Shedding Light on Solar Applications in HOAs and Condos

By Kelly Richardson
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My HOA sent out a proposed policy for owners wanting to install solar power systems installed on a roof shared with other units. I am not anxious to have any contractor mess with my roof or my neighbor’s since we all own it and we are in the middle of a lengthy roof replacement project.

California Civil Code 4746 applies to installation of solar systems on shared roofs, meaning roofs which are over stacked condominiums. Associations may require an owner to first develop a “solar site survey” showing how the shared roof can be fairly divided between the units under it. Associations also may require the owner to meet the conditions permitted by the statute – including maintaining, repairing and insuring it. This statute was new in 2018 and expands the strong preference toward solar installations expressed in Civil Code 714 and 714.1 by making it clear that homeowners may install solar systems even on a roof they share with other owners.

Many associations are adopting reasonable solar installation policies to make sure that both the applicant and the board or committee reviewing the applications are aware of the solar system installation requirements.

I am interested in installing solar energy over my condo, but our board president feels they are ugly, so he always denies my request. He says even if he allowed it I would be responsible for all roof damage and leaks covering all units in my building even though the solar array would only be just above my unit. Does he have the ability to continue saying no?

Your association’s president is placing the HOA at legal risk. You may want to show him a copy of California Civil Code 714, 714.1, and 4746. Point him to 714(f) and (g), under which a violating association could be hit with a civil penalty of $1,000 plus an attorney fee award. Hopefully this will educate him and avoid escalating into a legal dispute. But the HOA can insist damage and leaks would be your responsibility.

I have been attempting to get approval of a solar installation above my unit. I am being asked to sign a fairly comprehensive legal agreement, in addition to other restrictions, now that they handed over the process to a lawyer. I did not expect such a comprehensive and intimidating agreement. I would also like to ensure the process is simplified for future homeowners.

The association may under California Civil Code 4746(b)(2) require you to sign an agreement under which you meet the conditions allowable under Civil 714.1 and 4746, including a requirement that this agreement bind later owners of your property. These agreements are normally recorded on your property so that later owners are legally notified of the fact and contents of the agreement.

Such agreements specify your responsibilities and protect your association neighbors. It isn’t fair if your solar system results in costs to the other owners who are not benefiting from the system. If you think the agreement is excessively burdensome, have a lawyer compare it to the aforementioned two statutes, to make sure the agreement doesn’t go too far. explores questions and comments from community association members living in condominiums, homeowners associations, and housing cooperatives. We then assemble trusted experts to provide practical solutions to your most commonly asked, timely questions. We never use real names, but we always tackle real issues. Have a question or comment about your community association? Submit here for consideration:

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Kelly Richardson

Kelly G. Richardson is a senior partner with Richardson | Ober law firm, serving California common-interest communities. He is a CAI past president and a fellow in CAI's College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL).