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Subject: HO Solar Rights Act - development of guidelines for solar panels?
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Author Messages
BonnieE
(Illinois)

Posts:331


06/04/2010 7:52 AM  
Hi!

I own a townhouse style condo in IL. A bill has passed both IL Houses and is expected to be signed by the governor addressing solar panels for HOAs – including condo HOAs for buildings up to 30’ in height.

Here are links for a newspaper article, and for the Bill:

http://cbs2chicago.com/topstories/homeowners.solar.rights.2.1729107.html?detectflash=false

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=5429&GAID=10&DocTypeID=HB&SessionID=76&GA=96

Synopsis As Introduced
Creates the Homeowners' Solar Rights Act. Provides that each homeowners' association and condominium unit owners' association shall adopt an energy policy statement concerning the location, design, and architectural requirements of solar energy systems or other energy devices. Provides that any entity that complies with the Act is not liable to any other resident or third party for such compliance. Provides that the Act does not apply to a building more than 30 feet in height. Includes other provisions.

I am interested in hearing any initial thoughts about this regarding location, design, and architectural requirements for a townhome style condo building.

Thanks,
Bonnie
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


06/04/2010 9:28 AM  

Bonnie,

I will sidestep all of your questions or now but just for everyone's information.

LONG GONE ARE THE HUGE, UGLY BLACK PANELS OF YEARS BACK. TODAY'S PANELS ARE MUCH SMALLER, USUALLY A LIGHTER COLOR OTHER THAN BLACK AND CAN LIE RELATIVELY FLAT SO AS NOT TO BE AS VISABLE AS BEFORE. HOAs will need to adapt their rules and covenants in order to allow installation of solar that will permit owners to install the systems but regulate them so they do not become eyesores to the community.

(GOLF OIL LEAK DAY 47) Is there a question that we need alternatives to oil?
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


06/04/2010 9:29 AM  


How about GULF!!!!
MaryA1


Posts:0


06/04/2010 10:13 AM  
Bonnie,

I would have to read the whole bill before I could comment on how it would affect your townhome style condo assn.

BTW, there is a home in my HOA (single family homes) that has solar panels across the whole roof. Frankly I don't know why they need so many, but it looks like the roof is made of solar panels instead of tile! An HOA of single family homes cannot impose any restrictions on the use of solar panels.
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


06/04/2010 11:19 AM  

Mary,

Many local power companies buy back excess wattage from homeowners when they have more than they need. The H.O. gets power credit so there is a growing trend to put up these bigger panels. The bigger panels are not nescessarily needed , depending on what you want your solar system to accomplish for you.

Heating swimming pools does not require that many panels but add a water heater to the grid, then more panels are needed.
BonnieE
(Illinois)

Posts:331


06/04/2010 3:46 PM  
The Act is about short - ~8 pages. My quick read is that the HOA must develop a policy describing the location, design, and architectural requirements of a solar energy system.

The Act defines a solar energy system; states it must meet applicable standards and requirements per State and local permitting authorities; any existing deed restrictions, etc. shall not prohibit such systems; and it is not applicable to buildings over 30 ft.

Sounds like the HOA is given some flexibility re design, etc., but cannot deny a HO the right to have such a system.

I am curious what other IL folks think, and, whether any other HOAs have developed such standards.

Thanks for your feedback!
RickW
(Illinois)

Posts:169


06/05/2010 6:02 AM  
Hi Bonnie,

I concur with your read of the new bill. Our association does not have any type of policy set up for this, however, I do feel its something we'll need to develop sooner than not.

Our complex consists of 56 two-story townhomes with various pitched roofs to add architectural interest. We have at least 3 out of 13 buildings that would require solar panels on the front of the townhome in order to face south. As board president and as an architect I would defnitely want to be a part of devloping such a policy.

We should be all for energy savings and yet, we do need to consider the overall appearance of the complex. I'll need to do more research as I'm sure we all will. However, I have a coouple of concerns/questions that immediately come to mind:

1. Roofs are a common element, maintenance and replacements is the repsonsibility of the association. I wonder what this means to have unit owner's private solar panels placed on association roofs?
2. Is it possible/feasble for the association to take on the repsonsibility of maintenance and replacement of solar panels that provide energy for a specific unit owner?
3. Is it possible/feasible for the association to place solar panels to provide energy for street lighting or to sell back energy to power companies?

