HOA’s Are Going Solar In Austin, Texas
New Bill Allows for HOA's Approval of Solar Panels
So you’re looking to go solar. Good for you! You’ve done extensive research on panels pricing, placement, and companies. But uh oh, will your homeowners association allow it?
HOA’s. You either love them or hate them. Being a homeowner affords you the privilege (or responsibility) of being a part of your local housing community. However, dealing with homeowners associations rules and regulations can be a hassle if your community is strict. Sure, solar panels are environmentally friendly and will save you money in the long run on those hefty electric bills, but they are a part of the exterior of your home, so having them installed will need to come with approval from your HOA or HOA Management Company.
For Austin, Texas residents, a bill signed in 2011 (house bill 362) specifically forbids HOA’s from prohibiting solar energy installations (except in very specific circumstances). This bill gives homeowners an effective tool to combat and overcome potentially abusive restrictions and HOA’s that may try and stop solar panels from being installed.
The law states that an HOA can only prohibit a solar device if:
- Violates the Law or poses a threat to public health or safety
- Is located on a property owned by the HOA or an area common to HOA members (e.g. a park)
- Was installed without prior approval from the HOA
- Voids material warranties
- Is located somewhere on the homeowners property other than the roof
- It is not fenced in a yard or patio area owned by the owner (for ground mounted solar)
- Is a ground mounted system that rises above surrounding fence line
An HOA can also restrict the installation if the panels extend beyond the roofline, or if it does not conform to the slope of the roof. There are also restrictions on brackets, wiring, and placement- but so long as it does not impede the predicted energy production by more than 10% annually. Additionally, there is a common objection to solar panels being installed on the side of the home that faces the street. Under the House Bill 362, an HOA cannot restrict the placement if the side in question is the most energy producing side.
Unfortunately, one small caveat does allow the HOA to halt your solar panel installation if your immediate neighbors find it annoying or interferes in their daily lives. House Bill 362 states:
“The association or committee, as applicable, determines in writing that placement of the device as proposed by the property owner constitutes a condition that substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of land by causing unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities. For purposes of making a determination under this subsection, the written approval of the proposed placement of the device by all property owners of adjoin property constitutes prima facie evidence that such a condition does not exist. "
This provision means that in addition to the HOA, you’ll need permission from all of your neighbors to install solar panels on your home. Once you have permission, the HOA can no longer object (providing you follow all of the rules). The moral of the story here is to stay on your neighbors good side and don’t burn any bridges!