The California legislature has made it clear: Anti-solar covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) are generally prohibited. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t possible limitations on homeowners going solar.
Here’s the basic law: Any CC&R in a deed, contract, security instrument, or other document affecting the transfer or sale of real property that effectively prohibits or restricts the installation or use of a solar energy system is void and unenforceable. CC §714(a).
Seems clearly pro-solar, but this law doesn’t apply to provisions that impose reasonable restrictions on solar energy systems that don’t significantly increase the cost of the system or significantly decrease the efficiency or specified performance, or that allow for an alternative system of comparable cost, efficiency, and energy conservation benefits. CC §714(b). A restriction is significant if it increases the cost of the system by more than $1000, or if it decreases the efficiency of the system by more than 10 percent. CC §714(d)(1)(B).
And nonprofit corporations, unincorporated associations created for the purpose of managing common interest developments, and homeowners associations (collectively, “Associations”) can impose reasonable provisions that (CC §714.1)
- Restrict the installation of solar energy systems in common areas to those approved by the Association;
- Require individuals to get the Association’s approval for the installation of solar energy systems on their own separate property;
- Require the maintenance, repair, or replacement of roofs or other building components, as necessary;
- Require installers of solar energy systems to indemnify or reimburse the Association or its members for loss or damage caused by the installation, maintenance, or use of the systems.
It’s not just these limitations to consider: Covenants with height and view restrictions can also be used to attack the installation of a solar collection system. And, although disfavored, there can be assertions of breach of an implied covenant against obstruction of view to enjoin the construction of solar collection structures that block a neighboring property owner’s view.
Issues around solar and wind energy development and use are on the rise and attorneys need to know the law and how best to protect their clients. Get practice advice on handling these types of disputes in CEB’s Neighbor Disputes: Law and Litigation, chap 8. Also check out chapter 13 of that book on light, air, views, and open space.
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