Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

Hello All,

I am new on this board. I consider myself to be pretty savvy when it comes to finding the information that I need on the internet. However, when searching for factual information on laws protecting or preventing a homeowner from installing a solar and/or wind generation system on their property, I have come up empty.

A little about myself: I live in Houston, TX. I have a typical 2 story home in a typical track home development that has the iron fist of a HOA (Homeowners Association). The front of my home faces south. It is a fairly small lot (maybe 60' wide by 120' deep).

With the every rising fuel costs, which is also impacting electricity cost, I am looking to do whatever I can to decrease my home's energy consumption. I have already replaced all of the bulbs in my home with CFL and LEDs. We keep our thermostat turned off most of the day (turning it on only in the evening bringing the temperature down to 82F). I have done everything else that is possible. The only thing left is to decrease our KWH cost.

Again, I need to collect all factual information that I can as far as laws are concerned. I have not talked to my HOA yet, because I know what their answer will be. When I go to them, I need to have as much firepower as I can possibly get. If I have that, I may stand a chance and pave the way for other homeowners to do the same.

Can anyone help?

Thank you,

Texas
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Comments

  • icarusicarus Posts: 5,108Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Great question, welcome

    I suspect it has come up often and there will be some opinions out there athat matter. My personal feeling is A: It is always better to ask forgiveness rather than permission and B: Any club that would have me as a member, I don't want to join!

    If you have a south facing roof, I can't imagine how any HOA could consider a PV or Solar hot water a detriment to the neighborhood. Lawyers out ther care to opine? While I don't agree, a stand alone system plunked down in the front yard might be a different horse.


    Good luck and keep us posted,

    Icarus
  • mike95490mike95490 Posts: 7,964Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    While I can't speak for Texas, Calif has a law that protects homeowners rights to install solar on their roofs. It additionally allows solar owners to trim shading trees, and prohibits erection of structures that would shade arrays.
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  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Posts: 1,959Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Check out http://www.dsireusa.org/index.cfm

    If you look at CA you will see the solar access laws Mike is referring to, looks like Texas has no such laws.

    You should read your deed restrictions & bylaws for your association, it will be in there, back and white so to speak what rights of any you have for your roof or allowed improvements.

    I live in an HOA and there is no restrictions in regards to the roof or solar, one of the reason I live in this HOA governed sub-division.

    Keep in mind, the HOA board is restricted to enforcing the restrictions, they do NOT have the authority to give any type of relief or waiver, that can only come from a majority vote from the HOA members.

    The board members ( which are your neighbors that volunteer there time to maintain & support the HOA ) only job is to enforce what all home owners agreed to when the bought into the HOA/Sub-division and if you have a disagreement with the rules, it will help your efforts to understand this and the process for requesting changes, which basically means convincing 75% ( typical number ) of your neighbors to change the restrictions.
  • LBergmanLBergman Posts: 42Solar Expert
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System
    Check out http://www.dsireusa.org/index.cfm
    Keep in mind, the HOA board is restricted to enforcing the restrictions, they do NOT have the authority to give any type of relief or waiver, that can only come from a majority vote from the HOA members.

    The board members ( which are your neighbors that volunteer there time to maintain & support the HOA ) only job is to enforce what all home owners agreed to when the bought into the HOA/Sub-division and if you have a disagreement with the rules, it will help your efforts to understand this and the process for requesting changes, which basically means convincing 75% ( typical number ) of your neighbors to change the restrictions.

    Actually, it depends on the bylaws of the association. The board of the association I'm in (of which I'm a board member) does have the authority to create new rules and regulations or modify existing ones. It simply requires a majority vote of the board members in order to pass. That being said, any homeowner can challenge decisions and they can be overridden with a majority vote of homeowners.
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Posts: 1,959Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Bylaws are rules from the board, and may have no legal legs to stand on. Boards without proper legal advice regularly pass rules that can't be enforced, I a board member as well.

