Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to fight an HOA prohibiting solar

Do you want solar, but are part of an HOA, or Home Owners Association? There is a small chance that you have a fight ahead of you.

The majority of HOAs in California approve California solarenergy 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.

He explains the ground rules that form the foundation for home 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 home 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%.

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:

  1. Own and lead the fight (HOA management will not listen to your solar contractor)
  2. Show your HOA the solar Rights Act
  3. Prepare cost and efficiency comparisons between your plans and HOA plans
  4. Get photos of other solar installations your installer has done
  5. 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.

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