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Defiant couple battles HOA in court after violating their allegedly 'illegal' neighborhood rules: 'There was no reason'

While the HOA dismissed its suit in 2022, the battle has cost the couple $53,000 in legal fees.

Homeowner's association

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For one Illinois couple, installing solar panels meant a major battle with their homeowner's association — one they ultimately won.

Mark and Jennifer Bassler live in Belleville, Illinois, in a subdivision called The Orchards, which is governed by an HOA, the Belleville News-Democrat reports. The couple moved into their new home in March 2020 and installed solar panels that December. The Orchards Homeowners Association immediately filed a civil suit to have the panels removed, saying they violated the HOA's policy.

The Basslers fought the suit, citing a state law called the Homeowners' Energy Policy Statement Act. While this act does allow HOAs to determine where residents are allowed to place solar panels, it also says that HOAs must choose a location that allows the solar panels to operate at full efficiency. 

According to Paul McKnight — the owner of EFS Energy, the company that installed the system for the Basslers — moving the solar panels to comply with the HOA's demands wouldn't work. 

McKnight said that the HOA's chosen location would reduce the Basslers' energy efficiency by 35%. That's a lot of lost power, especially considering that the Basslers were previously able to meet 100% of their home electrical needs with their solar panels.

While the HOA dismissed its suit against the Basslers in September 2022, the battle has cost the couple $53,000 in legal fees. Also, because the case was dismissed instead of being tried in court, it doesn't establish a legal baseline for future suits.

However, it does prove that a family can stand up to their HOA — a promising result for anyone who wants to make their home more eco-friendly. A similar battle in Maryland actually led to a change in the state law, giving hope to many who want to make their homes greener.

"Their policy was illegal," Mark Bassler told the Belleville News-Democrat regarding his neighborhood HOA. "And there was no reason for them to drop the lawsuit at this time unless they knew they were going to lose and have to pay our legal fees."

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