For some tenants a terrestrial antenna or cable TV is not enough. Many of them, especially those coming from abroad, have a need to receive domestic TV programs. Since their reception is significantly limited in Germany by cable TV or terrestrial antenna, many people use satellite dishes. These are usually mounted on balconies. In this way the outer appearance of the building is somewhat disfigured, which is not always understood by the landlords. Sometimes landlords demand immediate removal of satellite dishes. But is this covered by German law?
Does the tenant have the right to mount a satellite dish on the balcony?
The Federal Constitutional Court decided in its resolution of 31.03.2013 (Case No. 1 BvR 1314/11), that generally the tenant may not be prohibited from placing a satellite dish on the balcony. Although the landlord has the right to preserve the original form of the building, on the other hand the constitutional right of the tenant to use generally available sources of information (Article 5 paragraph 1 of the Constitution) must be taken into account. This applies in particular to foreign tenants.
As a result, the court has to consider the rationale of both parties taking into account the circumstances of the case. An important role here is to determine whether the tenant has access to alternative sources of information, such as cable television or the Internet. In the opinion of the judges of the Constitutional Court, cable television is sufficient for German citizens. The Federal Court has also decided that they cannot demand the best possible coverage (Federal Court, Resolution of 21.09.2010, Ref. No. VIII ZR 275/09).
In the case of a foreign tenant, the situation may look quite different. The decisive factor will generally be whether sufficient access to domestic TV channels is guaranteed via cable TV or the Internet. In doing so, it must be taken into account that there is no right to a specific number of programmes in the native language (Federal Court, resolution of 14.05.2013, ref. VIII ZR 268/12). In addition, the foreign tenant must demonstrate the specific programs that it is unable to receive (Berlin District Court, judgment of 23.07.2012, file reference 20 C 272/11).
In the following cases the courts have prohibited mounting a satellite dish on a balcony despite the foreign origin of the tenant:
- A citizen of India: District Court of Frankfurt am Main, judgment of 27.07.2011, file reference 33 C 1957/11 (31)
- Greek citizen: Wuppertal Regional Court, judgment of 26.01.2012, file reference 9 S 28/11
- Ukrainian national: Landgericht Berlin, judgment of 16.07.2012, file reference 67 S 507/11
- Citizen of Syrian-Arab origin: District Court of Munich, judgment of 02.10.2012, file reference 473 C 12502/12
How does the situation look like for owner-occupied housing?
The same rules apply to people who own an apartment as to tenants. Also in this situation, the circumstances of the individual case are decisive and whether the tenant has the possibility to access information from alternative sources such as the internet or cable TV (State Court of Munich I, Resolution of 11.07.2005, ref. 1 T 17467/04).