Homeowners' associations against solar?

Homeowner David Tharakan in Canyon Springs, Texas (near San Antonio), was told by his homeowner’s association that he must remove his photovoltaic (PV) array. It’s a unique situation that could have been avoided if Texas had solar easement or right-of-way laws, said Lanny Sinkin, executive director of Solar San Antonio.

Tharakan told KENS-5 TV that his homeowners' association informed him that the PV panels were against its rules, and they need to come down.

"If it comes to that, we will, but it's a sad statement,” he said.

“This is the first instance of that that we’ve seen. Almost all the solar installers we work with know that they need to talk with homeowners’ associations,” said Sinkin. “The homeowners’ association spectrum on solar is very broad in Texas. Some love it and are doing their very best to promote it.”

He added that some other homeowners’ associations don’t.

“We’ve been out in the community talking with homeowners’ associations—lots of them—to see if we can change the rules,” he said.

But sometimes, the reason homeowners’ associations can’t make easy rule changes is because some of the reasons are in deed restrictions.

He explained that many of the deed restrictions came about 20 years ago, back when solar panels were clunky things. But he called such restrictions outdated, since solar panels now look sleeker, and some can seamlessly integrate with homes as roof tiles.

“It’s state legislation that’s needed,” Sinkin said.

Texas has incentives to help Texans adopt solar, but it’s lacking in laws that other states, like Colorado or Massachusetts, have that allow for solar easements or access laws.

“We are working with legislators on a wide range of issues, and this is certainly one of them,” Sinkin said.

Such laws could circumvent deed restrictions and homeowner association rules. He said that during the last legislative session some laws were proposed, but they didn’t pass.

Solar San Antonio is still working with legislators to introduce solar legislation during the session.

The Texas Legislature meets every other year. The next session begins in January 2011.

“One legislator has asked us for a wish list,” said Sinkin, “and we’re working on that.”

Image courtesy of Solar San Antonio.