North Carolina law generally gives homeowners associations wide and far-reaching authority to approve or deny requests for architectural changes to your property, and the homeowners association or its architectural review comment can decide to partially or totally restrict a homeowner’s right to make changes to the exterior of his or her property.
In recent years, homeowners associations have sought to restrict the installation of solar panels, finding that the aesthetics of solar panels were not in keeping with the plan and scheme of development. Under North Carolina law generally, a homeowners association’s Board of Directors and/or Architectural Review Committee has full authority (assuming it is so stated in the Declaration of Covenants, Restrictions & Conditions and/or the Architectural Guidelines for the neighborhood) to place these limits on a homeowner’s right to make changes to his or her property.
Many homeowners wishing to take advantage of cost-savings from renewable energy sources sought to have solar panels installed on their roofs and were denied approval by their homeowners association due to the restrictions in the governing documents. Although the law does not allow homeowners associations to prohibit the installation of solar panels, it does allow homeowners associations to place restrictions on them.
In a big win for homeowners and for solar panels, the North Carolina Supreme Court, in the case of Belmont Association, Inc. v. Farwig, invalidated the homeowners association’s restrictions on solar panels, decided that the restrictions placed upon the installation of solar panels had the effect of prohibiting the installation and reasonable use of solar panels. The homeowners association’s restriction on placement of solar panels to a place on the roof not visible from the road had the effect of prohibiting the installation and reasonable use of solar panels, because the homeowners were able to show that the solar panels would not be effective if installed in the location the homeowners association demanded. Although this case does not answer all questions on the issue, it is a very helpful case in favor of homeowners who want to install solar panels on their property. If you have been denied approval for installation of solar panes at your property, you can call our office to schedule a consultation to discuss whether the denial can be challenged.