Author Topic: solar panels and HOAs  (Read 3497 times)

sol

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solar panels and HOAs
« on: March 30, 2014, 08:21:45 PM »
Has anyone here dealt with the issue of getting permission from their Home Owner's Association to install rooftop residential solar panels?  What are the typical constraints on what you can and cannot install? 

The HOA at the house we're considering buying requires written applications to change the exterior of properties, including things like building fences.  The house has a fantastic southern facing roof on the rear of the house which would be perfect for solar panels, but I'm not sure if they're going to be down with the idea. 

Any suggestions on how to approach this when I speak with them?

Nords

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Re: solar panels and HOAs
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2014, 08:56:57 PM »
Has anyone here dealt with the issue of getting permission from their Home Owner's Association to install rooftop residential solar panels?  What are the typical constraints on what you can and cannot install? 

The HOA at the house we're considering buying requires written applications to change the exterior of properties, including things like building fences.  The house has a fantastic southern facing roof on the rear of the house which would be perfect for solar panels, but I'm not sure if they're going to be down with the idea. 

Any suggestions on how to approach this when I speak with them?
It used to be a heck of an educational project.  These days photovoltaic is a lot more widespread so hopefully you're not the trailblazer pioneer dodging arrows.

I elected not to bother our HOA with an application because our rulebook has a loophole:  if the neighbors can't see it, then it doesn't need permission.  (Our neighbor to the south is a sewage pumping station.)  Maybe that'll work for you.

HOAs are (generally) not allowed to restrict what you're entitled to do under state law.  If your state law encourages installing a PV system then the HOAs are supposed to revise their rules to match.  This has already been tested for situations like satellite TV receivers and roofing materials, so hopefully there's no issue with the HOA.  However if your state or your local utility has any restrictions on PV then you'd have to comply with those.

Before talking to the HOA, talk to the local PV installer's association or the top 3-4 PV contractors in your neighborhood.  (Ask them about the permits from the govt and the utiilty as well as the HOA.)  They understand the HOA permission issues in excruciating detail and will usually have suggestions on how to walk the HOA through the approval process.  They may even be able to e-mail you standard diagrams and boilerplate for the application.

We do a lot of this at home shows.  (We've also had neighborhood "green fairs" and individual manufacturers giving "solar seminars".)  The local exhibition hall will have booths for 20-30 installers, the local PV association, and the city/county permit office.  They're all happy to have a conversation.

arebelspy

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Re: solar panels and HOAs
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2014, 10:07:11 PM »
Has anyone here dealt with the issue of getting permission from their Home Owner's Association to install rooftop residential solar panels?  What are the typical constraints on what you can and cannot install? 

The HOA at the house we're considering buying requires written applications to change the exterior of properties, including things like building fences.  The house has a fantastic southern facing roof on the rear of the house which would be perfect for solar panels, but I'm not sure if they're going to be down with the idea. 

Any suggestions on how to approach this when I speak with them?

Depends on how reasonable your HOA is.  Typically you fill out some paperwork (often called an Architectural Change Form), have the neighbors on both sides, the front, and back sign it, and present it to the board.  If it's not garish, and they aren't dicks (possibly a big assumption), they should approve it.
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Jamesqf

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Re: solar panels and HOAs
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2014, 11:05:25 PM »
Depends on state law, too.  Last I checked (I don't have a HOA where I live), here in Nevada, and in a number of other states, a HOA can't legally prevent you from installing solar power.

arebelspy

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Re: solar panels and HOAs
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2014, 11:17:53 PM »
Depends on state law, too.  Last I checked (I don't have a HOA where I live), here in Nevada, and in a number of other states, a HOA can't legally prevent you from installing solar power.

Good to know.  Though apparently the HOA may be able to tell you where to install them, or some details related to their install.

http://1bog.org/blog/how-to-convince-your-homeowners-association-hoa-to-allow-solar-panels/

Washington isn't on the list in that article, but they do have a similar law.  Here is the Washington state law on solar panels and HOAs:
http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=64.38&full=true#64.38.055

Quote
64.38.055
Governing documents Solar panels.
(1) The governing documents may not prohibit the installation of a solar energy panel by an owner or resident on the owner's or resident's property as long as the solar energy panel:

     (a) Meets applicable health and safety standards and requirements imposed by state and local permitting authorities;

     (b) If used to heat water, is certified by the solar rating certification corporation or another nationally recognized certification agency. Certification must be for the solar energy panel and for installation; and

     (c) If used to produce electricity, meets all applicable safety and performance standards established by the national electric code, the institute of electrical and electronics engineers, accredited testing laboratories, such as underwriters laboratories, and, where applicable, rules of the utilities and transportation commission regarding safety and reliability.

     (2) The governing documents may:

     (a) Prohibit the visibility of any part of a roof-mounted solar energy panel above the roof line;

     (b) Permit the attachment of a solar energy panel to the slope of a roof facing a street only if:

     (i) The solar energy panel conforms to the slope of the roof; and

     (ii) The top edge of the solar energy panel is parallel to the roof ridge; or

     (c) Require:

     (i) A solar energy panel frame, a support bracket, or any visible piping or wiring to be painted to coordinate with the roofing material;

     (ii) An owner or resident to shield a ground-mounted solar energy panel if shielding the panel does not prohibit economic installation of the solar energy panel or degrade the operational performance quality of the solar energy panel by more than ten percent; or

     (iii) Owners or residents who install solar energy panels to indemnify or reimburse the association or its members for loss or damage caused by the installation, maintenance, or use of a solar energy panel.

     (3) The governing documents may include other reasonable rules regarding the placement and manner of a solar energy panel.

     (4) For purposes of this section, "solar energy panel" means a panel device or system or combination of panel devices or systems that relies on direct sunlight as an energy source, including a panel device or system or combination of panel devices or systems that collects sunlight for use in:

     (a) The heating or cooling of a structure or building;

     (b) The heating or pumping of water;

     (c) Industrial, commercial, or agricultural processes; or

     (d) The generation of electricity.

     (5) This section does not apply to common areas as defined in RCW 64.38.010.

     (6) This section applies retroactively to a governing document in effect on July 26, 2009. A provision in a governing document in effect on July 26, 2009, that is inconsistent with this section is void and unenforceable.


[2009 c 51 1.]
« Last Edit: March 30, 2014, 11:21:36 PM by arebelspy »
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with two kids.
If you want to know more about me, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.