If want solar, but your home falls under the jurisdiction of a Home Owner’s Association, you’ll probably have to go through an approval process. The majority of HOAs in California approve solar energy systems without a problem (most HOAs are aware of your Solar Rights and support clean, solar energy in their community), but there is a small percentage of Home Owner’s Associations that might put up a fight. HOAs can impact the feasibility, design, and completion speed of proposed home improvements, including a home solar energy system. However, there are strategies out there to move your plans through committee.
Scott Gordon, the Vice President of Residential Sales for HelioPower, recently published a detailed blogpost about HOAs and residential solar systems. He explains the ground rules that form the foundation for solar system approval through an HOA:
- The Solar Rights Act of 1978: In California, you are not allowed to prohibit or restrict the installation or use of a solar energy system. In addition, no one, other than a public entity, is allowed to “willfully avoid or [delay]” the installation of a solar energy system. If you do, you’ll be fined.
- Section 714 of California Civil Code: Municipalities and HOAs can restrict your solar energy system if these restrictions don’t increase its cost by more than $2,000 or decrease its efficiency/performance by more than 20%.
Scott then explains some of the Home Owners Association’s most common tactics:
- Make you move your solar panels where they won’t be visible
- Require the purchase of a type of panel that HOA will find aesthetically pleasing
- Prolong approval at their meetings, so either you’ll give up on a home solar energy system or your rebate will expire before installation.
- Get a third party “independent” solar contractor to review your desgn
And he also includes your possible next steps, if you are confronted with a stubborn HOA management board:
- Own and lead the fight (HOA management will not listen to your solar contractor)
- Show your HOA the solar Rights Act
- Prepare cost and efficiency comparisons between your plans and HOA plans
- Get photos of other solar installations your installer has done
- And if you must, bring in some legal help or get creative – one example Scott lists is having neighbors sign a petition supporting your solar energy system design, or getting elected to the board yourself.
The most important thing is to know your rights and make sure your Home Owner’s Association knows them, too! Check out the HelioPower blog for more specifics on how to win the fight for a solar energy system in an HOA community.