HOAs, Condo Associations and Solar Panels
The State of Florida has regulations in place to protect the rights of homeowners who use renewable energy practices and install solar panels and other renewable energy hardware. While homeowner associations (HOAs) define the aesthetic of their neighborhoods with rules on what improvements can be made, they have limited leeway in restricting residents’ rights to use solar energy. HOAs and Condo Associations or the property management companies operating on their behalf would be wise to be mindful of these rights and regulations as they relate to such items as solar panels or even clotheslines.
This Florida statute prohibits both local governments and homeowner associations from adopting codes, laws and rules preventing the installation of solar panels. In the express language of the statute, reference is made to homeowners’ rights to install and use “solar collectors, clotheslines, or other [renewable] energy devices”.
The statute expressly forbids any binding agreement that limits access to renewable energy for residential dwellings including renewable energy installations made within the “boundaries of a condominium unit.”
Terms and conditions apply that allow associations to determine where solar collectors may be installed as long as the location determined does not render the renewable energy device ineffective. Homeowners are still required to follow an association’s process for architectural alterations prior to installing any solar panels or other renewable energy devices
House Bill 697
Enacted in 2008, this Bill expands upon existing legislation by specifically allowing condominium boards to install solar panels on their properties without the approval of their condominium owners. HB 697 also allows condo unit owners to install solar devices within the boundaries of their own condos although conditions apply that will be discussed shortly.
Florida provides ongoing protections for individuals and businesses that benefit from solar power. Fla. Stat. § 704.07 specifically provides property owners with a right to “solar easements” for the purpose of guaranteeing that solar panels on the property have adequate exposure to the sun.
In practical terms, this means that anyone developing purchased land in such a way that blocks sunlight at specific angles during the day may be illegal without an express agreement with the owner of the blocked solar device.
To take advantage of these rights, homeowners who use solar panels can seek the services of an experienced real estate attorney who can draft a written solar easement that complies with Florida law.
“… [blocking] sunlight at specific angles during the day may be illegal without an express agreement with the owner of the blocked solar device.”
Exceptions and Other Legal Considerations
Because of the legal framework discussed above, an HOA generally cannot stop the installation of solar panels based simply on how the panels will look once installed. However, an architectural review board acting on behalf of an HOA may dictate where on a home’s roof that solar panels may be installed. Homeowners will be required to follow these guidelines as long as the solar panels will face south (within 45° of due south) and the new location does not significantly increase cost.
Florida laws prohibiting restrictions on solar panels apply only to buildings three stories in height or lower. Furthermore, the law prevents the attachment of solar panels and other renewable energy devices to balcony (and patio) railings in condominiums, townhomes and apartments.
Court precedents such as City of Ormond Beach v. State ex rel. Del Marco, 426 So.2d 1029 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983) and the 1992 amendment to Fla. Stat. §163.04 grants a property owner the right only to satisfactory performance of renewable energy devices rather than optimum performance. Therefore, there remains some scope for HOAs to lawfully dictate placement of solar panels as long as they do so within legal guidelines.
The Advantage of Counsel
Florida HOA law is complex, and legal arguments can be made to support either side of a dispute related to the installation of solar panels or other renewable energy infrastructure. In many cases, it is ideal to obtain the legal opinion of an experienced Florida HOA attorney early in the dispute process. Access to legal counsel with demonstrated competency in the practice area of HOA and condo association law can significantly improve the outcome of any negotiations, mediation, arbitration or litigation.
South Florida Law
South Florida Law is the local leader in HOA and condo association law. The firm represents both homeowners and associations and has extensive experience in providing legal advice that avoids potential conflicts between parties. Should such conflicts occur, South Florida law is prepared to aggressively represent clients in negotiations, mediation, arbitration and litigation. We are unique as a law firm in that we provide the superior attention to detail of a boutique while having access to the significant resources of a larger law firm. If you are in a dispute either as a homeowner or association and seek superior legal representation in the State of Florida, contact South Florida Law on (954) 900-8885 or reach out via our contact form.