Reader Questions – Is HOA Making Solar Installations Too Difficult?Feb 09, 2020
Good morning. My HOA is requiring me to install “critter guards” as part of my solar installation, but this will cost me over $1,000. Can the HOA force me to undergo this expense? Your valuable advice is highly appreciated. Thank you very much for your help.
With Best Regards, C.J., San Jose
Civil Code sections 714, 714.1, and 4746 establish a strong legal preference for solar energy installations in California HOAs. Although a restriction which is “reasonable” is allowed, a restriction which either adds $1,000 or 10% to the cost (whichever is less) is not reasonable and is specifically not allowed.
If there is no reasonable way to meet the “critter guard” requirement without a cost of over $1,000, you may want to bring that information to your board, along with a copy of the statute, (and perhaps this column also).
Associations that make the wrong choice on this subject are exposed to not only damages and attorney fees, but also a civil penalty. However, don’t rush to court – show your board this information and help to educate them. Most HOA disputes begin with a disparity of information, followed quickly by assumptions of ill will by each side. This is something that should be quickly worked out as neighbors, once everybody has the same information.
Thanks for your question. Sincerely, Kelly
Dear Mr. Richardson:
The problem with Civil Code 714.1 and its permission of “reasonable standards” for installation of solar panels is that many HOAs are proposing egregious indemnification agreements that go far beyond the maintenance and repair requirements such a system might develop. In our case, we own the roof over our unit- it is not common area. But the HOA has proposed a terrible agreement that we must sign in order to install solar. It goes far beyond the current CC&Rs which already require the owner to maintain and repair the roof and anything attached to it. It requires the owner to indemnify the association for anything that happens anywhere or anytime in the future as well as requiring the owner to pay the association’s legal fees for any future dispute on any subject.
Unfortunately Civil 714.1 gives them the cover to propose such an agreement.
Civil Code 714.1 allows reasonable restrictions such as requiring the homeowner to maintain, repair and insure their system, and requiring homeowners to agree to pay for any future costs to the HOA. Indemnification means that should the HOA incur a cost specifically because of your installed solar system, you would reimburse the HOA from that cost. You describe your roof as your separately owned property which you already maintain and repair. Therefore, it would seem the risk of the HOA incurring a cost is small. But, what if a part of the installation was dislodged by strong winds, flew off the roof, and damaged another home or injured someone? Why should the rest of the homeowners in your association incur a cost that would not have occurred without your system being installed?
So, respectfully, I disagree with you on this. I think indemnity in this regard is fair to your neighbors and you.
Thanks for sharing your point of view.
Written by Kelly G. Richardson
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to [email protected]. Past columns at www.hoahomefront.com. All rights reserved®.