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Ely
Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
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I live in CA and my HOA has denied my request for Solar Panels.

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I live in CA and my HOA has denied my request for Solar Panels. They say the panel needs to be flat against the house. There are only a few of the panels that are elevated to catch the sun.

I have read the state law and it states they cannot deny the request if the request would increase the cost by 20% or reduces the efficiency of the system by 20%. It would reduce it to 74%.

At least 2 neighbors already have panels that are elevated and in violation of what they are denying my request for. Meaning they say I can’t but clearly my 2 neighbors have already done so.

My electrical bill in the summer is going to be over 1000$ a month. I have to do something.

Do I have to get a lawyer? I cannot afford to fight the HOA?

Can I go to court myself? What recourse does a normal person have against the HOA?
Hello friend. My name is XXXXX XXXXX welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: (1) this is general information only, not legal advice, and, (2) there may be a slight delay between your follow ups and my replies.

I am very sorry for your situation.

BACKGROUND
You are correct in your matter. Under the California Solar Rights Act, the tenant can install solar panels. The HOA can only restrict the installation reasonably.

What is "reasonably?" "Reasonable" restrictions included those that: 1) do not significantly increase the cost of the solar system, 2) do not significantly decrease the system’s efficiency or specified performance, or 3) allow for an alternative system of comparable cost, efficiency and benefits. "Significant" is further defined as those restrictions that increase the system’s cost by over 20 percent or decrease the system’s efficiency by over 20 percent.

In Tesoro del Valle Master Homeowners Assn. v. Griffin, 200 Cal. App. 4th 619 - Cal: Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate Dist., 2nd Div. 2011, the restrictions are presumed valid unless the Court feels otherwise that they are "wholly arbitrary, violate a fundamental public policy or impose a burden on the use of affected land that far outweighs any benefit."

So this means the presumption is against you, and you'd have to prove otherwise.

YOUR SITUATION
Do I have to get a lawyer? I cannot afford to fight the HOA?

You do not have to get an attorney but one is strongly recommended. For example, you would have to draft a petition, file it, serve the other party, go through procedural and evidentiary steps to trial, etc. This is not easy. I know you stated that funds are limited, and if so, I can recommend three resources. First, here is a list of all pro bono work in the state...

http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/probono/directory/california.html

…and another list:

http://www.lawhelp.org

Finally, you may call your local law school and see if they have a legal clinic place available. The legal clinic is a free service the school(s) provide to the community. While they are often overbooked, they have openings sometimes. Here is the list law schools in your state:

http://www.hg.org/law-schools-california.asp

Can I go to court myself? What recourse does a normal person have against the HOA?

Yes, if the HOA is unwilling to budge, you may have to go to Court and file a declaratory judgment under Ca. Code of Civ. Proc. § 1060 et seq to have the Court decide this. The normal person first threatens to go to Court, and if the HOA does not budge, they do.

Let me know if you need a sample letter threatening to sue, which may help scare them into agreeing to something simply to avoid litigation.

Please note: I aim to give you genuine information and not necessarily to tell you only what you wish to hear. Please, rate me on the quality of my information and do not punish me for my honesty. I understand that hearing things less than optimal is not easy, and I empathize.

Gentle Reminder: Please use the REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE my answer when we are finished. Kindly rate my answer as one of the top three faces and then submit, as this is how I get credit for my time with you. Rating my answer the bottom two faces does not give me credit and reflects poorly on me, even if my answer is correct. I work very hard to formulate an informative and honest answer for you; please reciprocate my good faith. (You may always ask follow ups at no charge after rating.)
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I would love a letter. Does that cost extra?


 


Do you think we have a case? If I am wrong, then so be it. I just want to stop paying 1000 a month for electricity.

B,

No it does not cost extra! I am here to make sure that you are satisfied, not to bill you for every letter, my friend. Hang on for a second please while I provide a sample, and then we will also discuss whether or not there is a case...
To Whom It May Concern:

This certified correspondence is in regards XXXXX XXXXX solar panels that I have attempted to install and that the Association has denied me from the date of ___________.

At this point, I am demanding that I be allowed to install said solar panels without further Association interference.

As you may be aware, the California Solar Rights Act allows owners to install solar panels with the Association's restrictions being (1) reasonable and (2) the solar panels significantly saving the owner 20% or more of costs - which they do.

At this point, the Association's restrictions are unreasonable under the Ca. Solar Rights Act and Tesoro del Valle Master Homeowners Assn. v. Griffin, 200 Cal. App. 4th 619 - Cal: Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate Dist., 2nd Div. 2011, because they are "wholly arbitrary, violate a fundamental public policy or impose a burden on the use of affected land that far outweighs any benefit."

Ergo, unless the Association confirms that it allows me to install the panels within ___ days of receipt of this letter, I may have no choice but to seek legal relief under declaratory judgment pursuant to Ca. Code of Civ. Proc. § 1060 et seq. Legal fees and attorney costs shall also be requested.

I hope that this matter may be settled amicably.

Sincerely,

Signature

Name


This may help.

Do you have a case? If you can show that you gain a 20% advantage here, then yes, you actually may.

Best of luck!

Gentle Reminder: Please use the REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE and submit your rating when we are finished.
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