Can your HOA prevent you from installing a solar energy system?

A homeowner’s association exists to help a residential community maintain a clear and cohesive atmosphere throughout a neighborhood. Chances are your home is probably part of an HOA. While it does have its benefits, you are bound by certain obligations that you have to follow. You may also be concerned if they can prevent you from installing a solar energy system on your property.

Can my HOA prevent me from going solar?

The reality is that it all depends on your location. An HOA can only prevent the installation of a solar energy system if your state requires approval, and then rejects your proposal. These reasons can vary, even the aesthetic of your solar energy system can be a valid enough reason.

How to approach your HOA about going solar

When approaching your HOA regarding your solar energy system proposal, it’d be best to explain the positive benefits of solar energy. You can explain the financial benefits such as the savings from the energy generated, the increase in property value, and the overall benefits of decreasing their carbon footprint. Being able to convince more people in your neighborhood of the benefits of solar can also help your proposal. While the possibility of rejection can be discouraging, some states have solar access rights that can help you bypass the proposal process.

Solar access rights

Each state has specific access rights that afford you the right to install your solar energy system. The number of states around that country implementing these access rights is increasing, especially with the federal incentives for adopting solar energy. Solar access rights can vary between states, although two types protect your rights to install a solar energy system. These are solar access laws and solar easements.

Solar access laws

Solar access laws work on a state level, their function is to prevent or reduce the number of restrictions on solar energy systems. If you are in a state that has solar access laws, you will be able to install a solar energy system on your roof. While your HOA can’t stop you from installing your solar energy system, they will still be able to place restrictions on your system and how it is installed.

If you live in a historic district, they may have the right to also restrict your solar installation for the reason of keeping the historical preservation of the area. These restrictions can depend on the property and the district, in particular, to ensure the condition and looks of the structure. HOAs and historical districts put common restrictions on solar installations. These restrictions can include:

  • Requiring flush-mounted panels.
  • Prohibiting ground-mounted solar panels.
  • Rooftop installations aren’t visible from the public right-of-way.
  • The equipment matches the color of your roof.

These restrictions can make it difficult to go solar, especially as it doesn’t give you the freedom to set up your system to best suit your needs. To compromise with the HOA or historical districts, you might end up running into increased costs and/or reduced performance.

Solar Generation

Solar easements

Solar easements serve as a legal way to protect your access to sunshine. States with solar easements allow homeowners to negotiate with their neighbors to have access to sunlight. This would prevent any obstructions to your solar energy system such as trees or structures that shade your panels. Although the difference between solar access laws and solar easements is that easements are voluntary. Negotiations involving solar easements for your home need to be in writing. The writing itself requires a detailed description of the dimensions of your easement above your solar panels. The easement will also detail the height restrictions of various parts of your neighbor’s property, and can include terms for terminating the easement, compensation offered in exchange for creating and maintaining the easement, and violation fees.

How are solar access laws and easements implemented in different states?

If you want to find out what solar access laws and solar easements are like around the U.S. or in your location in particular. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) has detailed information about state and local solar access rights. You can also search for various other incentives that are available for your solar energy system installation. Here are some examples of the various solar access laws and easements around the country:

Florida Solar Easement and Access Laws

Florida’s solar easement and access laws detail the rights of Floridians to install a solar energy system. “Florida law forbids ordinances, deed restrictions, covenants, declarations, or similar binding agreements from prohibiting the use of solar collectors (including clothes lines) or other energy devices based on renewable resources,”. Florida law allows for the creation of easements with proper writing, recorded, and indexed like any other instrument affecting the title to real property. Although, a condominium or a multi-condominium board of administration may, install solar collectors (including clotheslines) or other energy-efficient devices on association property for the benefit of the unit owners without approval. While unit owners may only install devices within the boundary of their unit.

Arizona Solar Rights

Arizona Solar Rights law protects individual homeowners’ private property rights to solar access by dissolving any local covenant, restriction, or condition attached to a property deed that restricts the use of solar energy. In addition, Senate Bill 1254 enacted in July 2007 stipulates that a homeowners association may not prohibit the installation or use of solar-energy devices (panels and associated devices).