Homeowners Associations: Forced to Warm Up to Solar

Last May the New York Times ran an article on their ‘green blog’ titled, "Homeowners Associations: The Enemy of Solar?". The article discusses an issuethat many who are governed a Homeowners Association (HOA) often facewhich is being denied the right to install solar panels or dry clotheson a line, practices that violate certain HOA covenants. According tothe Community Associations Institute, one in six Americans lives inresidential development with some type of governing association. Theseentities function as a third-form of government, and are responsible for many of the duties that would normally be handled by a municipality:maintaining streets and keeping up common grounds and installing streetlamps. HOAs are led by a volunteer board elected by fellow homeowners in the community and are responsible for the association’s generalmanagement, including levying and collecting fees and assessments.

The HOA is also responsible for maintaining the aesthetic appeal ofthe neighborhood and solar panels and clothes line are deemed unsightlyand detrimental to property values. Over the past year, throughout thecountry there have been numerous reports of people battling HOAs for the right to install solar panels. As a result, many people have been quick to demonize HOAs for these restrictions, however, we must remember that the people serving on the board are simply enforcing the laws in frontof them. They cannot just change the rules.

That said, the laws need to change and that can either come fromwithin the HOA or through state laws and in some states manylegislatures are stepping in to ensure that homeowners have the right to go green. Texas and Illinois have proposed bills this year that wouldrestrict HOAs from prohibiting solar installations. In Texas, the billpassed the Senate but failed in the House. Rep. Burt Solomons whosponsored the bill, said he will resurrect it in 2011. In Illinois, abill passed both chambers and is awaiting a House vote on Senateamendments. If passed these states will follow Delaware, Maine, Vermontand Washington, California, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia andeleven others who have all passed or strengthened laws restricting suchactions by HOAs. 

Solar energy accounts for less than 1% of the U.S. energy supply andas solar adoption increases in the U.S, lawmakers are bound to be facedwith creating new legislation to deal with issues like this. The Obamaadministration and many states have set new renewable energy goals andare offering rebates and incentives to ignite this renewable energy revolution. If youhaven’t considered solar you should take some time to find out if youare a good candidate. You could be paying more for clean energy soonerthat you think.

Matthew Ryder-Smith



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