Most people who are looking into solar energy are aware that federal and state governments offer tax incentives to encourage people to use solar power. But few homeowners stop to wonder whether lawmakers have imposed restrictions on such critical components as solar panels. State governments have been so focused on enacting legislation that removes restrictions to solar energy that few legal restrictions are on the books. Not so, however, when you are operating at the community level.
Homeowners Associations Restrictions
Throughout the country, from California to Pennsylvania, community homeowners associations (HOAs) are imposing restrictions on their members' use of solar panels. According to the Wall Street Journal, "in Florida, as many as 50 homeowners associations a year try to keep residents from putting solar panels on their rooftops, despite a state law that forbids them from imposing such restrictions." Carlton goes on to cite similar cases in other states, some of which also have state laws prohibiting restrictions. Reasons that HOAs give for denying residents permission to install solar panels on their home or garage roofs are largely appearance-related. Some object to the color of the panels; some restrict panels which are visible from the street; others simply restrict solar panel installation entirely. If you live in a community governed by an HOA, make certain you have approval prior to buying your solar components. Otherwise, you may be in for arguments, fines and costly litigation before winning the right to go solar.
Restrictions on solar panels backed by municipal law may further delay or preclude your solar energy project. Despite leading the nation in embracing solar energy, California has more than 20 communities that have legally restricted solar power systems. Height restrictions for construction on view properties is one example of how local laws can adversely affect your solar panel installation.
Another restriction relating to your placement of solar panels is the growth of neighboring foliage or a neighbor's future remodeling project which might restrict the amount of sunlight your panels can collect. One way to avoid this potential restriction to your solar operating system is to site your panels where neighboring property improvements cannot affect the path of the sun. If this is not possible, try asking your neighbors to sign an easement which grants you the right to collect the sun slanting through the space above their property. Such an easement effectively prevents them from blocking that space. If your neighbors care about green energy they may agree.
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