Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has signed HB 414/SB 504. The bill protects homeowners who want to install solar from burdensome homeowners association (HOA) restrictions.
“The legislation protects the rights of homeowners who want to go solar but live in HOA communities,” said Aaron Sutch, program director for Solar United Neighbors. “It strikes a fair balance between property-owners’ solar rights and HOA authority. We are grateful to bill patrons Delegate Karrie Delaney and Senator Chap Petersen for their leadership on this issue.”
The bill adds clarity to Virginia law. Current law prohibits HOAs from placing “unreasonable restrictions” on solar installations. However, the law does not provide a definition for “unreasonable.”
“I’m proud we were able to bring together homeowners and their associations to find a solution to grow solar in Virginia,” Delegate Delaney said. “This bill is a common sense solution that balances aesthetic concerns with basic property rights, and helps homeowners take control of their energy future.”
This lack of clarity has resulted in HOA’s imposing restrictions on residential solar installations. These restrictions prevent homeowners from going solar and render the installations economically unfeasible. This forces homeowners across Virginia to give up installing solar rather than take on the expensive and lengthy legal action it would take to secure approval for their systems.
“This bill expands and explains the Solar HOA Bill from 2013,” Senator Petersen said. “I’m glad I could play a role. Thank you to the advocates who made it possible.”
The bill provides clarity and relief to homeowners and HOAs alike by defining what “unreasonable” means. It says that a restriction is unreasonable if it:
- Reduces the performance of the system by 10% or more, or
- Adds more than 5% to the cost of the installation as originally proposed.
Under the legislation, HOAs are still able to approve installations. They are also able to deny systems that are unsafe.
“I’m trying to do the right thing by going solar,” said Powatan homeowner Dina Desmet. “It’s gratifying to see the General Assembly protect the rights of homeowners like myself.”
Solar United Neighbors estimates more than 300 homeowners have been wrongly denied their right to install solar. This has cost Virginia solar contractors more than $7 million in retail solar sales since 2014.
News item from Solar United Neighbors
@Rebecca, I’m NABCEP Certified PVIP,I can provide you letter what you want if HOA accept, they accept letter certified by NABCEP PVIP, i’m doing this for another companies.
My HOA is requiring that I have the Loss of Production letter that is required in code 67-701 to show the 10% or more loss of power if the panels are only placed on the back of the house. The issue I am having is that the code states that the letter has to be signed by a NABCEP certified Design Specialist (certified in the state of Virginia) which there are only 3, 2 of which are employed by Sun Tribe Solar and the last by Summit Ridge solar. My system has been designed by Tesla and they don’t have anyone with this certification employed. So now I have spent numerous hours emailing, calling and leaving messages to see if any of these certified individuals can help me. Is there a work around to this certification? I have been told that a Certified Professional Installer is actually higher credentialed than a Design Specialist but when I called NABCEP to get documented proof of this so I could have that individual sign the letter they told me they don’t have any documentation that states that. I am at my wits end. All I need is that last piece for my solar system to be installed. Is there any work around?
Michelle D Whisnant says
So, my HOA declaration states no solar panels. However, they were written in 1996 and have not been updated since. It was my understanding that in 2014 Virginia Senate Bill 222 removed the grandfathering clause allowing prohibition of solar panels. My HOA documents are recorded as Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. so the new code does not help us get solar panels?
Kelsey Misbrener says
Hi Michelle, in my reporting, I found that Virginia’s constitution says the state legislature cannot, through subsequently enacted legislation, modify existing contracts. If solar is prohibited in the HOA declaration (which is considered a contract) from many years ago, the new pro-solar law does not apply. Here’s my deeper dive into this: https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2021/02/virginia-sets-example-for-fair-hoa-solar-policy/
Bernice Guthrie says
Funny how no one stopped to consider the affects of this law on the NEIGHBORS who now have solar panels in their face on the front of a home and detracting from our home values. All to save $10 a month from a rear panel install. Thanks for not bothering to consider anything but what you want.
James Jackson says
Hi Bernice, I do not usually, if ever reply to someone’s opinions, but in this case, I am making an exception… as you are not dealing in facts. According to Department of Energy, a Berkley Study and NREL homes with Solar sell for more money(4%-6% more) and in 20% faster time than an equal house in the same location without solar. Most homeowners who go solar save on average $26,000 over 25 years. If you do not like looking at Solar, that is your opinion and you are entitled to it. Have you ever considered that people who purchase a house with their money have the right to make improvements as they wish and should not need your approval. The problem that I have with HOAs is that people become entitled to tell you what to do with your property that they have not contributed to.
Gonzalo Romero says
Besides the savings, the cost of panels are paid by the energy cost the panels generate and in 10-15 years it is paid off and the homeowner gets electricity for free after. Another benefit is the appreciation of the home value by the cost of the system.
That’s is significant amount that might be in the range of $20000 to 50000
There are more financial benefits like locked in cost of energy with solar versus grid energy increases due to oil price increases and inflation.
