In some areas, Homeowners Associations (HOAs) can present significant barriers to homeowners’ ability to install solar.
Before Texas enacted protective solar access laws that limited what restrictions HOAs could place on solar installations in their neighborhoods, HOAs meant a lot of frustration. Speaking to the New York Times in 2009 when he was chief executive of Houston-based residential solar company Standard Renewable Energy, John Berger (now CEO of Sunnova Corporation), said HOA prohibitions had cost SRE over $1 million in business.
In Missouri, a state without policies protecting from HOA solar restrictions, there are a number of cases in court where HOAs are butting heads with homeowners that install solar.
As a solar contractor, the extent to which HOAs impact your business is dependent on your state’s laws and the HOA bylaws in the neighborhoods you target. However, there are a number of strategies you can employ to help ensure HOA approval for your customers’ PV solar systems, regardless of where you do business.
In this article, we discuss techniques compiled from interviews with solar contractors with extensive experience working with HOAs and online research to help ensure successful outcomes on projects in HOA communities—and guide your prospective customer through the process as well.
How an HOA Can Impact Your Solar Business
HOAs are neighborhood organizations that create and enforce rules for houses or condominiums in established communities. Solar Power World states that “a major directive of the HOA is neighborhood uniformity and/or a high standard of appearance for each property.” HOAs’ concerns, and resulting rules, about solar installations tend to relate to how PV panels will affect the look of neighborhoods or property values.
These rules can impact a homeowner’s efforts to go solar. A significant proportion of American homeowners interact with an HOA: over 351,000 HOAs in the U.S. regulate about 40 million households or 53% of owner-occupied households. Therefore, there is a good chance that your prospect needs to work with one. However, about half of U.S. states have laws preventing HOAs from denying solar for aesthetic reasons, so the impact on your business is partially dependent on where you operate.
Getting Solar Approval from an HOA
It is helpful to understand the typical process for getting approval for a solar installation from an HOA so that you are better able to guide your customer through it. Usually, a customer requests an application from their HOA or gives the contractor permission to do so. While there are some customers who choose to fill out the application and send it in themselves, others prefer that the contractor do this.
Mike Busby, Co-Founder & President of Victory Solar, a leading residential and commercial installer in Texas, spoke with Aurora about his company’s extensive experience working with HOAs. He states that his company does all the HOA paperwork on the homeowner’s behalf, only getting the homeowner involved if they have to.
Bobby Custard, Solar Consultant for Pur Solar & Electrical, an Arizona-based contractor with over 40 years of electrical contracting experience, also shared his insights about interacting with HOAs. He says that after Pur Solar has given the customer everything they need to review and sign, the company notifies the HOA when they begin the permitting process. They send the HOA a copy of the plans, the proposal, and images of what the project will look like.
If the application is approved by the HOA, you can move forward with the installation. If not, you should understand the applicable laws in your state in case you are able to help your customer appeal the decision.