Can A Homeowners Association Restrict Solar Panels In Maryland
Many customers worry that their Homeowners Association might interfere with their solar installation. Thats understandable. Many HOAs have extremely strict rules about everything else. The short answer is… the HOA cannot stop you from putting solar panels on your home. The long answer is… the HOA cannot set unreasonable limitations on elements of the solar system. To get away from a double negative, that means the HOA can set reasonable restrictions on the solar system design. Most of those reasonable restrictions make a lot of sense, so we usually have nothing to worry about. Lets look at what Energy Select does to make sure this is a positive solar experience with your HOA.Working with Your HOA
There are some understandable concerns. Not every solar installation company cares about the look of the system and its impact on the home and neighborhood.Our first step is to make sure you are completely satisfied with the installation plan before we head to engineering, permitting, and only then to the HOA.The HOAs authority over solar is defined by . The code states that the HOA cannot make any unreasonable limitations that significantly increases the cost of the solar collector systemor that significantly decreases the efficiency of the solar collector system.So what does that mean? Here are a couple of examples:
Solar Panels Can Save Homeowners Money But Some Hoas Bar Installation Lawmakers Are Trying To Change That
Their bill failed to pass this session, but Rep. Ami Wazlawik, DFL-White Bear Lake, and Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, plan to introduce the bipartisan measure to restrict HOAs again next year.
It was with much excitement that Nancy Simmet submitted an application to install solar panels to her homeowners association in the fall of 2020. Spurred by a desire to use renewable energy and benefit from state and corporate incentives for going solar, and edged on by boredom during the pandemic, Simmet reached out to a Minnesota-based solar company, I-solar, to work up a layout for her detached townhouse. But like many residents across the state and country, Simmets desire hit a roadblock with her homeowners association. Within 24 hours, Simmets application was rejected by her HOA.
Roughly a quarter of the states population lives in HOA communities, with 37 percent of the states homeowners being part of HOAs, leaving a large portion of the states residents reliant on their HOAs policies to use renewable energy. But some state legislators are hoping to give homeowners more autonomy in their decision to go solar.
Wazlawik says that while individual decisions to go solar might seem minor, they actually contribute to a larger effort for residents and businesses in Minnesota to engage with renewable energy.
Financial incentives and environmental values
Law would allow restrictions but not denial
Seeing The Light: The Fight Against Hoa Solar Restrictions
Homeowner associations have a long history of restricting residents from installing solar panels because of how they look from the public areas. In the United States, where more than half of the nations neighborhoods are governed by HOA Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions , these contracts pose one of the most prevalent obstacles faced by prospective solar homeowners. NCSEA and other solar advocate organizations have since taken up the fight to push back on these solar restrictions by collecting stories from solar customers, supporting bills that seek to remove HOA installation restrictions, and empowering homeowners to negotiate with their HOAs. While there are many success stories, we still have a long way to go before rooftop solar is accessible to all.
Solar access law development in North Carolina remained stagnant until this years Legislative Session. The same bill, now designated HB842, is making its way up the 2021 session. As of June of 2021, it has passed its first Senate reading and is making notable progress compared to its predecessor.
This post was written by NCSEAs Communications Fellow Stacy Chen.
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Homeowners Associations And Solar Access
If you live in a planned development or condominium, chances are you had to join a homeowners association upon buying your property. HOAs establish rules for a neighborhoods aesthetic and raise money for shared amenities like pools and tennis courts.
Your HOA may restrict where and how you install your system. It may even prohibit you from outright installing solar. Many states, however, have enacted laws protecting homeowners rights to generate solar electricity. These laws generally fall under two categories: solar access laws and solar easements.
How To Get Solar Approval From An Hoa
It is helpful to understand the typical process for getting approval for a solar installation from an HOA so that you are better able to guide your customer through it.
Usually, a customer requests an application from their HOA or gives the contractor permission to do so. While there are some customers who choose to fill out the application and send it in themselves, others prefer that the contractor do this.
Mike Busby, Co-Founder & President of Victory Solar, a leading residential and commercial installer in Texas, spoke with Aurora about his companys extensive experience working with HOAs. He states that his company does all the HOA paperwork on the homeowners behalf, only getting the homeowner involved if they have to.
Bobby Custard, Solar Consultant for Pur Solar & Electrical, an Arizona-based contractor with over 40 years of electrical contracting experience, also shared his insights about interacting with HOAs. He says that after Pur Solar has given the customer everything they need to review and sign, the company notifies the HOA when they begin the permitting process. They send the HOA a copy of the plans, the proposal, and images of what the project will look like.
