by Laurelle Stelle
Alex Betancourt of Suwanee, Georgia, has been in conflict with his homeowners’ association (HOA), the Deer Valley Community Association, over the right to install solar panels on the back side of his roof, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
It’s not uncommon for HOAs to object when residents install solar panels that are visible from the street. Some homeowners are forced to choose locations for their panels that get less light just to keep an HOA happy, while others end up in long legal battles over the issue.
But Betancourt’s case is even more puzzling because his solar panels aren’t at the front of the home, to begin with; they’re at the back, facing away from the road, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
That didn’t stop the Deer Valley Community Association. It denied Betancourt’s application to install solar, and when he went ahead, it began fining him $25 a day, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
According to the outlet, the HOA even threatened to come onto Betancourt’s property and remove the panels.
“We don’t want this looming over our heads,” Betancourt told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We don’t know if I’m going to go to work one day and I’m going to get a call from my wife saying, ‘Hey, some guys are putting holes in the roof and ripping off our solar panels.’”
To do all this, the HOA apparently relied on a general rule about external additions to the home. The organization doesn’t have any specific rules about solar panels.
Solar panels are a major asset for homeowners, who pay lower electric bills when they can generate their own power, especially in sunny states like Georgia, with ideal conditions for solar. They’re also a smart choice for the environment because the more power we get from solar and wind, the less we need to use more polluting methods to power our homes, like burning coal to generate electricity.
But for HOAs, appearance matters more. Many argue that solar panels don’t fit the neighborhood’s look and can bring down property values. However, solar installations have been shown to raise property values by thousands of dollars while saving owners money.
To get those benefits, owners have to be prepared to push back.
As Don Moreland, the executive director of the Georgia Solar Energy Association, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “It happens every day. Every single day, homeowners are being denied by their homeowners associations from putting solar on their home.”