The Law Q&A | Solar energy has a home in most any neighborhood | Columns


Can a homeowner’s association, condominium association or other community interest residential association bar a homeowner from installing solar panels on their roof?

With certain exceptions, no sir, no ma’am, they cannot.

The association boards of these entities can restrict the particular configuration of any system an owner wants to stick on their property so long as the restriction does not reduce the possible annual energy production of the array by more than 10 percent.

Also, within 90 days after an association receives a request for a policy statement or an application from an association member, the association is supposed to adopt, if it hasn’t already, an energy policy statement regarding the location, design and architectural requirements of solar energy systems; Whether a wind energy collection, rain water collection or composting system is allowed, and, if so, the location, design and architectural setup of those systems. The association is to disclose this policy statement upon request.

Whenever approval is required for the installation or use of a solar energy system, the application for approval will be reviewed by the association within 75 days after application submission. However, if an application is submitted before an energy policy statement is adopted by an association, the 75-day period shall not begin to run until the date that the policy is adopted. This could be a stumbling delay for the owner. Hence the requirement that says within 90 days of a request for a policy or application to install, the association needs to get electrified to produce a policy.

There is an exception in this law that otherwise restricts associations from restricting solar panels.

Associations can bar systems on buildings taller than 60 feet or have shared roofs. Shared roofs are those that serve more than one unit, including roofs that connect to adjacent units or is part of a commons in the association. To refresh our real estate erudition, a commons area in an association is one where the area is owned by the association and all its members jointly (“members” are the unit or home owners).

What happens if an application is submitted for installation and the association doesn’t respond within the required time?

Sue ’em.

Or, go ahead and risk installing.

Typically, all HOAs and CAs have provisions that say if the governing board or their designated architectural committees don’t object to new construction or alteration to the property by a certain time after alteration, the association waives such objection. Or if they don’t respond in a certain time from the request, objection is also waived. Check your association’s by-laws and covenants.

The purpose of this law barring associations from barring solar panels is to promote green energy.

The reason associations get pernickety about controlling building alterations is to ensure the alterations don’t create a nuisance to neighbors, or a risk of harm to persons and property, nor are so outrageous as to negatively affect the value of the home/unit in question which would perforce negatively affect value of all of homes/units in the association.

Congratulations. You have now been plugged into the law on solar energy in home and condo associations.

Don’t flip a legal circuit-breaker by not following the rules.

And don’t let the association ground-fault-interpret your ability to get green.

Brett Kepley is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Inc. Send questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820.

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