RealManage Insight

How Your HOA Should Handle Homeowners' Requests to Install Solar Panels

by Jennifer Harvey on Jun 2, 2022 1:30:00 PM

Green energy, including solar panels, has become increasingly popular over the past several years.

In many communities, that means that residents are interested in installing solar panels and taking advantage of those green energy benefits--in some cases, including substantial cuts to their energy bills. 

What should your HOA do when homeowners request solar panel installation? Keep reading to find out.

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Know the Law: Can an HOA Prevent Solar Panels? 

According to the American Clean Energy and Security Act, most single-family home HOAs cannot prevent the installation of solar panels on homeowners' properties. 

Many states also have similar laws regarding whether HOAs can prevent solar panels. In some cases, if you do prevent solar panel access, you will need to offer another equally efficient energy option for your homeowners.

In some states, associations can govern the location or types of panels but not outright prohibit them. The details matter, so be sure and study your association’s policies and your state laws to understand the specifics. 

What Rights Does an HOA Have Regarding Solar Panels?

An HOA board likely can’t prohibit solar panels, but they may be able to restrict them in certain ways.

These laws protecting homeowners wanting to install solar panels are relatively new; therefore, some board members or architectural review committee members may not be familiar with them so consider sharing what you have learned. Here are some items that the association should take into account.  

Make Sure That Homeowners or Their Installers Have All the Necessary Permits

In most states, installers must have a permit to install solar panels on their property. As an HOA, they can require that the contractors who install solar panels have all necessary permits for the installation. 

Solar Panels May Have to meet Certain Design Requirements

Solar panels may have to fit the same guidelines as other appearance-based alterations within your HOA.

Like other improvements the homeowner might make to the property, solar panels may need to fit within your established appearance guidelines. Things like color, shape, incline, location, angle, and more may need to be considered depending on your state. 

Associations May Have Some Options Regarding Solar Panel Placement

Your association may be able to limit where solar panels are placed. Some states protect visible locations but others do not so check into those restrictions before looking at a layout. Most associations limit placement to rooftop solar panels or insist that solar panels exist on homeowner property, not community property.

In the case of condominium associations, the condo association will likely limit solar panel placement completely if the condominium association owns the exterior of the units, as is the case in many condos. 

How Should Associations Respond to Solar Panel Requests from Homeowners?

As an HOA board, you should prepare for solar panel requests ahead of time. Around 3% of US electricity currently comes from solar energy, and that number continues to grow. 

Solar panels are increasing in popularity, and having a response prepared can make it easier for you to respond appropriately. However, if you've just received your first solar panel request, you may need to act faster. 

Review the Existing Guidelines Regarding the Appearance of the Property

Check to determine whether the association’s governing documents include any restrictions or requirements, including panel location, that could impact a solar panel installation.

Then confirm if those restrictions or requirements conform with the current state law. These laws are changing rapidly, and many governing documents have not kept up. 

Create a Clear Policy Based on Existing Guidelines

Once one resident is ready to install solar panels, others may follow. Create a clear set of guidelines that future residents will need to follow to ensure that the standards remain the same for each resident and that the guidelines are consistent with current laws. 

Final Thoughts

Dealing with changes within your HOA can be complicated. However, by taking a look at the law and acknowledging potential challenges you and your residents may face, you can create clear guidelines that follow legal requirements and create a consistent experience for residents in your community as they install solar panels or make other energy-saving alterations to their properties.

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