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Homeowner facing $2,000 HOA fine over new money-saving home feature: 'Your HOA cannot ask for anything unreasonable'

"Now the HOA is not happy."

"Now the HOA is not happy.”

Photo Credit: iStock

One California homeowner found themselves staring down a $2,000 renovation bill when their HOA objected to their new solar panel setup.

The homeowner, a longtime Reddit user, reached out to r/solar for advice about the situation. 

"[I] had my panels installed in March," they explained. "I was under the impression that my installer had gone through the architecture review and received approval from my HOA for the installation; they did not. Now the HOA is not happy."

HOAs often claim the right to deny or restrict solar panel installation. While solar panels have huge benefits for owners and the environment — saving money and reducing air pollution by producing tens of thousands of dollars worth of energy over their lifetimes — they also alter the appearance of the home in ways that many HOAs don't approve of.

Unfortunately, the Redditor went ahead with their unapproved plan for solar installation, which included an inverter panel in a visible spot on an exterior wall. 

"It will cost me around $1,500-$2,000 to have the inverter moved," they said.

Luckily for the original poster, they live in California, which has legal protections for homeowners who install solar panels. 

"My installer is stating that since it will cost more than $1000, we can use California Civil Code Section 714," they said.

Civil Code Section 714, also called the California Solar Rights Act, prevents HOAs from banning solar panels or even putting unreasonable restrictions on them. Specifically, while it can require the owner to get plans approved by the HOA, it can't require changes that would add more than $1,000 to the cost of the project.

"California has explicit laws protecting Solar. Your HOA cannot ask for anything unreasonable," one commenter confirmed.

However, that restriction may not apply in this situation. 

"The $1,000 limit is only valid if it would have been more than $1,000 more to do it as part of the installation in the first place," another commenter pointed out. 

There is no language in the law that would limit the cost of revisions when a homeowner skips the HOA's approval process and installs something the HOA didn't agree to.

The original poster might be able to pursue alternate solutions, though, like painting over the inverter. There are numerous ways to work with an HOA to change unfavorable rulings.

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