When Residents & Homeowners’ Associations Clash Over Solar Panels
Although, in Florida, homeowners’ associations are not legally allowed to ban residents from installing solar panels, the Florida Solar Rights Act does allow associations to first require approval and establish restrictions. However, those restrictions must be “reasonable” (i.e. not arbitrary) and applied “in a uniform manner” to everyone in the association. In addition, any restrictions cannot “impair the performance” or “increase the cost” of the system.
Still, that doesn’t mean that disputes do not arise when it comes to residents and associations clashing over solar panels. Associations can use wiggle room left within the language granting members the right to use solar panels to argue that a member’s particular proposal does not conform with certain restrictions that are already in place in terms of association rules and regulations for alterations that can and cannot be made to buildings. For example, an association’s rules may only allow panels on the back of the house, and provide a “reasonable” explanation as to why, while local solar companies may recommend placement in the front of the house.
Where Disputes Arise
In many cases, homeowners’ associations see themselves as “protecting people from themselves” with these proposals. The fact that the code never defines what “reasonable” means also leads to a number of disputes, which can then lead to litigation in court. In addition, although restrictions cannot increase the cost of the solar system, disputes can still arise as to whether it is reasonable that any restrictions that the association is imposing should result in the cost increasing, or whether a resident should instead seek to work with another company that might provide installation at a more reasonable cost.
In addition, in some circumstances, questions arise as to whether certain proposals are rejected because the developer-controlled associations perhaps have deals with alternate companies that have done a majority of the solar installations in a given neighborhood.
What Does Florida Law State?
Florida law arguably errs on the side of the residents: In addition to associations being prohibited from banning the installation of solar or other renewable energy systems, restrictions may not have the effect of impairing their performance or increasing their cost, any requirements that a system be screened from view by fences, ground mounting racks, remote roof locations hidden from the street, trees, etc. will generally be found to violate the statute. Still, associations may determine where on the roof solar collectors may be installed (as long as they face within 45 degrees of due south).
Contact Our Sarasota Homeowners’ Association Dispute Lawyers Today
At Suncoast Civil Law, our experienced Sarasota homeowners’ association dispute attorneys have significant experience protecting Florida homeowners in association disputes. We provide a careful review of your association documents and guidance as to your rights and options. In combination with state law, we provide the very best in legal action to protect your rights. Contact us today if you have any questions to find out more.