Getting Solar Installed: Solar Access Laws in Your State
Home owner’s associations have rules in place to ensure that neighborhood standards and aesthetics are maintained, controlling everything from home color to the size and placement of your fence. In some neighborhoods, solar panels are not part of the design, and HOAs say that you can’t install a solar panel system on your roof. Typically, they are concerned that the look of solar panels may lower home values.
However, many states in America offer what are known as solar access laws and easements. These laws and agreements can protect home owners by ensuring that home owner’s associations cannot place excessive restrictions that would prevent the installation of solar panels.
Some restrictions are still possible, of course, but ultimately, if your state offers protection, you should be able to install a solar power system on your roof top. Restrictions typically dictate where or how you place your panels, but can’t make it so that you aren’t able to get sunlight on your solar panels, either.
Unfortunately, many states do not have any solar access laws. In these states, home owners are at the mercy of the home owner’s association — and may have to appeal to the board or work with the state to encourage the acceptance of solar power systems.
Can Your Home Owner’s Association Stop You from Installing Solar Panels?
The answer depends on your state. If you live in a state with solar access laws, the bottom line is that your home owner’s association cannot outright deny your request to install solar panels. They can influence where and how they are placed, but ultimately, you must be able to use solar power effectively. If you’re denied or have had fees assessed, but the law is on your side, you can start a lawsuit to defend your right to solar power panels.
In states without solar access protection, home owner’s associations can stop home owners from installing solar panels. Or worse, require removal after you’ve made the intial investment of installing them — which you’re not likely to get back. However, it is possible to appeal to the board with reasonable arguments that can bring them over to your side.
States with Solar Access Laws
In states with solar access laws, the law overrides your home owner’s association contract, meaning even if the contract states you can’t have a solar panel on your roof, the law says you can — so you can. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can just get started and put solar panels on your roof without checking in first.
Even in states with solar access laws, you’ll need to get permission to install solar panels. The law ensures that you will ultimately be able to install them without unreasomable restrictions, but home owner’s associations can have their say in how and where they are installed. However, it is important to note that in most states, home owner’s associations can not place restrictions that would result in a significant loss of efficiency or a significant increase in cost.
Unfortunately, some home owner’s associations are not aware of or do not respect solar access laws, and requests for solar panel installations will be denied. If this is the case for you, you can simply inform them of the law and your intent to install a solar power system. You may need to pursue legal action to get your way, but keep in mind that in many states, the law does not allow home owner’s associations to delay the installation of your solar power system.
Are You In a State With Solar Access Laws?
Twenty five states in the U.S. have solar access laws that stop home owner’s associations from preventing or unreasonably restricting the installation of solar panels. These states are:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
States With Solar Easements
Unlike states with solar access laws, states with solar easements do not offer the assurance that you’ll be able to install solar panels on your roof. That’s the bad news. The good news is if you do get permission to use solar panels, an easement can make sure that permission isn’t taken away, and your solar access isn’t obstructed.
In a solar easement state, if you’re able to negotiate with your home owner’s association to place a solar panel system on your roof, an easement can offer assurance for the future. Creating a solar easement will ensure you’ll be able to continue to use solar power panels on your roof, as well as continue to have unobstructed access to the sun to power your system.
Need tips for getting approved with your home owner’s association? Read on to find our suggestions for convincing your HOA that solar power is a smart move for your neighborhood.
Are You in a State with Solar Easements?
Fifteen states in America have laws that offer solar easements and the right to establish them as a legal contract for continued solar access. These states are:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
States Without Solar Access Laws or Easements
Unfortunately, many states do not offer solar access laws or solar easements. This means that it’s up to you to successfully negotiate with your home owner’s association to get access to and retain the ability to use solar power panels on your roof.
If you’re in a state without legal protection for solar power panels, check out our next section on how you can get the home owner’s association to approve your solar power system project.
Are You in a State without Solar Access Laws or Easements?
Currently, ten states do not have laws for solar access or easements. These states are:
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
How to Get Solar Access from Your Home Owner’s Association
It can be tough, but not impossible, to get permission from a home owner’s association to place solar power panels on your roof top. But while some states may not have protection at the state level, there are some municipalities that offer solar access laws or easements, so it’s important to research specific laws for your location.
If you’re in a state that does not have any legal support to prevent home owner’s association interference, try these ideas for bringing your HOA over to the solar side:
- Read your rights: It’s a good idea to check your neighborhood covenants and deed restrictions. Find out if solar panels are mentioned directly or indirectly, such as roof top objects. If it’s not clear, point out that they’re not explicitly banned, and use that as a starting point. It may help you if you have to go to court as well.
- Explain the value: Solar power systems can do more than save the environment. They’re excellent for building up property values. In fact, with a 97% return on investment for home resale value, it’s one of the best investments you can make for your home, rivaling classic property value building renovations including room additions and kitchen renovations.
- Show what it will look like: Ask your solar installer to share photos of other installations they’ve done to let the home owner’s association understand what yours is likely to look like as well.
- Offer modifications: If the home owner’s association is concerned about the appearance of your solar panels, offer to discuss altering designs and placement that might make them more attractive or unobtrusive.
- Get help from neighbors: Think your neighbors support the installation of a solar power system on your roof? Ask them to talk to the home owner’s association on your behalf, either individually or as a group.
- Get elected to the home owner’s association board: Don’t like the rules? Get in a position to modify them. As a board member or president of your home owner’s association, you’ll be able to influence decisions made by the organization.
Photo by Flickr user markusspiske