Antenna Hidden In Holiday Lights Skirts HOA Rules

For all their supposed benefits, homeowner’s associations (HOAs) have a reputation of quickly turning otherwise quaint neighborhoods into a sort of Stanford prison experiment, as those who get even the slightest amount of power often abuse it. Arbitrary rules and enforcement abound about house color, landscaping, parking, and if you’ve ever operated a radio, antennas. While the FCC (at least as far as the US is concerned) does say that HOAs aren’t permitted to restrict the use of antennas, if you don’t want to get on anyone’s bad side you’ll want to put up an antenna like this one which is disguised as a set of HOA-friendly holiday lights.

For this build, a long wire is hidden along with a strand of otherwise plain-looking lights. While this might seem straightforward at first, there are a few things that need to be changed on the lighting string in order to make both the antenna and the disguise work. First, the leads on each bulb were removed to to prevent any coupling from the antenna into the lighting string. Clipping the leads turns what is essentially a long wire that might resonate with the antenna’s frequency into many short sections of wire which won’t have this problem. This also solves the problem of accidentally illuminating any bulbs when transmitting, as the RF energy from the antenna could otherwise transfer into the lighting string and draw attention from the aforementioned HOA.

Tests of this antenna seemed to show surprising promise while it was on the ground, but when the string and antenna was attached to the roof fascia the performance dropped slightly, presumably because of either the metal drip edge or the gutters. Still, the antenna’s creator [Bob] aka [HOA Ham] had excellent success with this, making clear contacts with other ham radio operators hundreds of miles away. We’ve shared another of [Bob]’s HOA-friendly builds below as well which hides the HF antenna in the roof’s ridge vent, and if you’re looking for other interesting antenna builds take a look at this one which uses a unique transformer to get wide-band performance out of an otherwise short HF antenna.

87 thoughts on “Antenna Hidden In Holiday Lights Skirts HOA Rules

  1. Sir, I applaud you! I have the misfortune to be the president of our HOA, and I absolutely loathe rule enforcement. This outside the box thinking is excellent and would make it very, very hard to justify enforcement. “Antenna? What antenna? Nothing to see here. Move along.” Kudos!

      1. While it would be ideal to just dissolve an HOA, sometimes that isn’t legal. My neighborhood was supposed to have an HOA mandated by the city but the developer never took the steps to create it. So now a few years after the houses were all finished there are some drainage maintenance issues that need to be resolved and the city is suing the developer. Once it is created the developer will not be involved and everyone in the neighborhood will take over. It will exist solely for common landscape maintenance with zero ability to fine or regulate the properties outside of critical drainage infrastructure

      2. Common area. Our setup has a very large amount of common area that the HOA is directly responsible for maintaining, including some significant structural elements. We don’t have a bunch of single family houses on separate rectangular lots, so trying to dissolve the HOA according to the legal requirements, separating that common area in a sane and equitable way and doing something sensible for maintenance would be two and a half nightmares. Far too much for us unpaid board members and far too little return.

        Amending our bylaws to get rid of a rule someone don’t like is much, much easier and is exactly what I told someone to work toward just a few days ago. It’s annoying, but not that hard if someone wants to do the legwork. Most of our members are sane and decent people, so a good argument and sufficient support is all it really takes if someone cares enough to work at it.

      3. We have H.O.A. and it is just like the USSR. We are held hostage to do their biding. We have no freedom on our own property. Why pay them to tell us what to do or what not to do. Yes they have a swimming pool but it should be used if a person wants to use it. Where is the freedom in this country. It is a rip off.

        1. Everyone that is unhappy with the HOA rules really confuses common sense.
          When you bought your property, you ,by law, were given the set of rules, and you signed on that you would abide by them.
          Then you complain!
          No one’s fault, or problem but your own… Just move !

          1. I agree!
            To the guy who got the “rules” when he closed escrow, why did you close? If they didn’t get them to you beforehand, WALK OUT and get it rescheduled. You legally have 7 days to review all HOA docs and can cancel the contract in that window. Read what you’re signing. If it takes hours to read every page, fine; they should have sent the docs before closing.
            If you signed without reading, then that’s on you.

