4-19-2015 Before Going Solar: Five Tips for Surviving Your HOA
Homeowners Associations (HOAs) are an inevitable part of living in planned neighborhoods. They generally exist to protect property value and ensure that neighborhoods look nice.
However, in their quest to preserve their domains, some HOAs dismiss homeowners’ rights to choose their energy source. Homeowners interested in going solar occasionally butt heads with their HOAs.
If you’ve decided to go solar and your house is in a neighborhood with an HOA, try following these five tips to make the process a little easier.
Do Your Research
Look at the rules and regulations that dictate what changes you can and can’t make to your house. Before you install a solar system or spend any money on the groundwork, make sure that you can have a rooftop solar system. If the HOA rules don’t explicitly rule out rooftop solar systems, your process may be a little easier. However, even if you find that the HOA rules specifically prohibit rooftop solar, there may still be hope.
Get the right permits, permissions and papers
Each HOA does things a little differently, so be sure that you follow the proper procedures for making a request to add rooftop solar. If your HOA needs four different sets of papers each filled out in triplicate, then fill out each set in triplicate. Ensuring that everything is filled out and filed correctly gives the HOA one less reason to deny your solar system.
Know your statistics
In many cases of solar homeowners vs. HOAs, property value is a major concern. Many HOAs and neighbors believe that adding solar to a house decreases its value. If this happens to come up in your quest for solar, you can reference Selling Into the Sun: Price Premium Analysis of a Multi-State Dataset of Solar Homes, a study that looks at the value of homes before and after solar.
The study found that home buyers were willing to pay about $4 per watt of PV installed on the house, which made the premium for a typical residential PV system about $15,000. Installing solar is actually a great way for homeowners to increase the value of their property.
If your HOA is extremely stubborn and won’t give any ground, try to negotiate. While you usually can’t shift the positioning of your PV system too much, you can offer to make it a little smaller. If there’s a way you can work out a compromise with your HOA that won’t negatively affect your PV system’s efficiency, see if you can take it.
Do the math
If all else fails and friendly negotiations aren’t getting anywhere, you can always sue for the right to put solar on your house. However, this should be a last resort. If you do decide to take your HOA to court, be sure that the legal costs won’t outweigh the return you’ll get from your solar system.
HOA and Solar Access Rights
If you haven’t managed to make any headway with your HOA over the issue of rooftop solar, you can check with the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency to see if there are state-specific policies that support solar. If there are, they may just override the HOA’s decrees.