NC Supreme Court rules that HOAs cannot deny homeowners from installing solar

Last week, the North Carolina Supreme Court… issued a warrant in a case between a Wake County homeowner and the Homeowners Association (HOA) confirming state law protecting the right of homeowners to install solar on their roofs. The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, filed a friend-of-court on behalf of the homeowners, as did the Attorney General of North Carolina.

The North Carolina Supreme Court overturned a Court of Appeals decision in Belmont Association v. Thomas Farwig, upholding a homeowner’s right to install solar on the roof that banned a HOA, fined and a lien on the home of the homeowner set for installation. The court ruled that HOA provisions that grant broad discretion to architectural review committees cannot be used to ban solar panels. The court also confirmed that the VvE’s architectural assessment committee could not limit the installation of solar panels to the rear of the house if that would impede reasonable use of the solar panels due to their orientation on the roof.

“The North Carolina Supreme Court ruling is a major achievement for homeowners’ property rights in North Carolina, confirming access to clean, renewable energy for those previously denied access to their HOAs,” said Peter Ledford, NCSEA’s General Counsel and Director of Policy. “This decision will reduce a significant barrier to the residential solar market in North Carolina, support jobs in the rooftop solar industry and help homeowners reduce their energy bills and clean up the grid.”

The ruling clears millions of homes in North Carolina in HOA communities for solar energy. Blue Raven Solar, the solar installation company that installed the system in question in the Raleigh neighborhood, said it couldn’t be happier with the court’s decision.

“Homeowners in North Carolina have every right to use solar energy and reduce their energy bills through energy independence,” said Ben Peterson, CEO of Blue Raven. “We are excited about the state’s future with solar energy and the freedom this decision brings.”

The HOA had argued that the discretionary denial by the architectural review committee of our client’s rooftop solar, citing aesthetic concerns, was allowed under the state’s solar access law, even though the client and other members of this HOA had no notice of prohibitions or restrictions on the roof solar.

The North Carolina Supreme Court ruling states that the state’s solar access law guarantees the use and enjoyment of rooftop solar except for narrow required by law areas, e.g., roof slopes overlooking a common area, which are in writing and recorded against the property. The Court also recognized that an HOA requirement that solar energy be installed on north-facing roofs rather than south-facing slopes amounts to a ban on solar energy rather than merely restricting the placement of panels due to the material impact that the orientation of the solar panels has on energy production and costs of solar energy.

News release from North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association and Blue Raven Solar

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