          2. We bought a house just over a year ago. We looked at hundreds of listings and went to view a couple of dozen. In some cases, the house was sold while we were driving to it. I can not remember a single listing that did not have a HOA.

          1. If you can find a home that was built in the last three decades without a HOA. You’re obviously not very familiar with the property market. When we bought our house in 2021, we would definitely have preferred no HOA. I can’t remember a single listing. I suppose we could have found an old farm house in the middle of nowhere…

    1. To one and all: under federal law NO HOA can ban, or in any way limit, the use of TV antennas. Look up the “OTARD rule” at Every time an HOA has fought a homeowner in court, it lost. Put up your antenna, then beg your HOA to sue you. They will lose.

      1. Depends on where you put it. You can put it up somewhere which you have exclusive use of, but you can’t put it out in common area. If your HOA has just a bunch of single family homes on separate lots, there’s no real issue and good luck enforcing a restriction. If there is a lot of common area, you’re inherently more restricted on where could put something.

        That said, there is such a thing as asking permission and there is usually a procedure. And if your board is so full of crazies that you can’t come to an equitable solution, then you need to do something about it and replace the crazies with more normal folks by joining it yourself. That’s why I’m on our board – I hate the job and didn’t want it, but I at least know I’m mostly sane and can provide a counterbalance against the crazy. I joined to keep a wanna be Gladys from becoming president [See: Over the Hedge].

      2. I agree. People need to stop caving and catering to HOAs and start fighting them every step of the way. They are a horrible institution that invariably turns evil and power mad.
        This is an especially poor example of caving to them when you have the power of federal law on your side and could have given them a good slap in court to put them in their place.

        1. Hmm… reading further down in the comments it seems the federal protection may not be as strong or clear cut as it seemed.
          My apologies to the homeowner, I get that you have to survive under the thumb of these tyrants.
          That said, I maintain my assertion that these HOAs need to be held at bay by every means necessary, including lawsuits and organized pushback from residents by attending meetings, voting, and running for office.

    1. Take a look at FCC PRB-1. It doesn’t guarantee hams may put up whatever kind of antenna they want within an HOA, however, it does strongly suggest HOA’s (and other regulatory bodies) must make accommodations for reasonable antennas. Whatever that means.

        1. As MmmDee says in their follow-up reply: PRB-1 does not apply to CC%Rs.

          This ARRL document concludes with: “The practical bottom line when dealing with CC&R cases is that the amateur is often in a weak negotiating position. Short of getting the HOA to change or waive the restriction, you probably are going to have to rely on alternatives to pursue Amateur Radio from your home in a CC&R situation.”

          Unless your state has stronger rules…

      1. Oh, and before I get a bunch of comments on the above, the 1986 version of PRB-1 was a bit vague on ham antennas but the FCC clarified in 2001 that PRB l-1 applies only to federal and state regulations and not to private contracts (HOA/CC&Rs). There are a number of state versions of “PRB-1” that are more ham-friendly.


        And also, IANAL.

      2. Came to say this. Just passed Extra and learned about it. Barring legal protected means, the ham community is rife with clandestine antenna stuff. Apparently a regular dipole doesn’t suffer much when bent around so attic space is usable. I don’t have an HOA but did run a dipole along the back fence and it does ok and is invisible for all intents and purposes.

        1. While rare, I’ve hit Japan from the West coast USA using FT8 via an attic-mounted dipole on 40m. 500-1500 miles is much more regular (it’s rather NVIS since it’s only a single story home). Still, the concept is sound.

          I’m not in an HOA restricted housing development; I just like stealth antennas.

    2. Much to the annoyance of many NIMBYs, a free-standing antenna mast is often a federal matter that falls outside municipal bylaws (Canada).

      This doesn’t mean locals can’t be punitive to a Ham in other ways, and can lead to people wasting each others time in court. If I recall, a city fined the mast owner for having a flower bed that violated some obscure bylaw after losing in court.

