Solar Panels and Homeowner Associations
By Brian P. McLean, Leahy.ps
On January 13 and 14, 2009, the State Legislature introduced two bills that would impose limitations on a homeowner association’s ability to regulate the installation of solar energy systems in Washington State. House Bill (HB) 1112 and Senate Bill (SB) 5136 are intended to further the State’s policy favoring greater use of renewable energy. HB 1112 applies to all associations, including condominiums. SB 5136 applies only to non-condominium associations.
The proposed laws go further than what the FCC did with OTARD (Over the Air Reception Devices). The OTARD rule prohibits associations from unreasonably impairing the installation of satellite dishes and antenna in areas within the exclusive use or control over an owner. “The unreasonable impairment” standard works better than what the State is currently proposing. OTARD essentially does right what the bills would appear, in their present form, to do wrong — unconstitutionally impair the rights of associations and their owners to manage their own affairs with respect to energy and modifications.
The bills should be revised to recognize that a single owner has no right to make modifications to the common elements or common areas and facilities of associations without the association’s permission.