If the application is approved by the HOA, you can move forward with the installation. If not, you should understand the applicable laws in your state in case you are able to help your customer appeal the decision. Well cover some of those laws in just a bit.
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Hb750 Will Render Old Hoa Agreements Obsolete
Some old HOAs are still able to completely deny solar installation if the covenants were established before 2007 when the solar access laws were first passed in North Carolina. There were many concerns from both homeowners and solar companies about the ambiguous statement in the original solar access laws regarding the location of solar panels. There is currently a new bill with bi-partisan support that is on the long and cumbersome journey to becoming a law. HB750 has two very important benefits for homeowners who are stuck in either the predicament of my HOA is denying solar installation or my HOA is denying the ideal location for solar. The new law will render old HOA agreements regarding solar completely void and unenforceable. It will also ban HOAs from denying a homeowner from having their panels installed in the most efficient location.
Homeowners Right To Install Solar Panels
Can an HOA prohibit solar panels? It depends on where you are. Nearly half of all states have enacted laws protecting homeowners rights to installing solar panels. These laws generally prohibit HOAs from outright banning solar panels within their communities. Solar access rights can fall under one of two types solar access laws and solar easements.
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An Exception To The Rule
A majority of solar access laws have special exceptions in place, though. Historic districts, for one, can typically deny or restrict solar panel installation as these structures can interfere with the notable character of the neighborhood. Other times, a historic district may require homeowners to install solar panels in a way that hides them from public view.
The exact exceptions can differ according to your location, so it is essential to be familiar with your state laws prior to undertaking any solar panel installations. It is worth noting that these exceptions can sometimes make the process more challenging and costly, too.
Hoas Impact On Solar Installations
HOAs are neighborhood organizations that create and enforce rules for houses or condominiums in established communities.
Solar Power World states that a major directive of the HOA is neighborhood uniformity and/or a high standard of appearance for each property. HOAs concerns, and resulting rules, about solar installations tend to relate to how PV panels will affect the look of neighborhoods or property values.
These rules can impact a homeowners efforts to go solar. A significant proportion of American homeowners interact with an HOA: over 370,000 HOAs in the U.S. regulate about 40 million households or 53% of owner-occupied households. Therefore, there is a good chance that your prospect needs to work with one. However, about half of U.S. states have laws preventing HOAs from denying solar for aesthetic reasons, so the impact on your business is partially dependent on where you operate.
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Your Hoa Cannot Say No To Solar
If you live in a community with a homeowners association, youre probably very familiar with the many variables that your HOA has control over: the colors youre allowed to paint your house, what kind of tile you can get on your roof, how high you can build your fences–and the list goes on.
Some of these rules make sense, others seem pointless, but some rules are simply illegal. When it comes to solar, your homeowners association cannot legally decide to inhibit solar system installations. Your HOA cannot say no to solar!
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Review Solar Easement Laws In Your Area
Solar access laws and solar easement laws are two sides of the same coin. If solar access laws give you the right to install solar panels, solar easement regulations make it easier to enjoy solar power’s benefits.
Solar easements give you a legal avenue to protect your right to sunlight. They give you the power to negotiate with your neighbors to remove trees or other obstructions on their property that reduce your home’s access to sunlight.
Its important to recognize that these laws are voluntary. You have the right to ask people to remove trees on their property that hang over yours, but the rules can be difficult to enforce, especially if your HOA isnt a solar energy fan. Luckily, any solar easements agreement you create with a neighbor should stay in effect, even if new property owners take over the neighboring home.
Even if these laws are voluntary, any agreement you create should be in writing and notarized. While your specific terms might vary, a general statement should include the following:
- The space where the easement is in effect
- Terms for the easement termination
- Any compensation for the creation and maintenance of the easement
- Any fees or consequences for violation of the easement
The State Of Federal Law On Hoa Solar Panels
While no federal law protecting homeowners solar rights exists as of now, it isnt too far-fetched to say that one may exist in the future. In 2009 came the introduction of the American Clean Energy and Security Act which, if it had passed, would have made it illegal for HOAs to prohibit solar panel installation on a nationwide level. Any HOA rules that conflicted with this would have then become unenforceable.
The act ultimately did not pass, but it is plausible that similar solar panel laws may be enacted in the future. Many states already have laws concerning homeowners association solar panels today. Other states may soon follow, and federal legislation may even revisit the topic depending on the political climate.