      Repeaters are very common, and a great way to access the hobby if you are uncomfortable around lightning mitigation. =)

  2. The FCC rules that say HOAs cannot restrict antennas only apply to antennas and small satellite dishes for TV and certain fixed wireless services and some other fairly obscure services. It does not apply to ham radio antennas, CB antennas, or AM/FM/shortwave antennas. There has been a bill, the Amateur Radio Parity Act, introduced a few times in Congress to provide similar protection for ham radio antennas but it has not yet passed.

      1. The way it was originally explained to me is that they’re allowed to have rules that restrict the location of a TV antenna/dish as long as it still allows the antenna/dish to remain effective. In essence, if they are only requiring you to request permission to verify that it will be placed in the least obtrusive spot that still allowed it to function, that is most likely allowed. If they ever outright deny permission or try to enforce a mounting location that prevents the antenna/dish from receiving a proper signal, then they’d be breaking the law.

  3. If it’s my house and my property I don’t see why I can’t put a 10 foot tall stainless steel phallus on my roof? I’m sure after a few months of that the neighbours would welcome a simple antenna.

    1. Don’t live with an HoA. It’s your house as long as you follow the rules. If you don’t follow the rules, they can fine you and foreclose your property if you don’t pay the fines. Some HoA bylaws even have amendments allowing them to vote you out of the neighborhood if you are consistently breaking the rules.

    2. It’s your house, except when you bought it you contractually agree to a bunch of things. Sometimes that’s water and mineral rights,: sometimes it’s an HOA. If you don’t like HOAs don’t buy a property in an HOA. Kl

        1. I agree. The time to figure out if an HOA is a PITA is before you buy, not after. I’ve been both a resident and a board member, and boards reflect the residents. If >50% of the residents are jerks, the board will be too. If the board is jerks then you can bet >50% of the residents are too.

  4. I used to have a large TV antenna inside the roof (ranch house with trusses). It worked great even on UHF and 25 years later it was in perfect condition. Then we got a metal roof. I now have a newer one on a 20 foot pole beside the house and it isn’t visible from the road.

    1. I’ve made a fair number of contacts on 40m CW tuning up a gutter as an antenna, but word on the street is that it’s a marginal practice. Corroded joints between sections supposedly can function as rectifiers and generate harmonics.

  5. The FCC prohibitions on banning antennas, is for the reception of a signal, not the transmission. In theory, if you needed a ham antenna to receive communication through short wave radio, you could argue that they cannot stop you. It would be interesting to see how that might proceed in the courts.

    One thing that you also have to recognize about HOAs/COAs is that the restrictions form with is known as a contract of adhesion.

    You cannot negotiate the restrictions on use, that run with the land, at the time of purchase. You have two options: Accept the covenants, and complete the purchase. Or reject the covenants and don’t buy at least he HOA/COA.

    But because you give up the ability to negotiate, anything that is unclear in the governing documents, would be decided in your favor. The rationale is, that the developer, having full control over the authoring of the documents, should take all of the care necessary to prevent anything that’s ambiguous. Their failure to do so will be decided in your favor.

    There are a lot of reasons for HOA’s/ COAs. One thing many people don’t consider is that a city /town would have an ordinance saying that a certain amount of land is the minimum lot size to build on. And if a large parcel of land has a portion that can’t be developed, a planned unit development allows the developer to include that land in the equation. For example, if there’s 50 acres and each home has to be built on an acre, and 25 acres are wetland, you can build 50 units on the 25 acres that are useable because those 25 acres of wetlands are still counted for the PUD.

  6. AFAIK in the USA you can also just put a big flagpole in your front yard in most HOAs. If that’s allowed, you can get a fibreglass flagpole and make a pretty decently functional vertical radiator out of it. Either string a wire over the pole’s pulley system, or put one inside of the pole. Coax and counterpoise can be buried shallow under the grass.

    1. In the United States of America Federal Law clearly states that no one can prevent you from putting up a proper antenna. HOA or not. Even the state government can’t stop you.

