipment removed and worked with Dish Network informally at first to have the company reimburse him.
After more formal back-and-forth earlier this year, Spencer went to court this month demanding financial payback.
Dish Network released a statement Friday standing by its position that the burden of removing equipment is with the customer.
“As stated in the terms of our customer agreement, antennas are the property of our customers,” the company said. “In cases in which the customer is leasing the property, it is the customer's responsibility to coordinate with the landlord to determine when and if the antenna should be removed.”
Spencer said he’s not celebrating a victory because he had to take on a daunting task out of principle, not money.
“I have better things to do with my time than enforce my rights,” he said.