New Virginia law prevents HOAs from blocking solar installations

Solar Power World

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has signed HB 414/SB 504. The bill protects homeowners who want to install solar from burdensome homeowners association (HOA) restrictions.

“The legislation protects the rights of homeowners who want to go solar but live in HOA communities,” said Aaron Sutch, program director for Solar United Neighbors.“It strikes a fair balance between property-owners’ solar rights and HOA authority. We are grateful to bill patrons Delegate Karrie Delaney and Senator Chap Petersen for their leadership on this issue.”

The bill adds clarity to Virginia law. Current law prohibits HOAs from placing “unreasonable restrictions” on solar installations. However, the law does not provide a definition for “unreasonable.”

“I’m proud we were able to bring together homeowners and their associations to find a solution to grow solar in Virginia,” Delegate Delaney said. “This bill is a common sense solution that balances aesthetic concerns with basic property rights, and helps homeowners take control of their energy future.”

This lack of clarity has resulted in HOA’s imposing restrictions on residential solar installations. These restrictions prevent homeowners from going solar and render the installations economically unfeasible. This forces homeowners across Virginia to give up installing solar rather than take on the expensive and lengthy legal action it would take to secure approval for their systems.

“This bill expands and explains the Solar HOA Bill from 2013,” Senator Petersen said. “I’m glad I could play a role. Thank you to the advocates who made it possible.”
 

The bill provides clarity and relief to homeowners and HOAs alike by defining what “unreasonable” means. It says that a restriction is unreasonable if it:

  • Reduces the performance of the system by 10% or more, or
  • Adds more than five percent to the cost of the installation as originally proposed.
  • Under the legislation, HOAs are still able to approve installations. They are also able to deny systems that are unsafe.

“I’m trying to do the right thing by going solar,” said Powatan homeowner Dina Desmet. “It’s gratifying to see the General Assembly protect the rights of homeowners like myself.”

Solar United Neighbors estimates more than 300 homeowners have been wrongly denied their right to install solar. This has cost Virginia solar contractors more than $7 million in retail solar sales since 2014.