This case involved a dispute between husband and wife homeowners (collectively Owner) and their homeowners association (Association) over the installation of solar panels on the roof of Owners home without Owner having first obtained approval from Associations architectural review committee as required by Associations governing documents. Association implemented a solar panel restriction against Owner.
A few months after purchasing and moving into their home, Owner had a solar collection system consisting of forty-eight solar panels installed on the roof of their home without first obtaining the required approval from Association. Fifteen of the solar panels were installed on the front portion of the roof, and the remaining thirty-three panels were installed on the rear portion of the roof. After Association objected to the solar panels Owner sought retroactive approval, which was denied, and then Owner ignored Associations demand that Owner remove the solar panels from the front portion of their roof. Association then filed suit against Owner seeking a declaration that Owner was in violation of the governing documents and an injunction directing Owner to remove the solar panels from the front portion of their roof.
The trial court found in favor of Association’s solar panel restriction claim and directed Owner to remove the solar panels from the front portion of their roof. Contending that the judgment was flawed because a state statute prohibited Association from unreasonably withholding its consent to the solar system that was installed, Owner filed an appeal. The statute in question limits restrictions on land use that unreasonably interfere with solar energy installations. The statute defines unreasonable limitations as restrictions that increase the cost or decrease the efficiency of the system significantly. Owner contended that requiring the removal of the fifteen solar panels from the front portion of their roof constituted an unreasonable limitation because it would reduce the size and generating capacity of the system from forty-eight panels to thirty-three, thereby making the system less efficient without reducing the cost.
Association contended that the solar panel restriction it imposed for aesthetic and scale limitation reasons did not impair the systems efficiency or increase its cost significantly and thus, were not unreasonable. The appellate court sided with Association stating that Owners reading of the statute would effectively preclude homeowners associations from placing any restrictions on the installation of solar systems and the statute expressly allows homeowners associations to impose reasonable limitations. Accordingly, not being able to conclude that a policy of restricting solar panel systems to the rear roofs of houses is unreasonable, the trial courts judgment was affirmed.
Maryland Appellate Court decision (August 29, 2019).
See caser decision: Blood_v._Stoneridge_at_Fountain_Green_Homeowners_Ass’n