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.