A decade ago, the number of solar panel installations in Indiana was negligible. In recent years, that has changed. There are now more than 3,300 installations in the state, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Many of these panels are on residential homes, with private homeowners choosing to install the technology.
The increasing interest in solar has prompted a new area of dispute between HOAs and neighborhood members: How much power does an association have to restrict the installation of solar panels on a home?
The current rules? It is up to the HOA
As of summer 2020, HOAs in Indiana face few barriers to enacting bans or restrictions on solar panels. According to Solar United Neighborhoods, there are about 400 HOAs just in central Indiana that have full or partial bans on residential solar panels in place.
This could change in the years ahead.
State lawmakers have, at different times, put forward bills that would tip the balance of power in HOA solar panel disputes. The most recent, introduced at the start of 2020, would require a homeowner in an HOA to give more information to the association prior to putting in solar panels. In addition, if the solar energy installation violated a law or threatened public safety, the HOA would have some power to bar or remove the project.
However, if the homeowner met the requirements laid out in the law, the HOA would have little power to stop the installation of solar panels.
As of July 2020, that bill had not advanced in the state Legislature, meaning HOAs can continue to restrict residential solar panel installations. That includes requiring the panels to be placed in specific non-visible areas if used.
Resolving HOA-related disputes
Neighborhood association rules are a common source of conflict between residents and HOAs. These matters can be resolved, however, often through legal tools or dispute resolution,
Homeowners want to be able to customize their property to their liking, but the association has a responsibility to maintain the standards of the neighborhood – the standards to which everybody agreed.