    1. Thats getting harder every day. I’m looking for land now and I can’t believe some of these undeveloped areas have HOAs. It’s like someone is buying up hundreds to thousands of ACs or land and selling small plots then becoming the self proclaimed Sheriff of the land! A lot of these lots I’ve looked at just ot park a nice RV seasonally I can’t because it would be a violation of the HOA rules. When my closet neighbor is miles away. The roads are not paved , no utilities present or planned . I have Solar so I have power, water I can get delivered or collect rainwater, and sewer a septic tank. But most of these places I have a time limit to build a structure not even A Mobile.home is allowed? It’s so what they want or leave it vacant. I think some lots are getting cheaper because the seller doesn’t want to give in to this. And with drones today they can easily check what your doing on the property. 👍📛😡

  7. My HOA does not allow antennas. I do have a 25 foot flagpole though. Before I installed the flagpole, I converted it to a vertical dipole. I work the world with it on HF and nobody knows! I have a corner lot on the entrance to my HOA, and everyone sees the flagpole, so this is in plain view but out of sight :)

    1. I don’t know where you live but in the United States of America federal law states that the HOA cannot prevent you from having a proper antenna. There’s nothing the HOA can do about it. Not even state laws can prevent you from having a proper antenna because that would be restricting Interstate communication.

  8. Until the said HOA finds out they will ban the holiday decorations all together , I still can’t understand why in America the land of the free people will buy a home with a dictator telling people how to live , what color is ok , that you cant use your driveway are a driveway at night (if you own a PU truck) what kind of material your fencing can be or you can’t have a fence to keep said person from seeing what kind of lawn furniture you have or how many guests you have at a barbeque. The rules these HOAs vary from place to place it’s hard to tell what kind of crazy person is going to be knocking on the door telling you what to do with your property.

  9. The problem I see with this is that anyone who moved into an HOA is not intelligent enough to be working with any kind of electricity. They most likely have not even yet graduated from chewing crayons.

    1. I work professionally with electricity. I also live in a HOA. Good luck finding a house to buy anywhere within 100 miles of the city, built in the last 25 years that doesn’t have a HOA. When we bought our house in 2011, we could not find a single one, and we looked at houses for almost a year.

  10. I do not live in an HOA, but a neighbor who simply would not give up claiming an easement around my property sued me.

    It ended up in FEDERAL COURT!

    Yes, a simple easement dispute took five years and $100,000 to fight.

    Again, this was a crazy neighbor who used the building and health departments and finally the courts system to harass me!

  11. HOAs. Meh. Minor first-world problems. The big first-world problem has become the old-lady ‘Karens’.

    There is an 80 year old lady that lives about 600m down the road. Her 2022 court filings included my neighbor’s chicken coop, another neighbor building a small helipad, partly on my property (the lights will “attract aliens”, I shit you not), and about yet another neighbor’s use of my tractor to dig a ditch for a pipe from their water tank to house.

    She started 2023 with a tort about my amateur radio astronomy antennae. With the exception of the gas money (60km to county courthouse), I enjoy helping my neighbors defend these filings – it has become yet another hobby in my semi-retirement.

    Spectators are welcome. My next court date is 30March at 0930 at the Vista, Ca superior court.

    Am hoping to get run over by a mac truck prior to getting to this lady’s level of crazy.

    1. I thought my neighbor was nuts!

      At least you didn’t have to pay the attorneys in the hopes you could eventually recover from someone.

      Keep fighting the good fight.

  12. The song which describes marconi in which he remembered he was the last amateur electrician alive when they called him the sparkle and he demeaned if the old days when the used aerial wires when he was the best and worked them all the song I dream of wires by gary numan

  13. As I have observed when a friend of mine was reviewing the HOA rules before purchasing a house, she noted several items that piqued the interest of her lawyer friend. In the end, she did buy the house, but the lawyer gutted the HOA rules as many were already covered by local ordinances, security concerns, and a host of Constitutional violations.

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