Dear Mr. Richardson,
I applied to my HOA Architectural committee to install solar panels on my roof, believing that Civil Code section 714 is quite clear that my application 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.
I can’t say if your HOA should grant or deny your request – I don’t know the facts.
Two Civil Code statutes outside the Davis-Stirling Act, Sections 714 and 714.1, address an association’s ability to limit installation of solar energy systems. An association cannot ban them, but may have “reasonable” regulations. The board does not need “3 good reasons” to deny your application – One legitimate reason might be sufficient, but the key is whether that reason is legitimate.
If you live in a planned development and you own your roof, your association is very limited in its ability to regulate solar installations — its regulations must not significantly increase the cost or significantly reduce the efficiency of solar systems. The statute defines what the term “significantly” means in different contexts.
The issue becomes more complicated regarding condominiums. The roof over your residence mostly likely isn’t “your” roof, but is common area. When common area is involved, the association can and should set specific standards and limitations on installation – Section 714.1 allows the association to: Specify a specific approved system, and require the owner to repair and maintain the affected area and indemnify the association in the event of any problems.
We have a situation in our Association.
The president of our Association removed a major portion of a load-bearing wall in his unit. He used a licensed contractor, but did not pull any permits and did not follow any of the Association rules.
When the Architectural Review Committee discovered this, we made an appointment to view the renovations with a structural engineer. It was clear to the engineer that the work was not to code and had seriously impacted the structural security of the unit.
We brought this to the attention of the Board. According to our errant President, the Board has decided that they will discuss this in executive session. Can they do this? We are not out to crucify this person, but to make the community aware and to make sure the problem is resolved to the benefit of all the homeowners.
V.V., Rancho Santa Margarita
The President is subject to the same rules and responsibilities as all other members. Based on what you have indicated, this should not have been handled in closed session. Furthermore, the President should have announced that he would not participate in that discussion (and better yet, should have left the meeting before the board started discussing it).
This does not bring credit to your association’s governance, and breeds mistrust. Closed session is not to hide embarrassing or controversial matters. It is allowed only for addressing certain matters, listed in the Open Meeting Act, which must be addressed privately and are legally required to be kept confidential.
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®.