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  • Daniel Dobbs (Mutual Home Mortgage)


Updated: Feb 7, 2023

Effective April 1st, 2023, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is changing the rules governing solar installations.

This has many homeowners scrambling to get solar before the deadline.

As California continues to move towards banning natural gas installations for new homes and with the new state subsidies for solar, there seems to be a growing trend of townhome and condominium owners who want to take advantage of rooftop solar.

Although California has been a leader in the usage of solar energy, many groups have pushed back on the elimination of carbon-based energy sources.

In 1978, California introduced legislation to govern how condo owners and their HOA boards can proceed with solar installations.

Here's a list of the key codes you will want to familiarize yourself with before going in front of your HOA board and installing solar.

Calif. Civil Code § 714(a) of the Sterling-Davis Act prohibits any provision of the developments governing documents from “effectively prohibit[ing] or restrict(ing) the installation or use of a solar energy system.”

Under Civil Code Section 714(e) (2)(b), if a homeowner’s application is not approved or denied within 45 days (assuming there are no pending unanswered questions), the installation is deemed “approved.”

Code compliance: Civil Code Section 714(c) allows HOA rules to require compliance with health, safety, and electrical codes.

Roof repair: The HOA may require that the applicant pays for roof component damage from the installation and ongoing use of the system, per Civil Code Section 714.1(a).

This also may include the extra cost of removing the system when the roof needs maintenance or replacement.

Common-area roofs: If the installation is in a condominium, in which the top is a typically common area owned in common by all owners,

Civil Code Section 4746 allows applicants to be required to submit a “solar site survey” plan and to notify other owners in the same building.

A solar site survey is an inspection of a property where solar panels will be installed, typically occurring after a closed sale.

A site survey aims to ensure the preliminary design is feasible to create a permit-ready plan.

The solar site survey plan will be quite simple if the system is only to be installed on a roof or carport serving a single residence. Still, a multi-story, apartment-style condominium building will need a more sophisticated plan showing that the applicant only proposes using his fair share of the usable space on the shared common roof.

Recordable agreement: HOAs under Civil Code Section 4746(b) can require that the future owner of the applicant’s unit be notified of the ongoing obligations regarding the system installed on a common-area roof.

This is usually accomplished by a written agreement stating the required conditions filed with the county registrar/ recorder (“recorded”) on the unit in the same building. This also automatically will notify later unit owners that the agreement binds them.

Insurance: If the system is to be installed on a common area roof, the HOA can require proof of insurance (Civil Code Section 4746(a)(2)), which is annually updated to the HOA.

** This post is for general information. Any and all questions should be directed to a licensed attorney.

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