Interesting topic to say the least.
Rick
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:9244


06/05/2010 7:54 AM  
Bonnie,

I have not read the act so I cannot comment on this. However, our Association, also a TH development, saw the possibility of similar bills happening here. Therefore we created a very simple policy, I hope this helps (and you can't please everyone):



Prior Approval from the Architectural Committee for the installation of Solar Power or Solar Hot Water Panels is required. This approval is in addition to any required county permits. The following guidelines should be considered when submitting a request for approval:

• Placement of Solar panels used for the benefit of individual lots on Common Property is prohibited. The Association may place solar panels on common property for the benefit of the entire community (solar powered street lighting as an example).

• Large solar panels may only be placed on the rear slope of the lots roof and may not extend above the ridge line. The Association is aware that this will limit the effectiveness of these panels for some lots but believes that communities visual appearance as a Colonial Style mandates this requirement.

• Small solar panels, such as those used for landscape lighting, will be considered for placement in the front or side of the house on a case by case basis and judged on it’s own merits as to the visual harmony of a Colonial Style community.

JonD1
(New York)

Posts:1642


06/05/2010 8:21 AM  
Once again in an effort to do good the governement has complicated a situation.

How can you cover any and all aspects of such a situation with a mere 8 pages.

Now it would be up to property leaders who more than likely have no knowledge of this area of construction to determine what policy their property will follow.


Many areas of concern come up for me, some have been mentioned.

If the roofs are common property how do you let someone attach and penetrate an installed roof? What would that installation do to your warranty on the roof? And if the roof now leaks who would pay for the repair costs? Not many roofers would warranty a roof you allowed this type of installtion on.

Are the roofs or building structures capable of handling the additional weight of this equipment? If not who would be liable?

If the panels were to be installed and than roofs needed to be replaced who would cover the additional costs for removing and reinstalling the panels?

Exposure? What happens when the location of a building does not provide a southern exposure? Is that just tough luck for some owners and good luck for others?

Uniformity? Would you allow each owner to install with different contractors? Different products. Different sizes. Different colors? Different locations?

If the panels are installed and the unit sold and lets say the new owner no longer wishes to use this equipment who then pays to remove this?

My most important question would be how much electricity is produced and is the reward worth the effort, disruption, and cost to the property.

As in many cases the government requires you to do something just doesn't bother helping with the details of the requirement.

Good luck to the folks in Illinois who now on top of all the other issues now have to come up with a solar panel installation policy.

When you buy into a HOA/Condo property you accept certain restrictions now the government has removed any property's ability to control the appearance and these additions with little if any regard for the complications this also brings.

TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:9244


06/05/2010 8:45 AM  
jon,

In my Association, the roofs of each unit is the responsibility of the homeowner. There is nothing common between any unit lot and the Association except the boundary line. Being a town home development, the only item that is shared between adjacent lots is the common wall and the common fence line. The individual homes are staggered in setback and height so the roof line of each unit is not at all shared with any other unit.

Therefore, for my Association, a lot of your questions are very simply answered as it applies to my Association as the responsibly would be on the individual homeowner as it affects their individual property.

What I offered obviously won't fit all associations. Your concerns are certainly valid.

Tim
GlenL
(Ohio)

Posts:5160


06/05/2010 10:55 AM  
Posted By RickW on 06/05/2010 6:02 AM

3. Is it possible/feasible for the association to place solar panels to provide energy for street lighting or to sell back energy to power companies?
Rick



Rick there was a story in the news feed section a couple of months ago about a community that was replacing their street lights with ones that were solar and wind powered. They had maintenance free batteries in the base, a solar panel designed to shed snow and a vertical turbine instead of a propeller to catch the wind. They were fairly expensive but the cost is sure to come down as the technology improves and more companies get into that market.

"Common sense is like deodorant--the people who need it most never use it."
MicheleD
(Kentucky)

Posts:4491


06/05/2010 11:41 AM  
I haven't seen anything about this recently, but when we were looking into installing our solar panels (yes we have solar panels across the back of our roof), there was a FEDERAL law in process that, in effect, restricted HOA restrictions on solar energy.

I don't have the links anymore, but perhaps someone who is more energetic about researching it may be able to find it.

JonD1
(New York)

Posts:1642


06/05/2010 12:31 PM  
Tim:

It is my understanding this new law applies to condos as well as HOAs and townhouse communities. If so, as is the case in my condo property the roofs are common property so things become a little more complicated.

Now if they have three story condos in Illinois which find themselves under this new law and each takes up one floor and your neighbor decides he would like to be the first solar panel user he installs HIS equipment on the common property roof. In a few months he saves thousands in electric usage. Now YOU want to install your own system. My question: Where do you now install yours?
The roof is already occupied so are YOU out of luck?

