Homeowners in Ohio have long battled their HOAs for the ability to install solar panels on their homes. Now, with the introduction of a new bill, that may very well soon change. Learn more about the new Ohio HOA solar bill below.
Understanding Ohio HOA Solar Restrictions
Anyone who has ever lived in a community managed by a homeowners association knows that restrictions simply come with the territory. Homeowners associations typically have strict rules concerning a variety of matters. Perhaps one of the most disputed, though, has to do with architectural restrictions.
Homeowners generally have complete control over their property, including any changes they want to make. But, in an HOA, homeowners don’t have the same luxury. In these communities, homeowners have to abide by architectural guidelines, which dictate what modifications a homeowner can do to their house. Normally, a homeowner would need to submit an architectural change request to their HOA. If the HOA finds that the request does not comply with its guidelines, it can reject the application.
These architectural guidelines also usually extend to solar panels.
As environmental concerns grow higher, many homeowners are looking to solar energy as a way to reduce their carbon footprint and save money on electricity at the same time. But, for homeowners who live in HOA communities, solar energy is not as widely accessible. Due to aesthetic reasons, most HOAs deny homeowners the ability to install solar panels on their rooftops. And, those that do approve of it restrict the placement of the solar panels, which can impede maximum energy collection.
There is certainly a high demand for solar in Ohio. In fact, Cincinnati-based solar company Solar Is Freedom has reportedly lost 200 possible projects due to HOAs denying homeowners’ requests to go solar. According to company president Antonio Ranieri, these projects would have totaled more than $5 million in revenue and provided jobs to at least 10 more W2 employees. As many states shift to renewable energy, something needs to change to grant all homeowners in Ohio the right to solar.
Does an Ohio HOA Solar Access Law Exist?
As of writing, Ohio currently does not have a solar access law that would give homeowners the right to solar energy. In comparison, a total of 26 states and the District of Columbia already have solar access laws in some form or another. In this respect, the Buckeye State has been left behind. However, that may soon change with the passing of a new bill, Senate Bill 61 (SB61).
The Ohio Senate passed SB61 in January earlier this year. Currently, the bill remains in committee. When enacted into law, the bill would give homeowners in HOA communities an easier time securing solar energy. But, it does not completely remove the power of homeowners associations when it comes to solar. The bill would still allow HOAs the ability to establish reasonable restrictions when it comes to the size, manner, and placement of the solar panels.
While it is true that associations still hold a lot of control over solar energy in HOA communities, the bill at least prevents HOAs from automatically prohibiting solar. Instead, homeowners associations should engage in a rational discussion and impose only reasonable restrictions.
Some restrictions considered unreasonable include charging added costs that would make the investment economically disadvantageous as well as limiting solar panel installations to shaded areas that don’t face the street. On the other hand, an HOA may require solar panels in the community to have a uniform appearance. This would keep the look of the neighborhood consistent and have no negative effect on curb appeal.
The Future of Ohio HOA Solar Installation
Senate Bill 61 has yet to pass into law, so restrictions have not yet been lifted. But, given the trajectory of the demand for solar, it is likely that HOAs will face more pushback in terms of solar prohibitions. Additionally, several groups have already voiced their support for the bill. These include the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, Green Energy Ohio, and even the Community Associations Institute.
Ohio Sen. Nickie Antonio expects the bill to head to the governor before summer. Homeowners and HOAs can track the progress of the bill here.
What Homeowners Associations Should Do Moving Forward
Should the bill pass into law, homeowners associations should re-evaluate their solar panel installation rules to identify what amendments must take place. In doing so, HOAs can remain compliant with the new law. Associations should also clearly define the reasonable restrictions to solar, such as the placement, manner, and size of the array.
Additionally, homeowners associations should come up with a standardized procedure for applications, if none exist. This would also mean requesting supporting documents, such as blueprints of the solar panels as well as measurements. Due to the prevalence of HOA restrictions, many solar companies have dedicated departments for HOA assistance. These departments help homeowners provide necessary documents, complete applications, and secure approval from HOAs.
Going Solar Benefits Ohio and Homeowners
Clearly, there is an outpouring of demand and support for renewable energy. The proposed bill would not only help homeowners in HOAs but also put Ohio one step closer to becoming a green state. Since the bill remains in committee, though, nothing about Ohio HOA solar restrictions is set in stone.
Should the bill be enacted into law, homeowners associations will likely face a surge of new applications for solar panel installations. Juggling all of these requests can be difficult, especially for self-managed associations. An HOA management company like Elite Management Services can make the board’s job easier. Call us today at (855) 238-8488 or contact us online to learn more about our services.
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