The Indiana HOA solar panel law has been signed. But, what is it exactly? And how does it affect homeowners associations?
The Long-Standing Debate Over Indiana HOA Solar Panels
Homeowners associations are known for their strict rules when it comes to architectural changes. If a homeowner wants to add a shed or redo their front porch, chances are they will need to obtain approval from their HOA. This process usually involves going through an application process, which includes submitting documents such as designs and blueprints. Then, the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) evaluates the application before recommending a decision. The final say will come from the HOA board.
It is a long process that comes with twists and turns, but it accomplishes the HOA’s goal of maintaining the desired aesthetic for the neighborhood. These architectural guidelines exist to make sure all the houses in the community remain uniform and up to the association’s standard. If the homeowner fails to meet this standard, the application gets denied.
It might seem silly for a homeowner to have so little control over their own property. But, that is what owners sign up for when they buy into an HOA community. Before purchasing a house in an HOA, would-be homeowners are given the opportunity to review the association’s governing documents. These documents include the association’s rules, such as architectural guidelines. If they push through with the sale, it is essentially like agreeing to follow the HOA’s rules.
A Cause for Restrictions in HOA Communities
The existence of HOAs and their many restrictions can be attributed to a desire for the preservation of property values. A homeowners association’s primary purpose, after all, is to maintain curb appeal and protect the property values in the community. A big part of that is keeping a consistent appearance, and it is this very same reason that pushes an HOA to impose solar panel restrictions.
Many homeowners today want to install solar panels on the roofs of their homes not only to collect energy but also to support the environment. Solar power is, of course, a sustainable form of energy. Unfortunately, due to the restrictions placed upon them, solar panels have not always been an option for homeowners in Indiana.
Available Options for Homeowners Prior to the Signing of the Bill
In March, Indiana finally passed House Bill 1196, which protects the rights of homeowners to install solar panels on their homes. Prior to the bill’s signing, though, homeowners in Indiana had very few options if they wanted to have solar panels installed.
The first option is to amend the bylaws or CC&Rs of the homeowners association. Now, this is by no means an easy route to take. A single homeowner does not possess the power to change the provisions of an HOA’s governing documents. But, in general, homeowners can band together and call for a special meeting. They can voice their opinions and let the board know what changes they want to see. If it proves fruitful, this united front may be enough to convince a board to initiate an amendment.
The second option is to compromise. Some homeowners associations will allow their residents to install solar panels but with added restrictions. For instance, an HOA may reserve the right to restrict the placement of solar panels. Again, this restriction circles back to the association’s desire to maintain the neighborhood’s aesthetic. That means front-facing or street-facing solar panels would automatically gain a denial. This can inhibit the panels’ ability to collect energy in an effective manner.
Of course, homeowners who successfully change their bylaws or compromise on placement are the lucky ones. Plenty of homeowners associations in Central Indiana alone restrict or outright prohibit the installation of solar panels. In communities where the bylaws are not clear, the HOA board would simply deny an owner’s request.
New Law Passed Supporting Indiana HOA Solar Panel Installation
Thanks to the passing of HB 1196, homeowners associations in Indiana can now no longer prohibit members from installing solar panels on their rooftops. There is quite a bit of history behind this bill, having started its journey 6 years ago. Year after year, the bill seemed to inch closer to getting signed. Finally, earlier this year, it got the signature it needed to become law.
It was Sen. Aaron Freeman who first proposed legislation concerning Indiana homeowners association solar panels in 2017. The bill made its way through the Senate but received some pushback once it reach the House. Freeman then sought the help of Rep. Mike Speedy, who ultimately authored the bill, to get things rolling.
As per the bill, homeowners can petition their HOA boards for the ability to install solar panels. Homeowners will need to obtain signatures from their neighbors (the lesser of 65% of residents unless otherwise stated in the bylaws) to go solar. Should they get the signatures they need, the board can’t deny them. Fundamentally, associations can’t ban solar anymore.
This is a reasonable workaround for both homeowners and associations. It still requires homeowners to provide sufficient information to their boards, including the placement of the panels, screening types, the color of the panels, etc. They must also abide by warranty and safety requirements. Not only does this bill support renewable energy, but it also protects property rights.
Gov. Eric Holcomb signed HB 1996 into law in March earlier this year. With this, Indiana is now one of the many states that have laws protecting the rights of homeowners to solar panels.
From This Point Forward
Solar energy advocates and homeowners alike have been rallying behind this Indiana HOA solar access law for years. Now that the bill has finally passed, homeowners associations will need to re-evaluate their rules and adjust to accommodate renewable energy. HOA boards can take comfort in the fact that solar panels have since evolved. The once-clunky structures have morphed to boast a more streamlined and sleek look that can lay flush on the roof.
Managing a homeowners association is often a taxing endeavor. Luckily, Elite Management Services can make the lives of board members much easier. Call us today at (855) 238-8488 or contact us online to learn more.
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