Ham radio and the condo life

Ham radio from a city condo…….I have been doing it for close to 7 years now and it does have it’s challenges. I have had great success with some cool world wide contacts. In Canada it’s tough to get into the housing market right out of the gate so many younger ham’s are getting their foot into the market with condo living. Then those ham’s who are retiring and want to downsize are considering condo life as well. I am here to say that in condo life there is also ham radio!!

Before we talk about the nuts and bolts of condo ham radio lets deal with some of the basics. I have always found it avoids condo board letters if you read and understand the rules and guidelines of your particular condo. Yes get used to it if you are going to move into a condo there are rules and expectations. What does this have to do with ham radio………well if you are seen as a respectful owner (or renter) of the condo board, residents and property it can go a long way.

For example most condo guidelines (nice condo word for RULES) do not allow “permanent antennas” on the balcony. This rule is yes for Amateur radio antennas but I believe the condo is concerned about the mini satellite dishes springing up or HD antennas. Just one of many challenges a condo radio op has to creatively deal with. In my case I have the MFJ 1788 mag loop and in my newest condo (6 months now) the antenna is portable and it not  “permanently” mounted on the balcony. In my humble opinion having a low key antenna is important. Having whip antennas extending over the balcony or wires making their way down the side of the building just invites a letter from you know who from the office of your know where!!  Like it or not we are all human and once this happens you have the microscope on you…..not a very nice situation to be in.

In a condo your fellow “condo-ites” are very close to you and that means RFI on your part but also on their part as well with all the unfiltered electronics on the market today. The positive outcome to this is you will become very knowledgeable on dealing with RFI. Oh and a word of advise…..I have read this in the past “go see your neighbor and suggest installing filters on their electronics” Up here in the land of snow and proverbial “thank you” we always say to apparently to everything……there is no thank you response from someone you are asking to tamper with their electronics. Rigs these days have excellent filtering and that are some accessories you can purchase to knock out the worst of offender.

Well that is enough for today….in posts to follow I am going to look at RFI, power output and no as a condo dweller you are not a QPRer for life………..nothing wrong with that either!! What antennas I have had that work, some of the better modes (not just digi either)  to work and last but not least what happens if your in a situation were absolutely operating is possible, well I am here to say that you will still be able to get on the air in you condo on HF working DX!
Stay tuned.


Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

12 Responses to “Ham radio and the condo life”

  • Fred Springer VE3KYD:

    Excellent article, Mike.
    It is always wise to check out the rules carefully.
    I live in a development that supposedly had a bunch of rules but not corporation to enforce them. All is well with my 36 foot tower and antenna.
    Remember the rules are different in Canada than the US. You have a federal license here so should be governed by federal rules I would think.

  • Anders SM6BMC:


    Nice you discuss this problem. In my case I have the fortune having a flat (but metal!) roof on our seven floor condo building. I have been successful to install a FD 3 Windom antenna on the roof. Only just 1,5 meter above the roof level. Hanging between two chimneys and almost invisible from the street.
    Technically, from an antenna radiation standpoint, rather bad I suppose – but it works anyhow. Sometimes reality surpasses the theory!

  • Stephen Walters g7vfy:

    The Urban Radio Ham.


    Lets give a helping hand to Amateur / Ham radio operators get on the air and enjoy the hobby where ‘restrictions’ apply.

    ( This group has NOTHING to do with DJ’ing or Urban music! )

    Living in a flat or apartment with landlord or other restrictions for ham radio operating? Have you found a way to have a reliable Indoor or covert HF Antenna despite antenna restrictions? Then this is the group for you. Mostly antennas, operating and some construction.

  • Richard KWØU:

    Knew someone who moved into a condo, hung his antenna out the window, keyed it once and set off every smoke alarm in the building. Hopefully the filtering is better today, but as you say I’d keep a low profile. (On the other hand, if you are in a high building the DX might be better than a backyard tower. I have an attic dipole in my private house, but am on top of a hill. Back when we had sunspots I pretty much worked the world on 20 phone.)

  • Tim 4X1ST:

    Good that you’re addressing this.

    I live on the 2nd floor of a 7 storey apartment building. Access to roof, but no way of bringing coax down (we just underwent a major renovation, nobody wants coax dangling past their windows on the way down to me…) The building is reinforced concrete. I have a balcony, but only one aspect is open. So I occasionally hang a temporary end-fed off the balcony when nobody’s looking. Otherwise I go mobile/portable.

    Mag loop might be interesting, but they’re an expensive proposition, even homebrew…

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good morning Fred very nice to hear from you, yes it’s true that some corperation have rule but don’t enforce them. It can become an issue when the game plan changes and all of a sudden a group of individuals wants to “go by the rules” . It true we do have a federal licence but unfortunately we don’t have the backing if an issue arises.
    Thanks for stopping by Fred have a great weekend.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good morning Tim thanks for taking the time to comment, not a good thing to set off the fire alarm up this way for a false alarms the condo gets charged a fee and it’s not cheap. It’s true an added bonus in a condo could be the height of your antenna and as for me mine is 180 feet up on the balcony. In my townhouse before we moved I also had an attic dipole and it worked great but more on that in an upcoming post.
    Tim have a nice weekend

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Oops……in the above reply sub in Richards name for Tim’s name sorry for mixing up the name and comment.

    Good morning Tim, your situation does sound like a tough one for getting on the air. I agree it would be a tough sell to have coax running down the wall of the building. Yes the mag loops are not cheap that’s for sure. I have had mine for just over 6 years and I take it apart once a year to give it the once over.
    73 and sorry again about the name mix up Tim and Richard

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good morning Anders, it’s great to read how you have overcome your condo antenna issue. It very true that in theory only your antenna should do well at all BUT as you did always give it a try as you maybe surprised!
    Thanks for the input Anders 73

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Stephen thanks for the Facebook link, it’s a closed group so at this time I am not able to get in and have a look but will see to it on the weekend.

  • Sam, VE7TGT:

    I wish if this article could address both domains of HANDHELD and SET system antenna issues for people living in Condos.
    Yes, Canada or USA, rules are rules and STRATA is always strict about it.
    Please share your expertise, experience , knowledge for novice who lands up in frustration when their HANDHELDS and looking at them with frown !
    I have Anytone D878UVII Plus – ordered a antenna 18″ and hoping that it will work.
    Is there anything else I can do to be on air efficiently?

  • Mike VE9KK:

    Good afternoon Sam and thanks for stopping by the blog, I am sorry you are having issues with your radio. I have to be very honest and I really am not a UHF/VHF or DMR person at all. I am hoping someone comes across your question and can provide you with some guidance.

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