    Deed restrictions can NOT be changed by board members, ever. Its a legal restriction on the deed and only a change by the majority of the HOA members can such deed restriction be modifed ( with some hefty legal costs for the paperwork )

    So Back to the OP, read your documents, then you will know if its the board OR your neighbors that have to help change restrictions, its very likey you may find there are NO restictions after you do your research.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Well my situation is worse. No homeowner is a board member. To further complicate the problem, the company that manages the association will not release the names of the board members (they say that the board members do not want phone calls). This is a fairly new community (2-3 years old), so my guess is that the investors who developed the community are the same ones that are on the board. The word is that you can make a request through the management company, who will in turn pass the request on to the board, but the request always gets shot down.

    Texas
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Posts: 1,959Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    HOA's are typically incorporated non-profit's. States require that the board members be listed as they are the officers of the company. here in Florida, its all online. The legal name of the HOA is in the documents you got when you closed on the purchase of your home.

    Annual meetings are required as is the voting of the officers and directors. It is possible that your HOA is not in compliance with your laws, you may have to get the courts involved to get things sorted out.

    Regardless, you need to start with your deed restrictions, do they specifically state no alterateration to the building are allowed?? or specifically spell out no solar?, thats square one. What exactly do you feel is stoping your solar improvements?, Has you research found a resctriction in your deed restrictions or is this just a concern at this point?
  • icarusicarus Posts: 5,108Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Forgiveness rather than permission?

    Icarus
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Posts: 1,959Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System
    icarus wrote: »
    Forgiveness rather than permission?

    Icarus

    The issue with this thinking is you then sadle the HOA with the responsiblity to file suit and force a removal of the offending violation. The boards duty is to ENFORCE the deed restriction and thats their only option ( if its a bylaw, maybe you can seek a waiver ). If the board fails to act, any homeowner can file suit for seeking compliance.

    Any costs for this action is ( which can be in the tens of thousands of dollars ) will eventually be paid by the violator, either by direct payment or a lein on the property

    HOA's have real teeth, thats why its call DEED restriction and in most state you can have your home lien/forclosed on if you take it thru the whole process

    The issue in not the HOA or its rules, it people buying into these developements without understanding what it is they are buying into.

    In a big picture view, the thinking behind all of this is to make sure a developement is maintained to whatever the standard it was built and sold too. With a home being the largest purchace for most people, it gives some insurance that a home-owner can't trash the neighborhood and hence your home value ... or thats the thinking anyways. If one doesn't like this thinking, its simple, don't buy a home in an HOA controlled sub-division
  • icarusicarus Posts: 5,108Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    SG,

    I do get it,,, I am not REALLY suggesting that someone make a huge investment with the real chance that the HOA could make them tear it down. It sounds as if the OP's HOA is still controlled by the developer, perhaps they still own 51% of the property. If this is the case, perhaps one could approach the developer and convince them that PV is a "green" badge and that perhaps they could better sell the remainder of their lots.

    As I said before, I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have me. I believe in Zoning, but I don't believe in HOA's. Neighborhoods retain their value because neighbors care, not because they are told to care. How many HOA ban clothes lines because they represent "the poor"!
  • TelcoTelco Posts: 201Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    The problem on some of those HOAs is the developer that listed the restrictions will get something for nothing, if they put in restrictions. For example, a cable TV company will wire all the houses for cable for free, but the HOA has to restrict all outside television antennas. This means if you want clear TV, then it's got to be cable or nothing. Nice thing about this is, federal law makes this illegal. In my own HOA, at a meeting my next door neighbor wanted to know when the HOA would start enforcing the covenants such as no TV antennas. I have an outside aerial on the wall between our houses and she doesn't like how it looks. As soon as she complained I told her I could answer that one, loudly, then proceeded to advise the HOA board about the telecommunications act of 1996, and how it gave the FCC the authority to fine anyone banning an antenna used for TV reception. I also presented documents showing where the FCC has fined HOAs up to 10 times the amount the HOA fined the homeowner for having an antenna, how the FCC fine begins on the first day the HOA makes the complaint, and the notice I got from the developer a week after I installed my antenna, which was 2 years before the meeting. I then advised them that their clause is in direct violation of federal law, that I was keeping all notices, and that if I heard anything else about it I'd make a complaint AND present the original notice I'd received. At this point, the HOA would potentially be liable for 1.46 million and counting in fines provided the fine was 1000 a day, the amount listed on the FCC ruling I showed them. :D The HOA said they'd check into it, but this was over 2 years ago and I've not heard anything since. The neighbor has since accepted the antenna as well, realizing that it's really hardly noticeable where I have it mounted.

