Do I Need Approval from the HOA, Neighbors, or Local Government Before I Install Solar?
So you’ve decided to install solar panels on your home. That’s great! However, you may be wondering whether you need any type of special approval to do so.
Are you worried about getting approval from your homeowners association (HOA), your neighbors, or your local government? Today, we’re answering all the questions you have about getting approval for your solar panels.
You May or May Not Need Permission
In some situations, you can install an entire solar farm in your backyard without seeking permission from anyone.
In other situations, you can’t install a single solar panel without first contacting multiple organizations, councils, and regulatory boards.
Your situation varies widely depending on where your solar panels are being installed, where you live, and which part of your property you’re using. The vast majority of homeowners will need to get a permit from their city before installing solar panels. However, solar panel installation companies may handle permits on their own.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some general rules for installing solar.
You May Need Permission If…
- You live in a building that has a strata agreement
- You live in a neighborhood with a homeowners’ association (HOA) or some other type of council
- You want to install panels on a street-facing roof
- You own a heritage-listed home, or any other home with special status with unique renovation restrictions
- You live in a heritage-listed neighborhood, where visible home improvements and additions are restricted
Construction Permits Are Typically Required from your City
Depending on your city or county, you’ll likely need to get a construction permit. Construction permits are required for residential and commercial construction projects – and solar panels are no exception.
Many homeowners have been fined for adding structures or altering certain aspects of their home without getting a permit. It’s a small fee, but it’s a fee nonetheless.
In a state like California, there are more than 550 jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction has its own codes and regulations. Some jurisdictions actually incentivize solar panel construction by significantly reducing permit costs for “green” construction projects (Fremont and Walnut Creek, California are two such cities).
How to Request a Permit from your City
If you’re working with a solar panel installation company, then they typically handle the permit application process themselves.
If you’re requesting a permit on your own, then you may need to provide certain documents or even a building inspection. Required documents could include the permit application (available from your city’s website), an owner-builder verification form, planning specifications explaining the size, site plan, roof plan, construction plan, elevation plan, equipment plan, electrical plan, and location plan for all materials and devices), and possibly a building inspection performed by an engineer to ensure the building will support the project.
Do You Need Permission from Your Strata or HOA?
If you live in a building with a strata plan, or if you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, then you will likely need to make a formal request to install solar on your building.
In most cases, homeowners’ associations won’t have a problem with your decision. Obviously, solar panels aren’t some revolutionary, distracting technology. They just sit passively on your property to generate electricity. They’re unlikely going to distract your neighbors, weaken property values, or impact the HOA in any major way.
However, we’ve seen plenty of situations where homeowners run into trouble when seeking permission from a strata – particularly when installing solar on a shared roof. If you live in a townhouse, apartment building, or a multi-story unit, then your solar panel installation project could be denied. The cost, hassle, and legal implications make solar panel installations on shared roofs a messy option.
You Will Likely Need Permission for Heritage Homes and Heritage Neighborhoods
Certain homes and neighborhoods have heritage designations. If you live in a heritage home, for example, then you’re not allowed to renovate the property however you wish. Meanwhile, heritage neighborhoods may restrict homeowners from conducting major changes to the front of their homes.
If you live in any type of heritage building or neighborhood, then you may not be able to install solar panels on the front of your home (i.e. the side of your home facing the street).
However, you shouldn’t have any issues installing solar panels on the back of your home, away from the street.
Do You Need to Inform your Neighbors?
We don’t know of any situations where you need to inform your neighbors before installing solar panels.
Solar panels are designed to minimize reflection. Even if your neighbor is looking directly at your solar panels, it’s unlikely going to affect them in a major way.
However, if you want to be a polite neighbor, then you may want to inform your neighbors – just as you would inform them of any major construction project on the exterior of your home.
Read Through your Agreement and Research your City’s Bylaws
If you live in a condo complex, townhome, or apartment, then you probably belong to some sort of strata agreement. You probably signed paperwork regarding that agreement when you purchased your property. Read through that agreement and look for any mention of “solar panels” or “home improvements”.
Do the same thing with your HOA agreement.
We live in an age where solar panels are becoming increasingly common. Many HOAs and stratas have upgraded their paperwork to reflect these changes. In many cases, you’ll find a specific section of your contract related to solar panel installation.
Meanwhile, if you’re worried about city regulations, do a quick Google search for “[your city] solar panel installation bylaws”.
Conclusion: Your Best Bet is To Ask a Local Solar Panel Company
Or, here’s a better tip: contact a local solar panel installation company and request a free estimate. These companies have installed plenty of solar panels in your area. They know the local laws better than anyone.
Local solar panel companies may have even installed solar panels on neighboring properties in your condo complex or HOA before. Request a free estimate and see what they say about approval from your HOA or strata.