One of the most common questions we get from homeowners is: “Can my Home Owners’ Association prohibit me from getting solar on my roof?” The short answer is no, but it depends on your situation.
Virginia and Maryland are two of the twenty-five states in the U.S. which have solar access laws that stop homeowners’ associations from preventing, or unreasonably restricting the installation of solar panels. However, an HOA may develop certain restrictions in relation to the size, location, and placement of solar panels, or restrict the installation of panels on common areas within the neighborhood. Anything in effect prior to July 1, 2008 is not affected by these rules.
An HOA may enforce these restrictions if they do not significantly increase the cost, or significantly decrease the efficiency of the system. If the HOAs requirements do have these effects, you will need to show them the law and maybe even work with authorities to enforce your rights. In general, a restriction would be “unreasonable” if it increases the cost by $1,000+ or reduces efficiency by 10%+.
Washington DC currently does not have any solar access laws, which puts residents at the mercy of their HOAs. When considering solar, you should read your HOA contract, and contact the board with any questions. Hopefully you will find that you live in a neighborhood full of people as forward-thinking and environmentally-minded as yourself. If not, perhaps your passion, and persuasiveness will change their perspectives!
Regardless of whether you live in Maryland, Virginia, or DC, it is important to let your HOA know of your intent to pursue a solar installation on your home very early in the process. You may even need to educate the HOA board on your rights. Your solar installer should be able to help you provide resources to do this.
The bottom line is that you should not let your HOA sway your decision to pursue solar energy. Maryland is a very progressive solar state, and Virginia is catching up. Take advantage of your right to save money, and protect the environment.