    The devil really is in the details, so check that contract and perhaps have a lawyer make a perusal on it and give advice. In this case, spending that 100 or so bucks for legal advice up front will be money well spent.
  • daledale Posts: 29Solar Expert
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Last year there was an article in one of the NJ papers about someone who lived in a community that put panels on the front of their house without checking the associations by laws.

    Long story short, he had to go to court to keep from having to removing his 5-10 Kw system. I'm not positive, but I thought he lost the case and removed the panels. After this NJ passed a law to prevent this. Good for new installs, but ...

    I put my panels on the back of my house and might not have done it if they would have gone on the front. The roof needed to be redone before the install, so shingles were selected that would be closer to the color of the panels. No one has said they're unsightly, but that could be due to courtesy, taste, or maybe the rising cost of energy. ;)
  • TelcoTelco Posts: 201Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System
    dale wrote: »
    LLong story short, he had to go to court to keep from having to removing his 5-10 Kw system. I'm not positive, but I thought he lost the case and removed the panels. After this NJ passed a law to prevent this. Good for new installs, but ...

    Hope that guy stuck those panels RIGHT back up there then. I would have.
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Posts: 1,959Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    I was using google ( for the NJ ruling ) and came across this

    http://sdenergy.org/uploads/Final_CC&R_Handbook_1-01.pdf

    its a good docuemnt that describes all the aspects and players in this issue and some how-too's to work the process
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Texas,

    I found your post looking for the Same information as you . here is an article i found from the Houston Cron.

    http://www.redorbit.com/news/business/1382792/green_initiative_creates_some_unwanted_heat/

    There are 2 Texas Senators who are trying to pass laws in Texas to not allow bans on solar systems.

    Here is another link found useful

    I am in San Antonio btw, and a board member of my HOA, and yes knowing the people on the ACC committee they would not approve solar. One of the ladies got upset i used some orange extension cords for my christmas lights last year.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Who are the Texas Senators working on solar issues?
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Thank you everyone for your responses. It is interesting reading. Thanks for the link to the Houston Chronicle document. That is pretty much what I thought. I did a search for the Senator in my district, and I emailed him with the same questions I have brought up here. We'll see what kind of response (if any) that I get. I know that not all Senators are in support of alternative energy due to the fact that it is in conflict with other agendas.

    Regardless, if nothing is currently passed, knowing how long it takes to pass something like this, it would be years before we could get the protection we need, which I am sorry to say, is going to be too late. We are already in a energy crisis. We do not have years. These laws should have been passed years ago. We are in the red. With no laws to protect us (the consumer) in pursuing alternative energy, we are done. For those who do not already know, I should mention that Texas does have rebates for Commercial suppliers of Energy to pursue alternative energy. While I think that is great that they do that, it goes to show that big businesses that can profit from it comes first. It is clear to me that they do not want individuals pursuing alternative energy on their own.

    Texas
  • stimpy17stimpy17 Posts: 8Registered Users
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Solar shingles? I'm just saying!
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Does anyone have an update on this topic?

