Homeowners associations and solar access in Virginia
Homeowners associations (HOAs) set appearance rules for the homes they govern. Many have used this power to restrict homeowners’ ability to go solar
Homeowners associations in Virginia
Virginia law protects your ability to go solar. Homeowners associations can only stop you from installing solar if the HOA’s recorded declaration explicitly prohibits solar installations. A recorded declaration is a legal document that lays out the rules of the HOA at its founding.
The law does allow HOAs to establish “reasonable restrictions” for solar installations. These include limits on the size and location of systems, as well as how they are installed. For example, an HOA may prevent you from installing a ground-mount solar array.
What is a reasonable restriction?
Virginia passed the law creating the “reasonable restrictions” protection in 2014. They did not include a definition of what “reasonable restrictions” meant. This led to confusion that prevented hundreds of homeowners from going solar.
We worked with lawmakers to pass legislation to define what it means.
The law, passed in 2020, says a restriction is reasonable if:
- It increases system cost by less than 5% over the proposed design, or
- It decreases system performance by less than 10% over the proposed design.
Having trouble with your HOA? Post to the Virginia listserv and get advice from fellow solar owners.
- Virginia law regarding HOAs and solar – This section of Virginia law defines what rights you have when an HOA interferes with your right to install solar.
- HOA Third Party Certification Form created by MDV SEIA for a solar NABCEP professional to use to determine if HOA restrictions for solar placement are warranted under the 2020 Virginia HOA and solar law.
- MDV-SEIA Guide for Homeowners Associations on Solar Installations in Virginia – The regional solar industry association has developed this useful guide about the rules for installing solar with regards to HOA regulations.
- Opinion letter from Virginia’s attorney general regarding HOA restrictions – This 2015 letter asserts that HOAs do not have the right to prohibit solar unless the prohibition is specifically written into the HOA’s recorded declarations.