The Board of Directors for most condominium associations in California have felt very comfortable in the past letting owners know that they could not install solar on the common area roof. The roof is common area after all and its maintenance and replacement are the association’s responsibility. Those things remain true but with the passage of AB 634 the association must allow the installation of solar on the common area roof, as well as roofs of the exclusive use carport or garage of a condominium.
The association can impose some reasonable restrictions though. Keep in mind that Civil Code Section 714(b) says that those restrictions cannot significantly decrease the efficiency, by more than 10%, or significantly increase the cost of the installation, by more than $1,000 or 10%. The board must require the unit owner to meet some obligations. They must require that the owner notify everyone in their building that they are applying for solar; and have liability insurance coverage that continues to their successors in interest of protecting the common area.
The board should put in place a Solar Policy that can require the owner to submit their plans for approval and be responsible for a variety of things if they choose to install solar. Some of the things to consider requiring are:
- The member should pay to have a survey performed for the roof of their building. This will determine the equitable allocation of usable area among all owners sharing the same roof, garage, or carport. This will ensure that all owners in that building have their fair share of the roof area in the event that they want to install solar at some later date. It would be unfair for one owner to cover the entire roof leaving no usable space for other owners in that building
- The member is responsible for all costs related to the installation, maintenance and repair of the solar system. This would also include the removal of the solar system if necessary. Owners need to understand that in the event that the association needs to repair or replace the roof of the building they would be responsible for the cost of removing the solar system and then reinstalling it after the work is completed.
- The member is responsible for any damage done to the common area due to the solar. Any type of roof penetration has the potential of causing damage.
- The work must be completed by a licensed contractor. Anyone who contracts to perform work that is valued at $500 or more for materials and labor must hold a current, valid license in the specialty for which he/she is contracting.
- The member must agree to the obligation to disclose the responsibility for the solar system to any prospective buyers and subsequent owners, this can be included on the deed to the property.
The intention of these rules is not to discourage the use of solar on condominiums but rather to protect the common interests of the association. Your association manager can help you find the balance of being reasonable and protecting the association; and your legal counsel can help you prepare reasonable rules for solar installation in your condominium community.