If the owner on the first floor makes the installation where does he run his wiring from the roof down to his unit? On the outside of the building (common property again)? Through your unit( private property)?

IMO this new law opens a huge can of worms which requires every association to formulate a plan. Asking people with no knowledge of this sort of installation creates many issues some of which will become apparent only with time. Along with the shortcomings of each properties policy.

BonnieE
(Illinois)

Posts:331


06/05/2010 1:15 PM  
Hi everyone – thanks for your responses.

A lot of good questions and issues have been raised, which will be helpful in thinking through the development of such a policy.

We will begin replacing roofs next year, I have been told (unofficially from talking with 2 Directors). I think our Board needs to consider some of the questions in light of this (such as warranty, structural support).

The question re cost is a good one. Is there or would there be a HO who would be willing to pay the cost upfront? One factor would be how long they would live here. Another thought is with the passage of the Act, there may be an enterprising individual who develops a smaller solar system for townhomes.

IMO, I would prefer to install a tankless water heater and a more energy efficient furnace for energy savings. While I will pursue these with the Board eventually, informal discussions have resulted in a negative response as additional venting through the roof would be required.

Bonnie
BonnieE
(Illinois)

Posts:331


06/05/2010 1:30 PM  
Jon – you are correct – the law will apply to condo associations (that is my read of it). We are condos but look like townhomes. But we do have several buildings with 2 ranch style end units which sit one over the other. So your scenario raises additional questions.

Another issue which comes to mind: what about skylights – wouldn’t place a solar panel over a skylight.
JonD1
(New York)

Posts:1642


06/05/2010 1:51 PM  
Bonnie:

The more thought one would give this the more questions you could have.

And to require a volunteer Board to draft a policy that would cover each and every possibility would seem wishful thinking to me. As each application would change with the indiviual property and location of the unit in question.

Another question would be roofing materials. Shingle, flat rubber, stone, slate, metal how would each type be affected with this sort of installation?

My hope, you would draft a policy stick it in a drawer and HOPE no one becomes interested in making themselves the solar power pioneer.

Only in the minds of elected officials can you require others to do what you yourself could not and didn't bother to consider the true impact of your actions.
But maybe there were some campaign contibutions involved?

Always easy to find answers when you didn't bother to ask the right questions.



BonnieE
(Illinois)

Posts:331


06/06/2010 7:34 AM  
“Only in the minds of elected officials can you require others to do what you yourself could not and didn't bother to consider the true impact of your actions.
But maybe there were some campaign contibutions involved?”

Your guess is as good as mine…..this is Illinois….

“My hope, you would draft a policy stick it in a drawer and HOPE no one becomes interested in making themselves the solar power pioneer.”

Actually, I question whether my Board will draft a policy unless they are handed one.

“Another question would be roofing materials. Shingle, flat rubber, stone, slate, metal how would each type be affected with this sort of installation?”

It is my understanding they are going with asphalt shingle (what we currently have). My concern is that they will not consider the potential for a solar panel request when they enter into a contract for roof replacement. Hopefully I will be wrong.

But, I will share the info with the BOD members and see how they respond.
JonD1
(New York)

Posts:1642


06/06/2010 8:29 AM  
Bonnie:

Our politicial system's problems are not isolated to the state of Illinois.
Believe it or not we have a few issues even here in NY. I would not be surprised if money played a role in the passing of this bill or many others.

I've lost my faith in the good intentions of elected officials.

For a volunteer Board where would you start? Based on what knowledge? Your two choices 1) wing it 2) hire an "expert" who would draft a policy for you with no promise it would serve your property well. It would certainly serve THEIR interests.

Can you imagine taking on the drafting of this policy? No thanks.


Please let us know how things are handled on your property and I hope no one on your property and others decides to do the installation.

MaryA1


Posts:0


06/06/2010 10:10 AM  
Bonnie,

I've taken a look at the bill and my problem with it is that it does not address common areas and limited common elements. The bill should state the HOA cannot prohibit the installation of solar energy devices on a members "own property". And it should address what rights a condo owner has with regard to installation of solar energy devices. As it is written, IMO, it will cause many problems for condo boards. This is what happens when legislators don't understand HOAs and only listen to complaining constituents (who, more often than naught, know nothing about HOAs and how they work), special interest lobbyists, etc but do not listen to the people who have to abide by the legislation.
RickW
(Illinois)

Posts:169


06/06/2010 6:57 PM  
There is no question that this bill was written and passed by politicians. Like them or not, trust them or not, it is what they do.

