Homeowners associations and solar access in D.C.
Homeowners associations (HOA) typically define a neighborhood’s aesthetic rules and sometimes attempt to restrict your ability to go solar. D.C. has a law that prevents a homeowners association from blocking your ability to go solar. Even with the law, you’ll still have to navigate your own HOA when you go solar. Check out our HOA action guide for some guidance.
HOAs and solar access in D.C.
While the District is a great place to go solar, it does pose some unique challenges. Thanks to a law passed in 2018, HOAs can’t block your ability to go solar. On the other hand, the prevalence of “pop-up” construction and the closeness of buildings means you may have a neighbor whose home or trees block your access to the sun’s rays.
D.C. Zoning Commission rules state that home additions, such as pop-ups, cannot be permitted if the addition would interfere with the operation of an existing or permitted solar energy system on a neighboring home. Solar homeowners must demonstrate to the Zoning Administrator that a neighbor’s addition harms their system’s output through a shadow, shade, or other study.
- D.C. Zoning Commission rules regarding pop-ups: This describes what homeowners should do if a neighbor’s proposed construction may harm the output of the homeowner’s solar system.
History of solar access in D.C.
2015: Councilmember David Grosso introduced the “Solar Access Rights Establishment Act of 2015”. The bill would have provided for solar easements and rights, but it never made it past the introduction stage. Much of the bill’s purpose was covered by a ruling from the D.C. Zoning Commission regarding “pop-up” construction.
Although a district-wide solar easement law was not established, in specific zones, a regulation prevents your neighbor from building additions that would block sunlight to your existing solar panels. This currently only applies in Residential Flat (RF) zones.
2017: Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced legislation (B22-0229) to prevent HOAs from prohibiting solar. The Council held a hearing on the bill on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at 10 a.m. in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004.
- Read our write-up about the full hearing.
- Read the written testimony delivered at the hearing by Solar United Neighbors Executive Director Anya Schoolman.
- Read the law