Solar Access Laws are the Easiest Way Around Obstructive Homeowners’ Associations

solar panel roof

Many Homeowners' Associations do not approve of solar panels on the grounds that they are unsightly additions to the home.

Most of the power plants in the United States run on coal, which is dirty energy that pollutes the air. That one fact alone should be enough to move the progress of renewable energy forward at a rapid pace. But the fact is that the switch to renewable energy such as solar power is very much an uphill climb. Perhaps no one is more aware of this fact than homeowners who are blocked by their homeowners’ associations (HOAs) from using solar panels.

The battle between people who want to install solar panels on their homes and HOAs is not a new one. As far back as the 1970s, California, for instance, found the need to enact a law which prohibited homeowners’ associations from forcing aesthetic changes related to solar panels if the alterations cost more than $2,000 or decreased a system’s efficiency by a margin of more than 20%. And in news this week, a Georgia couple was denied the right to have solar panels by their HOA. The solar access laws seek to prevent this.

The arguments made by the HOAs are theoretically all related to ensuring that the value of neighboring homes isn’t negatively affected by unsightly solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. This fact is ironic because statistics clearly show that for every $1 saved in electricity annually because of solar panels on a home, the value of the house goes up at least $20. In many neighborhoods, homes with solar panels are snatched up more quickly than those without.

All of these conflicting arguments aside, homeowners’ associations are frequently a huge obstruction to families who are interested in reducing their carbon footprint by installing solar panels on their rooftops. In fact, HOAs have a great deal of power. They set a wide variety of restrictions on things such as the type of lawn furniture you can use, the color you can paint your home, and the type of landscaping you can have. The aesthetics of solar PV systems is seemingly an enemy to an otherwise enviable neighborhood.

Most states have laws related to solar access, and sometimes those laws address the sticky issue of homeowners’ associations, stating that HOAs are barred from restricting a homeowner’s right to install solar panels. States which have laws that override any HOA contracts seeking to deny the right to install solar PV systems include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The HOAs do usually maintain the power to provide strict guidelines on where and how the solar panels are installed, however. What they can’t do is take steps to purposely delay installation of the solar panels.

solar PV roof

If solar access laws are not available in your state, get involved in the movement to get these laws passed.

A homeowner who doesn’t reside in one of the above-named states and wants to go solar but can’t because of provisions set out by their HOA would be best served by getting in on the fight to change state laws.

Actually, a federal law called The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) has passed the House of Representatives but hasn’t passed the Senate. If it were to pass, the rights of all Americans to have solar panels would be protected.

The switch to renewable energy has many battles to face before the majority of the power supply in America is clean. Getting around HOAs seeking to stop the installation of solar panels is just one of them.

Learn more about installing solar PV or solar thermal panels on your home, and contact the NASS member store nearest you.

PPhoto Credit: Dave Dugdale, Living Off Grid

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  1. theresa tobin-quereto says:

    I live in hawaii and want to get solar electric panels. I have a solar water heater which my HOA approved however they will not approve and give the OK for the solar electric panels. They have been dragging there feet since Aug. I wanted to get this done by years end for tax and cedit reasons. Is there anything I can do?


  1. […] will be removed because of a federal law which the House of Representatives has passed called The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454). The law has not passed the Senate. But if it did, all Americans would gain the right to install […]