How to Convince Your Homeowner’s Association (HOA) to Allow Solar Panels

posted by Adele on August 30th, 2010

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The HOA Challenge

If you live in a neighborhood that has a homeowner’s association, you know that HOAs have a lot of power: they can control your home color, what kinds of plants you have in your yard, what kind of lawn furniture, even how many pets you can own. Some HOAs even say that you can’t have solar panels. We’ve laid out a strategy here for anyone working to get their HOA to change their solar policy.

Use the law

The majority of states have “solar access” laws, and some of these laws include provisions that say your HOA can’t restrict your right to have solar panels (in some cases these are separate from solar access, and called “solar rights” laws). If you live in Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, or Wisconsin, the law overrides any HOA contract that says you can’t have solar panels. That doesn’t mean the HOA can’t tell you where to put your solar panels, or how to install them– these laws usually say that some restrictions are possible. But if your HOA is saying that you can’t have solar panels at all, you can show them the law, or, in the worst case scenario, sue them. Importantly, these laws typically state that HOAs can’t deliberately try to delay the installation of your new solar system.

What if the HOA’s “reasonable restrictions” are becoming unreasonable?

As mentioned above, laws protecting the right to solar panels tend to say that “reasonable restrictions” are okay. Your HOA could possibly require you to buy a certain type of panel, or ask you to install the panels in a place that isn’t visible. This type of restriction is okay as long as it doesn’t go too far. Under California law, for example, restrictions become unreasonable when they increase the cost of your solar system by more than $2,000, or if they reduce the power output by more than 20%. If you don’t like what your HOA is proposing, you can work with your solar installer to show figures about cost and efficiency. See Scott Gordon’s great blog post for more tips on this.

What if my state doesn’t have a law protecting my right to solar panels?

It’s possible that there may be a federal law in the future that protects the rights of all Americans to have solar panels. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) would make it illegal for HOA rules, leases, and other private contracts to prohibit solar panels. H.R. 2454 passed the House of Representatives last year, but it’s unclear when or if it may pass the Senate and become law. Two other bills (H.R. 2848 and S. 1016) have similar provisions protecting the right to solar panels. If you want to fight for your right to go solar, one thing you can do is contact your senator and ask them to support H.R. 2454. In the meantime, you can try winning your HOA over with persuasive arguments, as we’ve outlined next.

Win your HOA over with logic (and a bit of emotion)

  • Solar power increases the value of your home. For every $1 you save in annual electric costs, your house jumps up $20 in value [PDF]. This video explains more about how solar panels increase the value of your home.
  • Solar panels can be beautiful. We know beauty is subjective, but we’ve seen some pretty gorgeous solar homes. Check out a collection of ten of them here.
  • Solar panels help protect our children’s future. If the person you’re talking with has kids or grandkids, appeal to their sense of responsibility – solar panels have major environmental benefits and can help fight one of our biggest challenges for the future, climate change. Energy production pollutes even more than cars do– the majority of the power plants in the U.S. run on dirty coal. That pollution adds not only to climate change, but to serious health problems like asthma, chronic bronchitis, and lowered resistance to infections.
  • Solar panels protect energy independence. Since climate change can be a sticky issue, you might want to take a different approach, and talk about how using free American sunshine will help untangle us from relying on foreign oil.
  • Solar panels will help you save a bundle of money. You could argue that, by freeing up the money that used to go into your monthly utility bills, you’ll have more cash to spend on other beautifying improvements for your yard and house.
  • It’s possible no one will even see your solar panels. Depending on the orientation of your house and roof, your solar panels may face your backyard, or sit at an angle that isn’t even visible.

Good luck! If you’ve worked with your HOA to get solar panels, please share your experience in the comments below. Feel free to contact us if you have questions on going solar, and sign up for 1BOG (it’s free!) to get access to our exclusive group discounts on solar.

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12 Responses to “How to Convince Your Homeowner’s Association (HOA) to Allow Solar Panels”

  1. Thomas says:

    This is a great article. Many people don’t know about the “solar access” and “solar rights” laws. In fact, several HOA members are also surprisingly unaware. Thanks for sharing!
    http://www.sunriseenergynow.com

  2. George says:

    This is a fantastic website. I have been trying to get some of my friends that live in neighborhoods with HOA’s to put up a solar hot water system, and they all say that it is not allowed. Now, I can direct them to this site to edify them as to their rights and to the law as it concerns solar..

    Thanks,
    George

  3. Clinton Pope says:

    The “solar access” laws in the federal level must be made to law. The choice to be progressive and eco-friendly is a step towards a better future and should not be hindered in any way.

  4. Spiele says:

    Ne’er knew this, regards for letting me know.

  5. SDAZTEC says:

    I just recently purchased a townhouse and e-mailed the CID Manager for the complex. She informed me that the roof is common area, and therefore I am not allowed to install solar panels. What should my next step be?

  6. Marc Rhodes says:

    My HOA searched out stories like these:

    http://themolokainews.com/2011/03/29/solar-panels-heat-up-ke-nani-kai-condos/

    http://www.nbcactionnews.com/dpp/news/national/blinded-by-solar-panels

    I think their attitude is that as long is there is one scary story on the internet about solar panels then it is just too risky to allow them in “their” neighborhood.

    They refuse to meet with my installer to learn some facts because “he’s just in it for the sale.”

    I’m not sure how anything besides a Solar Rights law that takes the decision out of their hands is ever going to get solar panels on my house.

    • katy says:

      Hi Marc,

      Unfortunately we constantly hear stories about Homeowners Associations making it difficult for those interested in going solar. Fortunately however, many states have laws now that prevent HOAs from prohibiting solar.

      These states have “solar access” laws, and some of these laws include provisions that say your HOA can’t restrict your right to have solar panels (in some cases these are separate from solar access, and called “solar rights” laws). If you live in Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, or Wisconsin, the law overrides any HOA contract that says you can’t have solar panels.

      For further information about what you can do to help convince your your HOA to allow solar, check out this article: http://1bog.org/blog/how-to-convince-your-homeowners-association-hoa-to-allow-solar-panels/

      Hope this information helps!

      Best,
      Katy Killoran
      Associate Marketing Manager, One Block Off the Grid
      katy(at)1bog.org | http://1bog.org

  7. Joel Guzman says:

    In my HOA, solar panels are allowed but only on the backside of homes. I live in Virgnia where we have a Solar Access law that says that solar installations generally can not be prohibited but reasonable restrictions may be established regarding the size and placement of the panels. What brought me to this article was my search for what exactly is considered to be “reasonable” Seeing the quote about what the state of California considers to be reasonable was the first time I had seen any specific interpretation of this. Personally, I consider this requirement to be unreasonable since the rear roofs of about a quarter of the homes in my neighborhood face north. Installing panels with this orientation would be pointless.

    Here is a photo of my solar thermal installation:
    http://www.theregaloaks.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=92399299

    I was allowed to install this system on my front roof before they modified our architectural guidelines to only allow them on the back side. I then installed photovoltaic panels on the backside of my roof but wish I could have put some on the front where I have more southern exposure.

    Joel

  8. Michael Fraser says:

    Another option is to elect more enlightened HOA Board members who understand the benefits of renewable energy in general and solar in particular.

  9. Michael Fraser says:

    Another option is to elect more enlightened HOA Board members who understand the benefits of renewable energy in general and solar in particular.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of info. I am glad that you just shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

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