State Laws, HOA Rules Guide Use of Solar Panels

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HOA members agree to abide by rules to create a pleasant living environment for everyone in the neighborhood. However, modern-day HOA management might require flexibility.

The sun at the center of our solar system has been sending out free power for its entire existence. There’s now a growing effort to capture that energy and put it to good use. 

According to a report from the International Energy Agency, nearly 33 percent of the world’s electricity is forecast to come from renewable sources by 2024. Of that 33 percent, solar is expected to account for 60 percent.

In the past, solar energy was cost-prohibitive but advances in technology and government policies have made it more attractive.

Some people install solar panels because they see them as a way to reduce their carbon footprints. Others see solar as a way to put money in their pockets.

Solar panels are expensive to install but provide savings over time. Estimating savings vary between $20,000 and $97,000 over the lifetime of the solar panel system. 

A number of factors can account for the wide range of potential savings, including: 

  • The tilt of the panels—Systems that track the sun are more expensive.
  • Latitude of your home—Panels installed in higher latitudes don’t have as much access to the sun as those in lower latitudes.
  • Panel placement—Ideally, solar panels should face south to collect the sun’s rays, but some roofs are aligned in other directions.
  • Climate—Warm climates can overheat the system, and rainy climates can block the sun. 
HOA Management

HOA residents have additional factors to consider:

  • covenants, conditions & restrictions
  • bylaws
  • rules and regulations

Your HOA community management founding documents might include language that prohibits the use of solar panels in your neighborhood.

If homeowners want to maintain the community’s current look, restricting solar panels makes sense.

However, technology evolves and so do attitudes. There’s a possibility that members of your community would prefer that solar panels be allowed under the HOA’s rules.

HOA community management is about enforcing rules that everyone in the neighborhood has already agreed to, but people in leadership also have a responsibility to pay attention to the shifting winds.

Rules weren’t made to be broken in HOAs, but they were made to be amended to reflect the changing times if your neighbors agree.

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State laws

To be fair, not every neighborhood will appreciate the sight of solar panels on their neighbors’ roofs. One reason people move into an HOA community is that the rules regulate the aesthetics of the neighborhood

However, if restrictive covenants and rules are in place to prevent the installation of solar panels, that might not settle the issue. Several states, including California, Utah, Texas, Arizona, and Florida, have enacted “solar access rights” laws.

You’ll want to research the laws governing HOAs in your state to see if there are specific laws on the books guaranteeing solar panel access.

On the federal level, a bill was proposed that included provisions to prohibit HOA community management teams from preventing the installation of solar panels. The bill didn’t pass, but that doesn’t mean another one won’t pass in the future. 

The states that specifically allow solar panels in HOAs have limits. Historic districts are exempted if panels would not align with the historical nature of the neighborhood.

However, there’s a clear trend to allow homeowners to take advantage of the sun’s rays. Even if your state doesn’t have laws on the books to encourage solar panels, it might be in the HOA community management team’s best interest to work with individual homeowners and try to reach some accommodation.

In many cases, an HOA can enter into a voluntary solar easement agreement that allows a homeowner to install panels and start collecting solar energy. 

A public relations campaign

It’s human nature for people to see the same thing but have different reactions:

  • One homeowner could look at a solar panel on a roof and see it as a scar on an otherwise pleasant house.
  • Another could see the panel as a beautiful addition that helps the homeowner and the planet at the same time.

It might be time for your HOA to embrace solar energy even if there are rules on the books prohibiting the installation of panels. If that’s the case, there are steps to take.

The drive to make a change can start with conversations with neighbors to find out who shares your thinking on the issue. Once that support is lined up, approach the HOA community management team and ask them directly for the change. Throughout the process, you’ll want to have the facts on your side:

  • Taxpayers can get a 30 percent tax credit when they go solar.
  • Homeowners can save money on their monthly utility bills.
  • Your home’s power is not contingent on the city’s energy grid.
  • Solar can increase the value of your home.

Different arguments will work with different people. For some, knowing that panels can decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and have a small impact on climate change would be a winning argument. However, not everybody will believe that statement counts as a fact.

When trying to change someone’s mind, some strategies work better than others.

  • Be calm.
  • Have empathy.
  • Seek common ground.
  • Share stories, not just facts.
  • Give them reasons to think about the issue.
  • Take a break when needed.
  • Stay detached.

HOA rules exist for good reasons, so, logically, you’d need to run a public relations campaign to effect the change you want. The people you’re trying to influence are your friends and neighbors, so remember to treat them that way throughout the process.

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Help from HOA community management software

If you’re committed to changing your neighborhood’s rules about solar energy, you’ll probably want to meet with people face-to-face to discuss the issue. But you don’t have to be limited to that. The right HOA community management tools can assist you in a variety of ways.

PayHOA’s software platform makes it easy to reach out and communicate with your friends and neighbors. It’s simple to send text or phone messages to everyone or to a select group of people. Your community’s newsletter could include an article explaining state laws affecting HOAs and solar panels.

You also can get people’s opinions about the topic with online surveys. With PayHOA, you can ask multiple-choice questions or essay questions. You can look at the details of the answers as well as step back and view the results as percentages.

In addition, PayHOA allows the HOA community management team to create message boards. If a board is active in the community, it could provide a way to gauge feelings about solar panels. 

If the issue comes to a vote, PayHOA’s software feature allows homeowners to log their votes remotely. They can include their names or vote anonymously, depending on your HOA’s rules.

In some ways, it’s weird to think of solar energy as new since the bright ball in the sky has been shining for as long as humans have walked the earth. But there’s a growing trend in the U.S. to take advantage of all the power the sun showers down on us. 

If your HOA hasn’t dealt with the solar panel issue, there’s a good chance it will in the years to come. How will you decide?

PayHOA offers an HOA management software solution for HOAs of any size or managerial priorities. To find out if PayHOA fits all your HOA management needs, try our software free for 30 days.

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