Due to its climate, Florida – the “Sunshine State” – is ideally situated to take advantage of unlimited and environmentally friendly solar energy. In the last two decades, the price of solar collectors has dropped significantly in cost and many individual homeowners are now finding solar panels to be a cost-effective method to reduce their home energy costs. Although solar energy collection technology which will blend seamlessly into our homes and office buildings is on the horizon, today’s commercially available solar collectors are typically bulky and, as a result, highly visible. The high visibility of the solar collectors often leads community associations to adopt measures seeking to limit, or eliminate altogether, the ability of homeowners to install solar collectors on their property. However, Florida Law provides substantial protection to homeowners wishing to install solar collectors and other renewable energy devices on their properties. Specifically, Florida Statutes § 163.04(2) provides:
(2) A deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or similar binding agreement may not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources from being installed on buildings erected on the lots or parcels covered by the deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or binding agreement. A property owner may not be denied permission to install solar collectors or other energy devices by any entity granted the power or right in any deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or similar binding agreement to approve, forbid, control, or direct alteration of property with respect to residential dwellings and within the boundaries of a condominium unit. Such entity may determine the specific location where solar collectors may be installed on the roof within an orientation to the south or within 45° east or west of due south if such determination does not impair the effective operation of the solar collectors.
Under § 163.04, a community association’s ability to restrict the installation of solar panels is limited only to determining the location of the solar panels. Even such limitations on location must be imposed in a manner which allows effective operation of the solar collectors. Should litigation arise from a community association’s attempt to limit the installation of solar collectors or other renewable devices, § 163.04(3) provides for an award of the prevailing party’s attorney’s fees and costs against the losing party.
Notwithstanding the limitations created by Fla. Stat. § 163.04, community associations retain the general ability review and approve plans for installation of solar panels. However, it is critically important that community associations carefully craft limitations and procedures for applying such limitations in a manner which complies with Florida Law.
To the extent your community association has or is considering limitations on the ability of its members to install solar collectors or other renewable energy devices, the attorneys at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP can assist you to ensure that such limitations are adopted and applied in compliance with Fla. Stat. § 163.04 and other applicable law.