    I live in NC and today I went into a new storefront selling solar electric systems. I had a discussion with the owner about Home Owner Association (HOA) rules against these systems. He said that there is now a federal law that prevents HOA restrictions, but he said he did not have a copy. I have searched Google for a couple of hours and have not found it.

    North Carolina has a General Statute that says HOA's can't prevent the installation and use of these systems BUT they have some big exceptions. One is if it can be viewed from the public right of way. Well, my home faces south and I have a public road in front of my home.

    So, I need a federal law very simialr to the one allowing TV and Satellite dishes.
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    you might want to address some of your concerns to your state representatives and see what they say because you are correct that the street fits that description of a public right of way. take it one step further and ask if that applies to air traffic, train, or ship rights of way as those are public too. if one takes the law literally then nobody will have them and an explanation/interpretation is in order. let us know if they tell you anything. odds are they know nothing or will just ignore your inquiry.
  • joeaksajoeaksa Posts: 39Solar Expert
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System
    Texas wrote: »
    Well my situation is worse. No homeowner is a board member. To further complicate the problem, the company that manages the association will not release the names of the board members (they say that the board members do not want phone calls).

    This is a fairly new community (2-3 years old), so my guess is that the investors who developed the community are the same ones that are on the board. The word is that you can make a request through the management company, who will in turn pass the request on to the board, but the request always gets shot down.

    Texas

    You might ask some lawyer friends about this. This would be totally illegal where I live in Arizona and the board members names have to be posted. Trying to hide something like this is simply not allowed by law. My community is 10 years old.

    As well believe that we have a law here in Arizona that prohibits any HOA from hindering the use of Solar on house. I am pretty friendly with the board members on my HOA but still they can be jerks at times. My next house will not be in a HOA and if I had my way they would be made illegal in the entire country.
  • crewzercrewzer Posts: 1,832Registered Users, Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Potentially useful links:

    http://www.getsolar.com/blog/texas-to-offer-solar-rebates/
    http://www.askaboutsolar.com/Solar%20Rights%20and%20Solar%20laws.ppt
    http://www.solarabcs.org/solaraccess/Solaraccess-full.pdf

    HTH,
    Jim / crewzer
  • mshen11mshen11 Posts: 185Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    You should read your deed restrictions & bylaws for your association, it will be in there, back and white so to speak what rights of any you have for your roof or allowed improvements.

    I live in an HOA and there is no restrictions in regards to the roof or solar, one of the reason I live in this HOA governed sub-division.

    Keep in mind, the HOA board is restricted to enforcing the restrictions, they do NOT have the authority to give any type of relief or waiver, that can only come from a majority vote from the HOA members.

    The board members ( which are your neighbors that volunteer there time to maintain & support the HOA ) only job is to enforce what all home owners agreed to when the bought into the HOA/Sub-division and if you have a disagreement with the rules, it will help your efforts to understand this and the process for requesting changes, which basically means convincing 75% ( typical number ) of your neighbors to change the restrictions.

    i dont understand this statement. what if there is no deed restriction other than the HOA. and the hoa bylaws says no solar w/out permission - and of course they wont give permission.
  • joeaksajoeaksa Posts: 39Solar Expert
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System
    mshen11 wrote: »
    i dont understand this statement. what if there is no deed restriction other than the HOA. and the hoa bylaws says no solar w/out permission - and of course they wont give permission.

    Without knowing which state you live in we cannot help but in Arizona where I live, its illegal to keep people from doing several things. Solar water heaters, solar electric panels and having a flag pole on your property are three that come to mind.

