any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

mshen11mshen11 Solar Expert Posts: 185 ✭✭✭✭✭
ok here is the deal. my HOA rejected my application for a solar awning. they ask me to re-write the proposal with the installation on the roof. in my applicaiton, i already said putting panels 50ft+ high is not cost effective - especially when there is little/no roof space (and south side was not permitted). fine...

my hoa bylaw says (exacty quote) "no exterior air conditioning unit, solar panels, burglar bars or similiar equipment attahced to the exterior of a building may be installed or modified w/out the prior written approval of the comittee".

[side note: they wont allow portable ACs which is not an exterior air conditioning unit]

i placed my panels INDOORS behind my windows (yeah i know the current got cut by 75%), and they still did not allow me. they said 'as long as they can see it'. i asked if i changed the color of my blinds to something ugly would i be in violations? how about an offensive statue/painting? a hesitant yes was the reply. why? there is a clause in the "HOA guidelines" everything "permanent or temporary, natural or man-made" must look harmonious and conform to the (cookie cutter) looks of the neighborhood.

i was also thinking of building a portable solar unit (panels on wheels) where on the weekend, i drag it out to my drive way and at night, put it back in the garage. i am pretty sure i will get similar reception.

is it legal to give be in violation in my case. specifically, can they be so vague? i mean heck, i can be in violation by standing outside because im ugly.

this btw is VA if it matters.

... in the meantime im waiting for some federal or state solar law to bypass my HOA.

Comments

  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    i don't know of any lawyers here, but hoas can pretty much do as they want and if no local lawyer is helpful then the best advice is to move and stay out of such housing units that dictate your life. let them have their aesthetics and their noses in the air when the power is out and they roast in their cacoons. would they throw you out if you had an rv parked there for i'm thinking if it is ok that after awhile i'd mount some pvs on it, but they may object to sending that power by wires to your unit? hoas are not for ham radio or solar/wind power or anything similar as they aren't interested in such things and they don't feel it's worth destroying the beauty of their neighborhood(cough).
  • mshen11mshen11 Solar Expert Posts: 185 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    no trailers, rv, etc... about the only alternative solutions i can think of is 1. behind windows (indoors) 2. mobile panels

    problem is i cant move (current economic conditions)
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,869 admin
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    I would bet that if there is not an RV parking clause now--there will be 1 week after you install solar panels on it.

    Is there a common area where solar GT panels could be installed and people could "invest in the system" and with the power company, get the advantages on your electric bills (for our utility, there is a program that allows central installs--such as an condo--and people to share in the results).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • mshen11mshen11 Solar Expert Posts: 185 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    let me be specific. only vehicles on drive way is "personal cars" - no RVs, no trailers, no business vehicles (aka, anything you can identify as a business or company). must have up to date tag and must be in working condition.

    it is a townhouse, not a condo, so we "own" our land. there is no common area other than a playground.

    the association's "worry" is it doesnt look harmonious w/ the rest of the community - because no one has solar panels! duh.

    plus... i dont have an RV. so even if that was a solution (which it isnt), it wouldnt help. ive thought about mounting it on cars though but couldnt find a good DIY solution that accomodate enough panels.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    yes, you own it only to pay the taxes on it and maintain and do with it as they see fit. that's not ownership to me and i feel bad you can't get out of there at this time, but i'll bet if you knew all of this prior to your moving in that you most likely would not have moved in there. try a local lawyer that will allow a free 1st time consultation or try the aclu as i don't know what else to say to help you.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,869 admin
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    I went through our city's local planning commission... First time, asked them what the new home should look like--they said anything we want as long as we stay in the envelope.

    After lots of meetings and talks (and $$$)--got down to the home could not look like the existing home because it did not represent the neighborhood (home was built in 1930's with the other homes and the home across the street is a near twin--we were planning on a complete scrape)--and could not be the same size as the homes that touch our lot on three points, or are across the street, etc...

    In the end, I said enough is enough. No rebuilding--I saved a bunch in in building costs and taxes, nobody got a job, city lost out on future taxes (due to valuation increase) and eventually the entire city planning staff was sacked because 2 week jobs took two years of planning commission work.

