NC Supreme Court: HOAs Cannot Prohibit Solar Installs

These days, there’s a funny stereotype on the internet and more and more in real life: Karen. She’s the lady who argues endlessly with store checkout clerks over coupons, and demands to see the manager. She calls the cops and accuses innocent people of color of crimes. They’re also known for doing anything they can control other people and make life hard for them to serve their sense of entitlement.

Another fun internet joke is to come up with funny collective nouns for different people and animals. For example, a goose flies in a flock of geese, and the collective noun here is “flock.” For fun, some internet memes say that a group of baboons is a “congress” of baboons, or that owls gather in “parliaments.” As some “ackchyually” types will tell us, these aren’t real collective nouns, but that misses the point. We’re not saying anything about owls or baboons. We’re making fun of legislators.

I’ve seen a number of funny ways to assign Karens a collective pronoun. Some people say a group of Karens is a “quarrel.” One I like better is that Karens fly in “privileges,” which is an apt description of the problem they all share. But, one collective noun or measure work for Karens that fits them best is this: HOA. For example, “At work today, I was accosted by an HOA of Karens when I didn’t ring them up right.”

HOAs Have Earned Their Bad Reputation, Even If You Don’t Think So

The Karens among our readership will probably want to tell me I’m wrong about HOAs. After all, you don’t want to live next door to some guy with a car on blocks for years at a time, do you? And the impact a neighbor’s bad landscaping might have on my property values, the thought is horrifying!

Fact is, some guy with a car on blocks will probably have a 10mm wrench (or other cool 10mm things) you can borrow when you have your own car problems, and lawns aren’t great in any way, especially if you live someplace where water is becoming scarce like the American west. Plus, I’m not sitting in my front yard staring at my neighbor’s houses, and don’t care too much what they do with their own little patches of land.

Why do I not care? Mostly because I’m not a busybody, but also because I didn’t buy a house in the city or under the thumb of HOAs. My neighbors are all nice people, even if one of their old shitbox Hondas doesn’t run and the guy on the other side likes to start up his Harley-Davidson too early from time to time. They’re patient with me, and I’m patient with them, and we all get along without anybody making us follow strict rules.

Why didn’t I buy a nicer home in a suburban neighborhood run by a homeowners’ association? I’ve seen too much bad press over the years. I’ve seen several cases where they try to steal someone’s house because they were in the hospital and couldn’t keep the place up or pay dues. I’ve heard of cases where HOA leadership have gone to prison because they were caught conspiring to get control of people’s homes and sell them off, pocketing profits. But, several people lost their homes before police got wise to it. In one of many of these cases, the truth only came to light after a homeowner decided to shoot the thief.

And all of that comes just from a Google search looking for schemes to steal property. There are numerous other stories of HOA management harassing people in too many ways to list here. One insane HOA demanded that people leave their garage doors open all day because they claimed people were living in garages illegally. Here’s a collection of ten stories that includes fines for not cleaning up after a deadly hurricane within 24 hours. Here’s a collection of 15 other stories that include an HOA president attacking a service animal he didn’t think belonged in the neighborhood.

So, even if your HOA is cool, and you work for an HOA and aren’t like that, it’s hard to argue that bad managers have earned the lot a bad reputation. In fact, bad enough that people come up with ways to harass their HOAs back in comical ways:

And, you’ll find no shortage of memes like this one:

Score One For The Good Guys & For Clean Energy

When we can find a story of HOAs losing, it’s nice to see. When we also see them losing in a quixotic battle against clean energy, it’s even better. And, recently, we found a story that gives us both of these things.

In this case, a North Carolina homeowner installed solar on his roof. This, of course, angered the HOA management, because in an HOA, you don’t get to just do things to your home. You own it, but you get to act like you rent it (while still paying for your own maintenance and repairs, which had better happen fast if you don’t want to pay a hefty fine). When the system was installed, the HOA decided to fine the homeowner and place a lien on the property.

The state supreme court ruled that HOAs cannot use rules to prohibit the installation of solar power, nor can they force people to put solar power on the rear roof of a home. This is true regardless of what’s in the contract or HOA rules because North Carolina has a “solar access” law that supersedes all HOA rules.

“The ruling issued by the North Carolina Supreme Court is a significant achievement for homeowner property rights in North Carolina, affirming access to clean, renewable power for those previously denied by their HOAs,” said Peter Ledford, NCSEA’s General Counsel and Director of Policy. “This decision will reduce a significant barrier to the residential solar market in North Carolina, supporting jobs in the rooftop solar industry, and helping homeowners lower their utility bills and clean up the grid.”

While the decision frees up millions of North Carolina homeowners to install solar without having to worry about HOA overreach, it’s still sad that these homeowners had to spend thousands on legal fees and spend years fighting to do something that was already explicitly legal under state law. But, laws and doing the right thing aren’t known to stop the criminals who all too often run HOAs from causing problems anyway.

Featured image by Vijay Govindan, CleanTechnica.


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