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Homeowner shares concerning document from HOA about new home renovation policy: 'It makes no sense'

"I recommend everyone buying property to stay well away from HOA!"

"I recommend everyone buying property to stay well away from HOA!"

Photo Credit: iStock

A homeowner's experience with an HOA showed the pitfalls associated with the often intrusive, obtrusive organizations.

Their quandary, which they shared with r/solar on Reddit, came up six months ago.

"My HOA in California has recently passed a rule requiring any owner who wishes to put up a solar system to buy additional coverage for $1 million," the poster wrote. "This is a townhouse complex with building units of 2-5 unit buildings with staggered roof lines separating the units.

"Given California's law prohibiting HOAs from stopping solar systems, this HOA seems determined to make buying solar as painful as possible, including the removal of the panels at owner's expense for the 10 year roof replacement. Their argument for the extra policy is that solar panels increase fire risk. This doesn't seem to be in the spirit of California law. I've looked all over, but I can't find anything that would justify this policy or anything about its legality. Does anyone know if this is legal or justified?"

The main issue, of course, was the meddlesome homeowners association. It could've made easy an environmentally friendly choice or helped smooth out associated wrinkles, but it created hassles to deter someone looking to reduce their dependence on dirty energy.

Still, many commenters agreed that it wasn't a bad idea for the poster to be covered in case of a problem.

"When I got my system, the utility required $1m liability," one wrote. "I got all upset that was going to make it not worth it. I think it added $4/month to my insurance."

And even though the Golden State prohibits HOAs and local governments from creating unreasonable barriers to solar panel installation, it does appear to be within the law for HOAs to require insurance, at least in some cases.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in 2022 that the civil code "allows HOA rules to require compliance with health and safety and electrical codes" and added, "If the system is to be installed on a common area roof, the HOA can require proof of insurance."

"Design flaws, component defects, and faulty installation generally cause solar rooftop fires," though it's "an extremely rare occurrence" for a solar system to spontaneously burst into flames, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The new rule was a pain in the butt, basically, and that seems to be much of the reason for the existence of HOAs. "Show me an HOA that improves quality of life and makes things easier for its residents," one might say, "and I'll show you dozens that have done the opposite."

They not only muck up the works for those who want to go solar but also throw wrenches in the plans of those who swap their water-wasting turf grass for native plants.

"It makes no sense," one Redditor said of the HOA rule described on r/solar. "Solar panels are not inherently flammable. As long as the hardware is installed by a professional and inspected it's perfectly safe. I've had Solar on my house for years. Plus a modern photovoltaic system has multiple emergency shut offs accessible from the outdoors."

A Floridian noted their state had a similar law, and it cost them $14 annually.

"The hardest part was explaining to the insurance company what I wanted quoted," they wrote.

It's not always practical or even possible, but another commenter advised steering clear of the soul-sucking HOA experience: "I recommend everyone buying property to stay well away from HOA! They are evil and they ruin [people's] lives!"

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