Hi Kelly, I read your column about HOA’s regularly, and I enjoy it.
Can a HOA prevent us from placing solar panels on the roof of our condominium townhome? If we agree to be responsible for the repairs needed due to our solar panels, do we have the right to place solar panels on our roof?
M.F., Carmel Valley
Dear Mr. Richardson:
Can my HOA deny me from installing solar panels on my roof?
M.H., Rancho Santa Fe
I was told we could not install solar because it would void our roof warranties. Can our management company ban installation of solar because of that reason?
Dear M.F., M.H., and D.D.:
So long as you comply with reasonable restrictions (those are stated in Civil Code 714.1 and 4746), no, the HOA cannot arbitrarily deny homeowners seeking to install solar energy systems.
As per Civil Code 714(b), the policy of the state is “to promote and encourage the use of solar energy systems and to remove obstacles thereto.” Civil Code 714 proceeds to implement that policy by protecting solar systems and making it illegal for HOAs to ban them. Under this statute, “effectively” prohibiting or restricting solar systems is illegal. Reasonable restrictions are allowed, and those are defined as something which does not increase the cost by $1,000 or 10% (whichever is less) or does not reduce the efficiency by more than 10%. HOAs which willfully violate this law could be liable for damages, a $1,000 civil penalty, and attorney fees.
Hoping this helps to shed some light, Kelly
Dear Mr. Richardson,
I submitted a formal application to my HOA for the installation of solar panels on my roof, believing that Civil Code section 714 is quite clear that my requested installation can be “reasonably” restricted but not denied. I have since heard that the HOA lawyer advised the board that they could, in fact, deny my application if they were to come up with “3 good reasons.” Does this sound plausible to you? Where exactly is the law on rooftop solar in common interest developments? Thank you for your insight.
Best, R.O., Whittier
If your HOA is looking for reasons to deny solar installations, they (and the attorney) already are on the wrong track. The law is clear as to what restrictions are “reasonable” (see previous answer) and lists permissible conditions on approval. A “good reason” is found in either Civil Code 417, 417.1, or 4746, and just one is enough if the requesting homeowner refuses to cooperate.
In past years, condominium associations had often denied solar installations because they would alter common area (the roofs). Now, even a shared roof can be used for solar installation, so long as the requesting owner obtains a solar site survey showing a fair distribution of available shared roof space (Civil Code 4746(b)(1)).
Associations can under Civil Code 714 and 4746 require owners to have insurance and to take responsibility for any cost or damage caused by the solar installation. This is best documented by a written agreement between the owner and the association, which agreement should then be recorded on the title of the unit so that future owners have notice of the agreement.
Written by Kelly G. Richardson
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com. Past columns at www.HOAHomefront.com. All rights reserved®.