    HOA rules or not, they cannot keep you from having the above three items on your property. Laws that allow these were enacted to allow homeowners a way around HOA's who were not responsive to the homeowners needs.
  • mshen11mshen11 Posts: 185Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    im in VA. there is a bill but its useless. summary is:

    http://www.realcentralva.com/2008/05/14/curious-whether-any-charlottesville-hoas-restrict-solar-panels/

    hoa cannot restrict solar panels in HOAs, except those HOAs that are already in existence - they can do whatever they want in terms of restrictions.

    so of course all current HOAs in VA is not helped by this law. waste of taxpayer dollars. anyways, i beleive there is no such safe haven in VA from HOAs like in AZ
  • richrich Posts: 62Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    This has been a very interesting read, Im utterly depressed at how political this has become, I also understand the need for safety, U don't find many homeowners that will jump thru the hoops, AND it seems to be getting more restrictive, I hate the logic behind all the stops involved in trying to get permits and progress....So..Were I live there is no by-laws pertaining to mobile or trailer mounted power plants, (excluding noise bylaws that pertain to diesel or gasoline gennies, this wont apply here.).... I have my whole solar system install going in and on a 24 foot trailer.196 sq ft of roof, it will plug into the house via an extension cord appropriately rated for the load ..it was not the original intent to sub the house power but because I can... I will, anyway just a way to beat the by-laws and their nosey inspectors.....
  • ggunnggunn Posts: 1,973Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System
    rich wrote: »
    This has been a very interesting read, Im utterly depressed at how political this has become, I also understand the need for safety, U don't find many homeowners that will jump thru the hoops, AND it seems to be getting more restrictive, I hate the logic behind all the stops involved in trying to get permits and progress....So..Were I live there is no by-laws pertaining to mobile or trailer mounted power plants, (excluding noise bylaws that pertain to diesel or gasoline gennies, this wont apply here.).... I have my whole solar system install going in and on a 24 foot trailer.196 sq ft of roof, it will plug into the house via an extension cord appropriately rated for the load ..it was not the original intent to sub the house power but because I can... I will, anyway just a way to beat the by-laws and their nosey inspectors.....
    Also a good way to start a fire if I am reading you correctly. If you are feeding an outlet in your home from an inverter, then you have the inverter current plus the rating of the breaker available as fault current on that circuit, which is most likely more than the wiring is rated for. If you burn your house down by doing that your insurance company will deny the claim.

    Inspection is not always a bad thing.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Posts: 17,615Banned ✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    Ironic, isn't it? They put all these regulations in place for "safety reasons" and what is the effect? People skip the complicated and expensive permitting process and do the install illegally - and possibly unsafely as well.

    Way to go, bureaucrats! :roll:
  • Mike at Energy CommissionMike at Energy Commission Posts: 50Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    wow, no homeowners on the HOA board! Very unlikely TX will have a solar rights law like we do here in CA. I would check deed restrictions, find out what is restricted by the deed and the HOA architectural guidelines, you agreed to the guidelines when you purchased. If solar is not strictly forbidden, you might try what I have seen done at my condo HOA. The board was going to cut down some trees, one fellow got together a petition with overwhelming support and researched all the facts, got bids etc.--the board reversed their decision.
  • Mike at Energy CommissionMike at Energy Commission Posts: 50Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Laws Restricting or Protecting Homeowners on Installing a Solar Generation System

    I live in a condo in CA. I plan to eventually cover ever inch of my roof that will harvest the sun. In the meantime I have built a small portable off-grid system I place in my parking space during the day. I power my electronics and refrigerator pretty much all day and into late evening. 4- 6v golf cart batteries for 2- 12v banks, I charge one, use the other, sometimes on a good day I can almost charge both banks completely depending on SOC. I have 4- 100 watt panels that often deliver more than 20Amps to my Xantrex C40 charge controller. I place one end of the panels on 18" tall office waste baskets from Walmart $4.00 each (that is some cheap racking!) I put all 4 batteries in a "gorilla" utility cart from Sears, cost $80.00 it's rated for an 800 lbs. load. I have approximately $1,400.00 invested in this portable kit and it's sweet, the neighbors even lit. NO permits, NO HOA approval needed. If the HOA says anything I'll gather a petition and whip them with that and the CA solar rights laws.
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