Property Owners’ Associations (also known as Homeowner Owners’ Associations or HOAs) are not allowed to include or enforce provisions within their regulations, covenants, or by-laws that prohibit or restrict homeowners from installing a solar energy device. While in theory this law protects homeowners’ right to go solar, there are several caveats and exceptions that allow HOAs to maintain authority to include and enforce provisions that could prohibit or regulate the solar energy devices in certain situations.
In June of 2015, SB 1626 was signed into law. It provides that during the development period, the developer may only prohibit a property owner from installing solar in developments with 50 or fewer units. Prior to the law, Developers could block residents from installing solar if the neighborhood was still in the development phase.
Specifically, HOAs may prohibit solar energy devices if they are found to be illegal or violate public health and safety, as decided by a court. HOAs may prohibit or regulate solar on common property within the subdivision or property that is owned or maintained by the association. HOAs may also regulate (or prohibit) solar devices that are on the roof if they extend above the roofline, are not parallel to the roofline, or do not conform to the slope of the roof. The HOAs may also regulate (or prohibit) solar energy devices installed on the ground in a fenced yard if they are taller than the fence.There are a few additional caveats that would allow HOAs to prohibit or restrict the installation of a solar energy device: if the solar energy device is installed in a way that voids its warranties or if any frames or wiring/piping are not silver, bronze, or black.
The law also stipulates that the HOA may designate where the solar device should be located on a roof, unless a homeowner can show that the designation negatively impacts the performance of the solar energy device and an alternative location would increase production by more than 10%. To show this, the law requires that modeling tools provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) be used. While not specified by name in the law, one of NREL’s available tools that could accomplish this is called PVWatts Calculator.
The HOA may be allowed to prohibit the installation of a solar energy device if the homeowner does not receive prior approval from the association. If, in seeking the approval, the HOA finds that the proposed solar energy device will create a condition that harms or interferes with other people’s "use and enjoyment of the land," the HOA may prohibit the installation as well. Homeowners should seek written support from neighboring properties in order to prove that this condition does not exist.
In the case of developments or subdivisions that are still under the builder’s control and the HOA has not yet transferred to the property owners, the builder can prohibit or restrict a homeowner for installing a solar energy device.