Laws on Solar Panel Placement - Common Interest Developments

FB Live Summary: Laws on Solar Panel Placement and Car Charging Stations with Joel Kriger

Summary from our Facebook Live conversation with Joel Kriger regarding recent changes in the law affecting solar panel placement and car charging stations

Solar Panel Placement

With 30% solar tax credit benefits to consumers currently in full force ending after 2019, and beginning to decrease in benefit thereafter, HOA’s have dealt with more and more individual owners wanting to add solar systems to their units.

There are three primary laws in California regarding installation of individual solar energy systems in a community association. The legislature has stipulated that in the case of multi-family attached units where there is a shared common area roof, an owner may also be able to install a solar energy system. An HOA cannot prevent owners from installing a solar system, however; they do have the power to control the installation when the roof is attached, common area shared, and rules are in place.

The most general rules are referenced by the following statutes of three Civil Codes on the reasonable restrictions that an HOA can allow regarding solar energy systems:

  1. Civil Code 714
  2. Civil Code 714.1
  3. Civil Code 4746

Civil Code 714

Under this law the HOA cannot have rules or CCR’s that effectively prohibit an owner from installing a solar system. It does allow the association to have a say regarding how the system is installed and the scope of installation. The HOA does not have control, however; it does require an owner to submit an application to install a system. This law allows an association to impose reasonable requirements regarding the financial and performance aspects of the installation. The cost of modification in complying with the HOA cannot exceed $1,000.00. The association can require painting, or manner of installation, but cannot increase cost more than $1,000.00, or decrease its efficiency by more than 10%. The HOA has 45 days to approve an application submitted by an owner. If the HOA fails to act within 45 days, the application is deemed approved.

Civil Code 714.1

Under this law the HOA can restrict the installation of a system on the common areas to those systems that are approved by the HOA. It can require the owner to submit and obtain approval similar to general architectural process approval by:

(a) owner submitting an application, and/or (b) architectural committee or board reviews the application, (c) examination of the location on the roof, wiring, parts that will be visible, painting to match the roof, etc (d) requires the owner to provide for maintenance, repair, and replacement of roof or building components where the association has the responsibility of maintaining the roof, (e) HOA can require the installer of the system to indemnify or reimburse the association for damage caused by installation. This provides the HOA assurance in the event of any possible common area damage or maintenance issue that may arise resulting from installation by the installation company.

Civil Code 4746

This is the most recent law for attached multi-family dwellings where there is more than one unit under the same roof. This section of the law covers the responsibility of the individual owner adding the solar energy system on the roof in the section of their specific unit and that the HOA must allow a solar system to be added, if it has met HOA requirements.

Additional mandatory requirements for multi-family attached units under Civil Code 4746:

  • The owner that is applying to add a solar system must notify each owner of each unit in the building where the system will be installed.
  • The owner and any successive owners of the unit must maintain liability insurance and at all times the association must have evidence of insurance.

Optional features of Civil Code 4746 that an HOA board may or may not require:

  • How much roof space is the owner allowed and how much is to be allocated for the system. An additional requirement allows the board to make an informed decision about roof space if the board desires. The applicant would then have to obtain a solar site survey (rendering) showing placement of the system requiring a determination of equitable allocation of the usable space among all the owners that share the same roof, garage or carport. This survey would demonstrate how much space the owner is entitled to and the particulars and details regarding placement of the system regarding aesthetics, angle of the sun, etc.
  • Additionally, the HOA can require the owner and successive owners to be responsible for (a) cost of damage to the common area resulting from installation, maintenance, repair, removal, or replacement of the system, (b) owner must pay for cost of maintenance, repair, or replacement after a system has been removed to restore the common area roof.

Additional optional items:

  • In the event that the HOA plans on putting on a new roof at some point, must determine which party is responsible for the cost of removal of the system, and then restore the system back on the original unit space section of roof.
  • Disclosure to prospective future purchasers that the system was not installed by the developer or association and that the system is the owner’s responsibility.

Road Map

Because of the complexities the HOA board should adopt a set of rules and regulations and have a process in place that explains the endeavor of adding a system and all of the requirements that entails. There should be a form used making it clear to the owner that they have a 45 day approval time limit for approval and that a Certificate of Liability (evidence of proof of insurance) must be provide within 14 days of approval of the application process, and renewed each year thereafter.

Agreement Affecting Real Property

A $500.00 application fee is made to cover the legal expenses for preparing this document. This document is on recorded and on title against the property and it gives notice that the owner made an application to obtain approval for adding a solar system, puts future owners on notice that a system was put on by the prior owner, and states what the new owner’s responsibilities will be. Owner’s responsibilities include: Costs for damage of the common area or exclusive common area resulting from installation and maintenance, cost of repairing system, disclosure to future owners regarding all assumed responsibilities upon purchasing the property, and additional requirements regarding aesthetics and specifics assisting the HOA in maintaining common area standards and uniformity.

Car Charging Stations

Changes in 2019 regarding the laws for car charging stations in communities

With the advent of electric cars, the legislature has had to address this topic. HOA’s have requirements and rules they need to follow. Owners have broad rights with being able to install these charging stations. Rules are covered in Civil Code 4745.

Civil Code 4745

The HOA cannot have any rules or restrictions that effectively prohibits or unreasonably restricts the installation or use of an electrical vehicle charging station. HOA can impose reasonable restrictions on vehicle charging stations where reasonable restrictions can be imposed that do not significantly increase the cost or significantly decrease its efficiency or specified performance. The application for a car charging station is to be submitted to the association. The HOA has a 60 day turnaround time on processing. If the HOA fails to meet the 60 day processing deadline the application is automatically approved.

New Topic with regard to Civil Code 4745 – Exclusive area parking spaces

If an owner has an assigned parking space and wants to install a car charging station the following requirements are to be made:

  • Approval must be obtained from the HOA, submit per HOA architectural standards
  • Law requires a licensed contractor to install the car charging station
  • Within 14 days of approval the owner must provide a Certificate of Liability insurance
  • The owner has to pay for cost associated with installation and also pay for electricity usage

The owner and any successive owner are responsible for all of the following:

  • Cost of damage to charging station common area
  • Cost of installation, maintenance, repair, and removal of the system
  • Cost of maintenance and repair of charging station until it’s been removed from the common area
  • Owner has to pay for restoration of the common area if/when the station is removed
  • Owner pays the cost of electricity used by the charging station
  • Owner must disclose to prospective purchasers that there is the existence of a charging station in the space

There is a provision that if the HOA is going to install a charging station in a community open common area parking space (one not designated to a specific unit) it may be used by all members of the community. There can be a new space created for this use. More than likely a card system would be created whereby the HOA could monitor the electricity cost and the member would be charged for use.  Additional rules may be created by the HOA for car charging enforcement.