    Unless you are a lawyer or can find some harmonious agreement with the HOA--I would walk away from the problem and enjoy life. And focus on conservation measures--they will pay off, at least as well, if not better than installing a PV system.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • mshen11mshen11 Solar Expert Posts: 185 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    [Unless you are a lawyer or can find some harmonious agreement with the HOA--I would walk away from the problem and enjoy life. And focus on conservation measures--they will pay off, at least as well, if not better than installing a PV system.]

    you are right (as many people who give me the same advice). HOWEVER 2 points i would like to bring up

    1. i do want to learn about solar... and i have for almost 2 years now. i see it more of a hobby. im at a point where i want to get my hands dirty - and ive graduated from HF panel as play toys. theres no real good way of learning about wires, fuses, etc... except hands on. yeah yeah you can theorize w/ me all you want, but its not the same

    2. i feel pretty proud of my conservation. im in a cookie cutter townhouse and i am very confident to say my bills are 25%, 30%... maybe even 50% less than that of my neighbors. im sure there are still ways to conserve but they cost big bucks and im not as interested as solar.

    side note: we have lamp posts outside and its required to maintain it. ive gotten violations for putting LED lights. my HOA could give a rat's (butt) about conservation. of course they say cheerfully they are all for green - as long as it doesnt impede on the harmonious looks of the community. alot of my conservation methods (such as portable AC, plants, etc..) has been blocked.

    one interesting solution is pay $900 worth of fines. in VA that is the maximum allowed you are fined. what happens next - i think they have to leave you alone. is it worth it to pay $900 tainted money for 1kwh that is not grid tied (see my other post on VA... crappy net metering rules)? thats a tough one - even as much as i want to, i dont think its worth it. my wife definitely will argue otherwise.

    so my options?
    - as per above suggestion
    - be creative: mobile, behind window, etc...
    - pay $900
    - spend $900 legal fees
    - ???
  • AntronXAntronX Solar Expert Posts: 462 ✭✭
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    mshen11, take a picture of your house and photoshop solar panels to it. Do it nice or pay a professional. It has to look real and install should look really clean and good. Print in out on nice photo paper and go to every neighbor on your street, show them the pic and ask if they are OK with the future look of your house. I doubt anyone will refuse. Mention enviro benefits too. Be nice and professional, like a good salesman. Get their signature. Take that list to your next HOA meeting. See where it goes. One less leg for HOA to stand on.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,869 admin
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    I would check the idea of paying the fine... I would expect most HOA's have more teeth than just fines (like also the right to hire somebody to come in, remove/fix/change the offending issue, and mail you the bill along with any legal fees).

    LED's come in multiple colors--perhaps you can find some or modify with other LED's that are no t so blue white (the usual issue) to reduce power usage. If the HOA wants a minimum brightness--you are probably left with using CFL's or seeing if you can install motion sensors (for conservation).

    To learn about solar--there are some folks here that have built solar "Tombstone" type units... Solar panel at an angle and inside a charge controller, battery, and inverter. Use it like a portable generator set.

    One person I saw years a go, even put the whole thing (without the solar panels) in a wagon and installed a lift/tower type assembly to use for professional photography of large areas (events and such).

    It may not be perfect--but it can allow you to get everything working together (and I would really push the Battery Monitor option--that will really educate you about the battery section of your system--really the heart of any off-grid system and the part that is most susceptible to abuse).

    I like AntronX's idea of photoshopping a potential installation (and you may look at solar thermal--smaller panels--if practical for your home).

    In the end, I am not sure how HOA politics work--are they neighborhood busybodies or people that are afraid to make a decision (because of other home owners) or simply rubber stamping only what is explicitly allowed because there is no good way of "pushing the envelope"?