Can a bill be re-written or amended after it has passed? I honestly do not know the answer to that question.

Let's suppose for argument's sake that the bill cannot be written. That means associations have a responsibility to provide a policy to the best of their ability. I believe this is the topic the original poster had hoped to address.

We've already listed many questions and issues that would need to be addressed in order to write such a policy. It is true association boards are not experts in solar energy. It is also true, at least for me, I'm not an expert in landscaping, snow removal, painting, roof replacemnt, drain pipe routing, street repair or replacement, concrete replacement, budgets, collections, foreclosures, etc., etc.

There have to be specialists in this area and their must be guidance provided from property managers. Yes, it might cost the association, but lets look at the bill's real intention. Energy savings, pure and simple. Can we argue with that?

Maybe we need to think outside the box a little. The roof over a unit is something that the owner of that unit benefits from yet the association maintains it. Same with the exterior wall material, the driveways, etc. What if the association took the repsonsibility of installing solar panels via an association contractor. The unit owner would pay all costs and reap the energy benefits. the association would maintain the solar panels and the roof it sits on, maintain control over the look and maintain control over the contracotr.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:9244


06/06/2010 10:47 PM  
Posted By RickW on 06/06/2010 6:57 PM
What if the association took the repsonsibility of installing solar panels via an association contractor. The unit owner would pay all costs and reap the energy benefits. the association would maintain the solar panels and the roof it sits on, maintain control over the look and maintain control over the contracotr.




Rick,

I'm not sure that this would work or be legal for the Association to do. Panels and their associated circuity and other equipment (batteries, converters, etc.). need to be maintained and over time replaced. Your suggestion that the owner pays the installation cost and reaps the benefits is a good one. However, to have the Association spend funds to maintain/repair/replace a system that only benefits one member/lot may not even be legal.

I agree that issues raised here certainly needs to be addressed in any policy. It is obvious that the guidelines I offered that my HOA is considering would not work for an HOA with a common roof line maintained by the Association.

Tim
BonnieE
(Illinois)

Posts:331


06/07/2010 7:07 AM  
Hi-

Rick said:
“Maybe we need to think outside the box a little. The roof over a unit is something that the owner of that unit benefits from yet the association maintains it. Same with the exterior wall material, the driveways, etc. What if the association took the repsonsibility of installing solar panels via an association contractor. The unit owner would pay all costs and reap the energy benefits. the association would maintain the solar panels and the roof it sits on, maintain control over the look and maintain control over the contractor.”

Background: In my HOA gov docs, we have limited common elements (LCE) which are common elements (CE) for the exclusive use of one HO. Our Board developed a policy (in accordance with our gov docs & IL Condo Act; reviewed by attorney) which identifies each LCE and CE and who is responsible for maintaining each. Roofs (CE) would be an HOA responsibility, but wood decks & patios (LCE), the HO responsibility, for example. The Board can arrange for needed maintenance of the LCEs and charge the cost back to the HO/HOs. Also, any alteration of a LCE by a HO must go through the architectural review/approval process.

Example: The Board will have the decks cleaned and painted with a sealant this summer. The affected HOs will be charged back the cost (they will be provided some payment options). Doing all decks at once has the benefit of saving money and ensuring the decks are consistently/uniformly maintained. Someday the decks will need replacement and this could be done in the same way.

I think that Rick’s idea is worth exploring as an option (& perhaps with some tweaks). IMO, the solar elements might be designated a LCE under Rick’s scenario.

Bonnie

SureshD


Posts:0


06/07/2010 8:08 AM  
Looking at this as an accountant or engineer might...this may still be cost/technology prohibitive for whole house (100%) powering let alone having the power company "buy back" power in a Condo/Townhome situation.

You are not likely to have the "solar suface area" available to erect a large enough system or have enought "sun time" in many parts of the country to generate surplus power. The best you can hope for is to reduce your costs. But REGARDLESS of the amount of energy offset you can achieve you will not see a break even point for 2 decades.

In sunny s. fla. to TRY to supply 100% of my current power useage (~$150mo. yrly. avg.) I need 1000+ sq.ft. of solar panels (roof area) and due to the design of my roof may not have that much direct southern exposure. So for me the system will be less efficient than needed or need to be much larger to generate enough to even consider the possibility of power buy-back.

If you don't plan on living in the home for the next 20 years or don't have the money or surface area to oversize the system to allow possible buy-back it's not worth it...YET!

Thus, don't look for a rush of homes wishing to install these photo-voltaics until the costs and efficiency improve.
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