SAN ANTONIO – The Texas legislature put some limits on homeowners associations, adding rules that would make going green easier for homeowners.
That change in the law actually took place a year and a half ago but groups that promote solar say many HOAs don’t even know about it and continue to ban solar panels from their neighborhoods.
"It's been a long battle,” homeowner Reshmey Tharakan says.
She says she never expected the battle. At first, her HOA north of Stone Oak approved a plan to install solar panels on the roof of her family’s home.
"After they had approved it, then they said they were not going to approve it – and then they said no way,” Tharakan says.
Three years and thousands of dollars later, the panels are there, just on the back of the house – not the side, where they wanted them.
"The association asked us to move it to the back because they didn't want to have it visible at all,” Tharakan says.
But because they’re on the back of the house, the panels don’t get as much sun, so the Tharakans don’t save as much energy as they could.
Andrew Wood with Solar San Antonio
explains the new law aims to fix that.
"They can ask you to move it to the side of the house,” Wood says. “However, if that affects the efficiency of the panels, then you can still put them on the front of the house."
Wood says if homeowners submit the right paperwork and, in some cases, get their neighbors’ permission first, the HOAs have to say yes to solar panels.
But HOAs do have some wiggle room, he says.
"If the neighborhood is under a master development plan then the HOA can stop you,” Wood says. “Or, if the master development plan hasn't turned over the power to the HOA yet, then they can prohibit you from installing solar panels."
Tharakan hopes the new law makes more people see the light.
"I don't understand – in San Antonio, where we don't have snow – why every home doesn't use solar panel,” she says.
Solar San Antonio has a resource page
for HOA and POA residents to read the law for themselves
and use a checklist
to follow the new guidelines.