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • mshen11mshen11 Solar Expert Posts: 185 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    from what i gathered here is the views of *my* HOA

    they are afraid anything beyond the picture perfect cookie cutter look will ruin "property value" - they are hypocritical and will do things in the name of "security", "welfare of children", "maintain property values", etc... but they wont allow small security cameras, solar panel (increases property value by ALOT: 1kwh == 15k), etc... they said my lights werent bright enough due to 'safety reasons'. when i asked what is the minimum brightness so i can make them happy... they answered " use 60 watts like everyone else". i think now you know what kind of people im dealing with.

    they wrote me one paragraph: they will not allow the my proposed location (awning over garage). they MAY entertain the roof (but not facing south and 50ft+ high up - its not worth installing 600watts of panels professionally):

    http://www.hoatown.com/providencepark/

    below is an example of what i want to do (i submitted this picture in the application):

    http://www.romichfoundation.org/Energy/SolarElectricPower/ResidentialSolarElectricBackup.html


    basically their idea of a compromise is putting the panels in places where the sun dont shine - because it looks least obtrusive.

    i guess im now going after the "portable generator" idea except the only part portable is the panels. i dont know if i want to do something crazy like mount a few panels on my SUV permanently - thats asking for trouble.


    now there are new technologies out there like paint where you put on windows... does anyone know anything about it?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,869 admin
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    I don't think you are going to win unless there is a state law passed (like California) that says that they must allow solar panels/systems and can only penalize the install by a maximum of 25% (or whatever the real number/language is) for aesthetic considerations.

    You can take a copy of the state laws on solar and present them to your state congress person--but that will take a few years (if ever) to be successful.

    In the end--I would be hard pressed to prove that solar GT / Systems installed on a home add anything to the value--and we have had one or two people in real-estate comment here that they can detract from the value due to the fear of the unknown by some potential buyers.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • mshen11mshen11 Solar Expert Posts: 185 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    if and when i have a system up and running and i decide to move, im taking the whole thing with me :) nevertheless, googling gave me the number 15k increase in real estate per every 1kwh. also the county wants to increase property value for assessment purposes if you have solar.

    again bill - i am agreeing w/ you on laws being passed. another idea i have (but dont know where to start) is to approach solar panel companies (or solar related companies) and somehow ask for help given my situation (what would i ask?). surely from their POV, if they allocate resources to help me win, its a big win for them because they can use me as an example to get the common people into solar (those common people who are blocked by HOA - and given the numbers, i dont think im a very common example)

    [I don't think you are going to win unless there is a state law passed (like California) that says that they must allow solar panels/systems and can only penalize the install by a maximum of 25% (or whatever the real number/language is) for aesthetic considerations.]

    i wish. i hear in CA you can get your neighbor's tree chopped down if it offends your panels in any way. about the 25% how could one even begin to quantify such a theoritcal process?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,869 admin
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    The Tree Think was only a handful of miles south of my home...

    Believe me--nobody won in that one--and they have (IIRC) amended the law to only force tree hacking if the panels where there first.

    Planning and HOA's are a nightmare no matter what. I just stay away from that stuff to preserve my sanity.

    You can visit this government website with all pointers to all the rebates/solar RE laws available on a state by state basis.

    http://www.dsireusa.org/

    In the end, there are probably one in two to one in ten homes that are really well situated for solar power. And have the room to ensure that a neighbor (tree/building/parked RV) is not going to shade the panels.

    I have a redwood 75' away in another yard that already hits my panels for an hour in the winter mornings (other neighbor trees to the west that kill early evening collection)--I am not going to fight it--I am just going to enjoy what I have--life is too short.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • mshen11mshen11 Solar Expert Posts: 185 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: any lawyers out there (solar/HOA related)?

    OT: not sure how old you are bill but i notice that comment from others. i am assuming only older wiser people than i would make that comment.

    im still "fairly young" - up until last year im still "full of energy" and ideals that our school system crammed down upon us - about voting and how gloriously effective our govt is, on how our laws are always fair, and on how our judges are always just. ive discovered the real world does not work in theories. jefferson and washington, if they see todays society, would be rolling over in their graves.

    ok enough rant and straying from topic. i think my situation is pretty much explained. hopefully we can go back to the topic and one of you lawyers out there can comment
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