Solar Systems Halted by Haughty HOAs

Some North Carolina homeowners have to face another barrier to rooftop solar systems: interference by their own homeowners association (HOA). Now the state Supreme Court is reviewing their case for solar access. 

Many new residential neighborhoods come with a developer-controlled HOA. These are distinct from the broader neighborhood associations which older neighborhoods form more organically. The HOA for a planned development limits membership to the developer (initially) and those who purchase the lots and houses (who may or may not be residents). The resulting corporation has specific legal powers to restrict or penalize changes or additions to structures in the development.

Chief among the items which can be restricted are “aesthetic” changes to the houses themselves, which may change the look of the development and (in theory) the marketability of the homes to future buyers. Unfortunately for clean energy development, one of the features HOAs often restrict is rooftop solar systems.

Recognizing that problem, the General Assembly passed limits on HOAs’ authority to restrict rooftop solar installations in 2007. But there is an ambiguity in that section of the state code which HOAs have continued to exploit. Now a legal case testing the interpretation of that law has reached the state Supreme Court, where it was argued earlier last month.

Legislators could also solve the entire problem with a clarification to the law itself. House Bill 842 overwhelmingly passed the House with bipartisan support, but has remained stalled in the Senate Rules Committee for almost a year.

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