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Expert shares critical advice for homeowners trying to outsmart their overzealous HOAs: 'That can't be an issue'

It's great news for homeowners.

Wisconsin, Solar rights law

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Kathy Kuntz of the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change is weeding out illegal HOA policies that may be blocking Wisconsin residents from getting solar panels, Yale Climate Connections reports.

Kuntz told YCC that a realtor recently contacted her to point out a problem with the HOA covenants written by some developers. "When the realtor first called me, I was like, 'Well, that can't be an issue because we have a law,'" she said.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) breaks down the Wisconsin laws that protect homeowners' 'solar rights,' or right to install solar panels

It first cites Wisconsin Statute § 66.0401, which says that local governments can't prevent solar installation without providing a reasonable alternative unless there's a health and safety issue. 

Next, Statute § 236.292 voids all private obstacles like HOA rules and deed restrictions. 

Two more laws even help prevent buildings, plants, and other features on neighboring properties from being changed to block the light from hitting solar panels that are already in place. In other words, Wisconsin state law includes thorough and detailed protections for solar energy.

Unfortunately, not all of Wisconsin's developers have gotten the memo, and the HOAs that take over for them often keep the restrictive rules without questioning them. 

According to YCC, Kuntz's office found many HOA restrictions specific to solar and many more that prevented residents from changing the appearance of their homes.

Because of Wisconsin's legal protections for solar panels, these rules would not be enforceable. But Kuntz is concerned that many homeowners won't think to challenge their HOAs. "We're in the Midwest, where people follow rules. They pull out their HOA agreement, and they go, 'Oh, we can't do this,'" she told YCC.

Luckily, Kuntz has an easy fix: YCC reports that she's helping to review new HOA covenants as they arise. 

"Because these documents are so templated, we kind of think if we get them out of five or six developments, they might never appear again," she said

This is great news for Wisconsin homeowners, who will now be able to save money on their power bills and help protect the environment with this non-polluting energy source — all without having to fight a legal battle with an HOA, like the Illinois couple who recently won the right to keep their solar panels.

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