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Typical Exceptions To Solar Access Rights Statutes
Most solar access rights statutes have exceptions for special situations where solar panels can be denied or limited. For example, historic districts often have the right to restrict solar panel installation in order to protect the historical character of a neighborhood.
Sometimes historic districts might also require that solar panels installed on rooftops are not visible from the public right of way and that any equipment that is installed on the roof matches the color of the roof. These vary by location, but sometimes these additional hurdles make it more difficult and expensive for homeowners to install solar panels.
Before deciding to move forward with a solar panel project, homeowners would be well advised to find out if their homeowners’ association or historic district as the case might be has any additional requirements or restrictions that would apply to the installation that the homeowner is considering.
Homeowner’s Associations Can Be Difficult When It Comes To Home Improvement Projects Luckily There Are Solar Access Laws In Place That Override Your Hoa Contract
HOAs and Solar
If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association , you are most likely aware that you need permission for certain alterations and home improvement projects. Luckily, when it comes to solar panels, HOAs no longer have complete autonomy in dictating whether or not you can install solar.
About twenty four states, including Texas, have solar access laws that limit HOAs from banning solar panels. These laws override the HOA contract that restricts you from going solar. There are two types of solar access rights that protect a homeowners right to install solar: solar access laws and solar easements. They both protect your right to harness energy from the sun but address different concerns.
Solar Access Laws
These are state-level laws that prohibit or limit restrictions on solar installation. In Texas, an HOA cannot legally prohibit a homeowner from installing solar on their property. While these laws protect a homeowner from being denied their right to install solar, HOAs still have the ability to place restrictions on where and how it is installed.
Under a new law that went into effect on September 1, 2015, residential developments with more than fifty homes are prohibited from banning or restricting homeowners from installing solar panels. This means that residents of continuously growing subdivisions no longer have to wait for the developer to finish construction before installing solar.
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Can Hoas Stop Homeowners From Getting Solar Panels
In short, it really depends. Some communities allow their residents to choose solar power, but many may restrict where and how the panels are installed. Others, though, prohibit the systems.
In Central Indiana alone, nearly 400 homeowners associations have full or partial prohibitions, according to Zach Schalk, the Indiana Program Director for Solar United Neighbors. That means they are likely affecting tens of thousands of homeowners ability to go solar, he added.
Data from other parts of the state is hard to come by, Schalk said, but this is an example of what residents elsewhere around the state are likely to experience. Many such restrictions are based on outdated technology, such as solar heat panels. These systems are often clunkier used to heat liquid or the air and are obsolete today.
Still, many HOAs have not updated those covenants to reflect the advanced technologies, leaving homeowners with little to no recourse when living under these restrictions.
Can Home Owners Associations Deny Solar Installation
If you live in a community with a Home Owners Association , do the community rules prevent you from installing a solar electric system on your property? In the state of California, the California Solar Rights Act prevents HOAs from limiting a persons ability to install solar panels. In other words, your HOA can not prevent you from installing a solar electric system on your property. Of course, if you live in a Home Owners Association you would still need to notify the association that you were having a solar system installed. Your solar contractor can create plans and provide documents for you to submit to your HOA regarding the solar installation, so that they can approve the layout.
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Over 50% Of Homeowners Have An Hoa
Home Owner Associations often still adhere to archaic rules and regulations that are not energy efficient, but solar access laws are quickly changing all of that. There have been instances where a homeowner had difficulty with their solar panel installation due to an HOA concerned about aesthetics. Incidents like this are becoming less frequent as solar panels are becoming sleeker and more attractive. Over 50% of homes are located in neighborhoods with an HOA, and many of these organizations are more than willing to work with homeowners. Many states are now adopting solar access laws that protect homeowners.
Solar Resources For Homeowners Associations
Before installing a rooftop solar system, residents of communities managed by HOAs usually require prior approval from the HOA Board of Directors or the communitys Architectural Review Committee particularly if the system will be visible from any public space such as roads. We recommend that you review your HOAs Architectural Guidelines to determine if there are any restrictions in place. Your installer can help you troubleshoot any problems you have obtaining approval from your HOA. North Carolina law places some restrictions on an HOAs ability to prohibit installation of solar panels. Read more here and read the actual law here.
The Solar Outreach Partnership and the NC Clean Energy Technology Center have produced these materials to help HOAs adopt solar-friendly guidelines in their covenants:
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