The Solar Rights Act (CA Civil Code 714), enacted in 1978, bars restrictions by homeowners associations (HOAs) on the installation of solar-energy systems, but originally did not specifically apply to cities, counties, municipalities or other public entities. The Act was amended in September 2003 to prohibit a public entity from receiving state grant funding or loans for solar-energy programs if the entity prohibits or places unreasonable restrictions on the installation of solar-energy systems. A public entity is required to certify that it is not placing unreasonable restrictions on the procurement of solar-energy systems when applying for state-sponsored grants and loans.
The Act was amended again in September 2004 by extending its prohibition on restrictions to all public entities. Additional key changes minimize aesthetic solar restrictions to those that cost less than $2,000 and limits building official’s review of solar installations only to those items that relate to specific health and safety requirements of local, state and federal law. Assembly Bill 1892 of 2008 further amended the civil code to nullify any restrictions relating to solar energy systems contained in the governing documents of a common interest development. A common interest development includes community apartment projects, condominium projects, planned developments and stock cooperatives.
Reasonable attorney's fees incurred during a court case between a property owner and a common interest development or HOA will be awarded to the prevailing party. AB 2180 of 2008 provided even more consumer protections under the Civil Code by providing that any homeowners' association that is not a public entity that willfully violates the Solar Rights Act must pay the solar system owner a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000. AB 2180 further provides that the approval or denial of any application submitted to authorize the installation of a system must be made in writing within 60 days. If the application is not denied within 60 days it will be deemed approved unless the delay is the result of a reasonable request for additional information.