Can we see that EV are increasing the demand for electricity and that will induce to increases in grid electricity prices.
We better switch to solar because it is wise to do so.
Gail R Opitz says
Does this also apply to condo associations? I live in an HOA. Our neighbors have a condo association. Their association does all outside repairs and replacements. We each pay our own.
Steve Schwartz says
For the single family dwelling homes in an HOA, I understand this. However, how does this apply, if at all, to duplex or multi-unit dwellings that are individually owned, but share a common roof? Furthermore, in this situation the HOA in mind collects Reserves for future roof repair and replacement….how is this affected by the placement of solar panels, and the subsequent cost increase to remove and reinstall them for HOA-provided roof maintenance?
Kelly Pickerel says
Just from my own personal HOA experience, you have to check your bylaws when it comes to shared roofs. My bylaws said I could not change the look of my section of shared roof, that it had to stay uniform. Therefore, solar panels were outlawed. Shared roofs are a bit trickier to classify with HOA/solar laws.
robert lightner says
Jim is correct. My HOA just did exactly that. I applied for approval and was denied. I hired an attorney and demanded they they provide reason or approval. They responded by changing the HOA covenants. Since the HOA is ruled by the developer, the homeowners are powerless and unless I chose to risk thousands in legal fees, they get their way.
Elizabeth Gruben says
Jim, read again. the new bill was to get rid of restrictions of old code.
My Solar Panels were denied with no reason but that the HOA does not allow Solar. It is not in the any Of the By laws and the Managing agent has not gotten back to me or answered any of my resent calls. I emailed them Senate Bill 504 last week and they have not responded.
robert lightner says
Jim Actually hit the nail on the head. In my HOA, the rules state that solar must be approved by the HOA. I had heard that my HOA would never allow solar even though they said it would be allowed pending approval. I applied, they denied without reason and when I pushed them by hiring a lawyer, they rewrote the rules banning solar. My neighborhood is under the building stage and thus the builder has 51% control of voting rights. Looks like VA code 67-701 needs some more tuning.
Ben Chuang says
I am really surprised that my request has been denied by HOA and they are referring to the rule in the declaration which is dated on March, 26, 2018
“Solar Panels, Pursuant to Virginia Code section 67-701, and any amendments thereto, no solar energy collecting device shall be installed on any portion of any Lot or any dwelling constructed thereon. In addition, no solar energy collecting device shall be installed on any common Area”
With the Virginia Code section 67-701 has been changed, I thought it is good news for us and our application to HOA for installing solar panel won’t get denied.
Can anyone give a suggestion how to fight it back ? I wrote our HOA email about this code have been changed.
Actually, to change the recorded declaration usually takes 3/4th of all homeowners + 3/4th of all lienholders (that is, the lenders having given mortgages in the community) have to agree to a change to the declarations. A tall order…
Kenneth Brown says
So what happens if you contract for solar panels over 1 month before the HOA votes and passes a declaration change prohibiting solar panels?
Seth Goldstein says
Mr. Hoskins’ implying that an HOA (or an unincorporated Common Interest Community [CIC], or some other association can readily add a prohibition to solar energy collection devices may be true in some instances. To avoid focusing on just one type of association I prefer to lump them all under the more generic label as a Property Owners Association (POA). A POA’s ability to add (or remove or modify for that matter) something in the deed recorded Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) affecting its properties is dependent on what is required to make such a change. This is usually done through a vote by the POA’s members where the affirmative vote required to adopt a proposed change can range from unanimous (all members), a majority, or a quorum. The current CC&Rs typically establishes what is required in order to make such a modification. A poorly written CC&Rs is one that vests CC&Rs modifications solely to the POA’s Board because it sets the stage for situations in which some or most of its members can easily be disenfranchised. However, if the POA attempts to establish this prohibition outside of its CC&Rs through its bylaws or other rules or regulations, the current Code of Virginia should render them unenforceable because the recent revisions to the Code of Virginia (67-701) states that such a prohibition can only occur if “the recorded declaration for that community association establishes such a prohibition.” Interested individuals may want to take a look at the 2015 Virginia Attorney General’s opinion (#14-057) on this topic. It is available online at: https://oag.state.va.us/files/Opinions/2015/14-057_Yost.pdf
Jim Hoskins says
The VA law actually states: No community association shall prohibit an owner from installing a solar energy collection device on that owner’s property unless the recorded declaration for that community association establishes such a prohibition.
So all that is required for an HOA to block solar power installations is a 10 cent administrative change to their declarations. That means every HOA in the state of VA can now block homeowners from harnessing solar power. It costs the HOA next to nothing to make a change to their declarations, and even if they had to hire an attorney to do it, they’ll just bill the members of the HOA for the expense, just to add insult to injury. Virginia is anti solar!
Kelsey Misbrener says
Hi Jim, I believe you’re referring to the prior version of the code that the new legislation amends.
Old code: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/67-701/
New code: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+SB504ER