Do you think homeowners should have the right to install solar panels on their own condos? Many homeowner associations (HOAs) in the United States don’t think so. Even as solar energy becomes increasingly cheaper with tax incentives bringing the costs down even more, the vast majority of homeowner associations in the United States ban the practice for aesthetic reasons. Now homeowners are fighting back, taking their cause to state legislatures and the courts.

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The growing movement to bring solar power to condominiums and private residential developments is driven by various reasons: concern over global warming, a desire to bring down utility costs and the belief in private property rights. Land developers and real estate agents, however, are usually the opposition, with the excuse that solar panels could look out of place or even drive down property values.

David and Angel Dobs are having none of it. When their homeowners association in the Atlanta suburbs denied their request to install solar panels on top of their roof, their cause took them to the Georgia Legislature. David Dobs wanted to install solar to do his part to address global warming. But despite the support of environmentalists and even some Republicans who believe the issue is more about private property rights, pressure from real estate developers and agents defeated a proposed bill that would have prevented homeowner associations from banning solar.

Currently just over 20 states forbid or limit homeowner associations from banning solar panel installations. California was the first state to pass such a law in the late 1970s. Texas joined the group of states last year with a law that gave homeowners the rights to install solar panels on roofs and in enclosed laws.

But the fight to allow homeowners to do what they want faces a long road ahead. Virginia passed a law in 2008 allowing the installation of solar panels, but that only applied to rules written after July 2008. Another bill that would have made the ban on solar retroactive passed both houses of the Virginia legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Bob McDonnell. Last week the state Senate failed to override the veto. Condo owners who want to do their part to lower their utility bills or try to prevent climate change in the vast majority of states will have to wait.

Via Associated Press

Photos courtesy Wikipedia (Alfred Twu)