You want to start generating your own energy using a renewable resource, like the sun, but you have a concern: your house owners association (HOA). Given that solar energy hasn't traditionally been thought to be attractive from the outside, it's a reasonable concern. Then there's the comparison between a solar installation and a minor building job.
As a solar contractor, the rules of your state and the HOA bylaws in the areas you target will determine how much HOAs will affect your business. Regardless of where you conduct business, there are a few tactics you may use to help obtain HOA approval for your clients' PV solar systems.
In this post, we'll go straight to the source and learn tried-and-true methods from experienced solar contractors who have a ton of experience dealing with HOAs. To help you complete more sales for projects in HOA communities—and to walk your potential client through the process—we add to those interviews with our own in-depth research.
In order to counter HOA solar panel limitations, three different groups of states with varying amounts of solar access legislation or regulations have been identified:
Knowing which group your state belongs to will help you prepare your response if a homeowner's association tries to prevent or oversee the installation of solar panels.
For instance, Arizona, Indiana, California, Washington, New Jersey, Florida, and Colorado have regulations governing solar access that are quite clear. While states like Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and South Carolina don't have any kind of policy at all, other states like New York, North Dakota, and Rhode Island provide guidelines on solar access.
Maintaining awareness of the local regulations that apply is important, even if you operate in a jurisdiction with well-defined solar access legislation. For instance, many states may compel HOA communities to permit solar installations while retaining the right for them to choose whether any panels can be installed on the front of the property in accordance with their HOA regulations to preserve the neighborhood’s aesthetics.
In order to conserve older, significant structures, historic areas may also always have solar energy limitations. Solar installers wishing to keep up with local legislation and incentives relating to solar installation in their region will benefit greatly from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE).
There are no federal laws governing solar access in the US at the moment. The American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454), a proposed federal bill under the Obama Administration, would have stopped HOAs from opposing solar installations in their communities. Unfortunately, this law was not approved, and no new legislation has been proposed since.
This does not rule out the possibility of federal solar access rules in the United States. About 40 million homes in the country are now under the management of homeowner's organizations, so it's possible that many homeowners desire solar panels but believe they aren't currently able to afford them.
This figure indicates that there is actually a lot of leverage for homeowners and solar installers to petition the federal and state governments to create laws banning HOAs from restricting the installation of solar panels across the whole nation. It must be made plain to the government that if it wants to achieve its ambitious clean energy targets, they must explore all available avenues to do so, including HOA neighborhoods. Renewable energy is a topic that is everyone's concern right now.
Installing solar panels in a challenging neighborhood requires the use of solar easements as a negotiating tactic. Solar easements allow homeowners the legal ability to safeguard their solar system access to sunlight.
Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Idaho are among the states that have solar easements. These are regrettably optional in that the neighbors concerned must consent to the easement in order for it to apply, even though they may be useful tools to assist in the effort to get a solar system built.
However, such agreements may always be made more agreeable by agreeing on some form of monetary payment in exchange for the neighbor's help.
In order for a solar easement to be legally valid, it must contain specific information about the area to which it applies, including details about the horizontal and vertical angles that must have access to sunlight as well as information about any trees or shrubbery that may affect the area's exposure to the sun.
There are a few things solar contractors may have in their back pockets to make sure that their customers can receive the solar systems they want when it comes to acquiring HOA clearance to install solar, particularly in locations where there are no defined solar access rules.
Make sure you're up to date on any solar access legislation in your state so you can't be deceived by your homeowner's association. Just like landlords, HOAs frequently try to get away with breaking the law in the hopes that the individuals they are supposed to help are unaware of their rights and obligations regarding their property. If you want to complete the transaction in a challenging location, it's up to you to assist in educating your clients on their rights and obligations when it comes to getting solar. If you're trying to close a transaction in a difficult situation, you should always be aware of your client's rights and obligations when it comes to going solar.
An excellent strategy to remain one step ahead when you get a request for a quotation from someone who lives in one of these neighborhoods is to keep track of each one's laws regarding solar installations, especially if your solar company operates in an area with several HOA-managed neighborhoods.
Make sure you are aware of any restrictions on solar installation if they exist so you can base your plan on the regulations and avoid the need for any future HOA-related adjustments.
It's a good idea to have official documents and links on hand to refute a homeowner's association's denial of a solar installation if you know for a fact that they are violating the law. Otherwise, you'll have to stop working while you gather all the evidence and give the client more time to second-guess their decision to research solar in the first place.
Remember that many homeowners could have recently relocated into the area or state and may not be aware of their rights. These customers might easily be taken advantage of by an HOA, especially if they aren't aware of the regulations governing solar panels, to begin with, or are dealing with one for the first time. If solar easements are available in your state as well, make sure your client is aware of them as it may be another option to attempt to complete your task for the homeowner.
As long as they are well-hidden and maintain the appearance of the area, some HOAs could be fine with solar panels, while others might not even be aware that that is an option. If an HOA expressly prohibits solar panels, it could be worthwhile to inform them that since the panels will only be visible from the rear of the property, all properties with south-facing backs can preserve curb appeal, and they should permit installs on homes where this is relevant. The standard blue, green, or black module isn't the only color that companies make panels in. Today, it's possible to buy solar modules in brown, patterned, or metallic tones. There are even businesses that produce unique covers for panels that may be customized to fit the client's roof to hide them from the public.
When dealing with HOAs, it's also important to inform them of the advantages solar panels can have for the neighbourhood, including raising home values and making the area a more desirable place for families and individuals who are concerned about the environment, grid outages, and new renewable energy technologies.
A group of individuals who all want what is best for their community is at the center of a homeowner's association. Having said that, many HOAs could be unaware of the evolving demands and interests of their neighbors. Twenty years ago, what may have been viewed as an eyesore might today serve as a representation of a modern, forward-thinking neighborhood that people would like to call home.
As a solar contractor, you may work to alter these perceptions and the laws governing solar energy in these regions. Drive around these communities, drop off some flyers in mailboxes, and talk to the people about how amazing their roofs are for solar. Give them any information they would need to persuade their HOA to approve the change and let them know that if enough homeowners decide to investigate solar for their properties, you might be able to provide a group discount.
Residents can also pressure their association into allowing solar installations in areas with solar access legislation and inform them that their bylaws are now invalid and unlawful, creating a new market for solar companies to tap into.
Any solar installation company may find it challenging to work with (or against) homeowner's associations, but this isn't always the case. While homeowners should be aware of the regulations that apply in their state, it is frequently the obligation of the solar contractors themselves to guarantee that the law is followed if they want to access as many solar leads as they can in their local region.