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HOA & Condo Boards: Solar and Renewable Energy Improvements

Florida Law Governs Rules or Covenants Prohibiting Solar Collectors or other Renewable Resource Energy Devices.

Many community leaders may not be aware of Section 163.04, Florida Statutes which prohibits enforcement of restrictions precluding homeowners from obtaining energy from renewable resources.

Florida’s legislators made sure this law applied to Condominium and Homeowners’ Associations with amendments shortly after the Taylor v. The Ridge at the Bluffs HOA case.

Owners of condominium units are specifically permitted to install solar collectors or energy devices, so long as the installation is wholly within the boundaries of the unit and does not involve patio or balcony railings.  The Statute says, in relevant part:

A deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or similar binding agreement may not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources from being installed on buildings erected on the lots or parcels covered by the deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or binding agreement. A property owner may not be denied permission to install solar collectors or other energy devices by any entity granted the power or right in any deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or similar binding agreement to approve, forbid, control, or direct alteration of property with respect to residential dwellings and within the boundaries of a condominium unit. Such entity may determine the specific location where solar collectors may be installed on the roof within an orientation to the south or within 45° east or west of due south if such determination does not impair the effective operation of the solar collectors.

While many states have adopted similar legislation to encourage the use of renewable energy sources, it seems that community association leaders have yet to embrace improvements requested by homeowners within the communities.  In fact, there is an effort to create federal regulations securing home and/or unit owners’ access to renewable energy improvements and the public is critical when HOA or Condo Boards reject homeowner requests based solely on aesthetic grounds.

On the other hand, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports that communities with energy efficiencies built in- including solar panels, have retained value, even in this market.  Lower utility bills is an attractive feature that causes the property to stand out from the competition.

The boundaries of a unit vary from condominium to condominium.  Boundaries are described differently in similar types of properties – so a ruling in one community does not mean that another association cannot prohibit owner modification requests.  Community leaders are encouraged to consult with counsel to determine the scope of the Association’s rulemaking authority before a dispute arises.

Additionally, condominium associations may take advantage of energy saving devices to reduce expenses.  The Condominium Act was amended to permit the installation of solar collectors and other energy efficient improvements.  Progressive leaders of community associations will discover long-term savings and increase property values at the same time.

For more information and examples of great projects see ‘Green’ Practices to Ease Future Financial & Budgeting Concerns.

 

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5 Comments
  • Avatar
    Joy Salberg
    January 19, 2010

    I live in a condo community, Paseo, in Lee County, Florida. When I brought up solar panels to the condo board, I was told that condo associations don’t qualify. Is that correct?
    I was thinking of solar panels on roofs, or around a lake (there is a lot of sunshine in this state that should be harnessed)

  • Avatar
    Rosemary Bittle
    March 26, 2010

    As a Board Member, it is great to find this answer to an owner’s question, today, whether a Condominium had to abide by FS 163.04. Yes. But Thank you, especially the part that the energy saving devices in a Condominium needed to be wholly within the boundaries of the unit and does not include patios or balcony railings. No hanging clothes over railings or on drying racks on the patio.

  • Avatar
    John M. Ahern, AIA
    December 6, 2010

    You stated that a definition of “boundaries” vary from condo to condo. If the HOA simply says that the condo boundaries end at the ceiling and inside walls, and does not include the top of roof or roof structure, they eliminate any access to the sun for solar panels. Is this how HOA’s are interpreting ‘163.04’? Is it wrong or just absurd? Have there been other rulings in favor of solar panels vs HOA’s of multi-unit, 2-story condos?
    RESPONSE: There is at least one case ruling regarding solar improvements of which I am aware. If the roof is common element then the association determines whether or not to allow solar panels – especially if the asn bears responsibility for maintenance and insurance for the roof. Condominium ownership is fundamentally different than other types of ownership, including ownership in an HOA setting, The common elements are exactly that – owned in common by everyone and both the laws and documents control the extent of individual use of those portions of the property.

  • Avatar
    lou
    April 14, 2012

    I live in a bldg with 100 units on the ocean,my question is the bldg has a flat roof and the pannels will not be seen from the ground, the bldg is 8 floors high.I UNDERSTAND HOA AND THE TOWN HAVE TO APPROVE,PLUS INS CO AND THE HOA HAVE TO DO MAINT ON THE PANNELS, IS IT LEGAL.
    RESPONSE: Unit owners cannot use the roof of a building without the advance consent of the board of directors and in some cases a membership vote. The local building department must issue a permit for the installation of solar panels and inspections are required.

  • Avatar
    William
    July 28, 2012

    Experts place the solar panels on the roof in the most efficient manner. Since any movement of these would violate the statute’s “must not prohibit the effectiveness of the energy device,” how can a HOA force a homeowner to move the panels at all …even within the “45 degree East or West of Due South” if that conflicts with the effectiveness of the energy device?