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Could solar system restrictions in community associations become obsolete? In a matter of about two years, they most certainly will.  During the last decade or so, California has made an effort to “go green.”  The state has adopted new regulations to protect the environment.  Those new laws encourage residents to do the same.  Community associations have seen this trend affect their ability to enforce certain rules.  For example, associations are no longer permitted to prohibit clotheslines in certain communities.  The idea is to hopefully reduce the use of laundry dryers.  Similarly, associations must accommodate residents who wish to install an electric vehicle charging station in the common area.  Again, the idea is to hopefully promote the use of electric vehicles.

One area of regulation which has put associations in an especially difficult position is the solar power system movement.  California Civil Code Section 714 and 714.1 place limitations on what associations can do to restrict and regulate the installation of solar power systems .  This year, those Civil Code sections were amended to make it virtually impossible for associations to prevent homeowners from installing solar systems.  This new amendment goes as far as forcing associations to let homeowners install solar systems on roofs shared by multiple owners and maintained by the associations.

To combat these limiting laws, associations often adopt solar system policies.  Those policies often require the installing resident to agree to maintain and insure both the solar system and the building components it occupies.  Those policies also provide for specific specifications for the solar systems permitted by the association.  Adopting such policies is permitted and strongly recommended.  Soon, however, it will become unnecessary.

On Wednesday, May 9, 2018, California took another step in the “green” direction.  This step will eventually make both Civil Code Sections 714 and 714.1 irrelevant.  In what is considered a groundbreaking new law, starting in the year 2020, California will require all new construction to include a solar power system.  This includes both new development of single family homes and condominiums.  With some exceptions, the new law will require developers of new communities to include as part of the construction a built-in solar power system.  This will completely eliminate the need for homeowners to buy and install those systems on their own.  Laws and governing documents regulating solar systems will become unnecessary as well as a result.

California is the first state in the United States to take this innovative approach.  Until 2020, if your association requires assistance in developing an effective solar system policy, please contact our office to speak with an attorney about your options.