HOAs vs. Solar Panels: What Gives?

I have visited the subject of Homeowner Associations (HOAs) in the past, but it recently became apparent that HOAs are still making headlines – this time because many are still working to prevent the installation of energy saving solar panels. This is a conflict that is perplexing, to say the least.
Even where there are state laws on the books preventing the practice, HOAs around the country are apparently still preventing the installation of solar panels, and the solar industry and individual consumers are fighting back for their right to produce their own, green energy.

Today, about two-dozen states currently forbid or limit HOAs or local governments from banning solar panels, according to a database run by North Carolina State University. But as equipment costs trend down and governments subsidize the cost of solar panels and systems, the issue is sure to continue plaguing energy-conscious consumers who are part of HOAs.

While California’s solar rights laws date back to the late 1970s, an appellate court recently upheld a decision forcing a couple to remove solar panels from their yard – although they were permitted to keep other panels on their roof.

Texas has also adopted a law barring homeowners associations from blocking solar panels, permitting them on roofs, in fenced-in yards or on patios. And by this time next year in Georgia any neighborhood or association that does not set a ban will be unable to restrict a homeowner from installing solar panels.
On the other hand, if you are part of a HOA looking to find a compromise to suit energy-conscious residents, take a look at some advice from Molly Foley-Healy at Winzenburg, Leff, Purvis & Payne, LLP who posts on the subject at the Colorado Homeowners Association Law blog.

She noted that in Colorado, HOAs are permitted to adopt aesthetic provisions (commonly referred to as “architectural guidelines”) that impose reasonable restrictions on the dimensions, placement or external appearance of solar panels and that do not significantly increase the cost of the solar panels; or significantly decrease the performance or efficiency of the solar panels.

Associations are also permitted to adopt bona fide safety requirements, required by an applicable building code or recognized electrical safety standard, for the protection of persons or property.

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