Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

Sun Sets On Omaha Doctor’s Solar Panels

January 10, 2013

I suspect we will see more and more of this type of conflict as environmentally-friendly technologies get cheaper and smart grids and other factors encourage home power use reduction and/or power generation.  As far as I know, Nebraska is no hotbed of environmentalist activism, and yet, it was the setting for a heated dispute between one homeowner and his HOA over some extensive solar panels.

article photo

The local coverage indicates that a settlement was reached, in which the HOA chipped in some money towards the cost of removing the panels.

 

I suspect this was a tough call for that HOA board, who were attacked by the owner in billboards and other fora.  They no doubt did some math and realized that it was going to cost more to get a result in court.

However, the enforceability of CC&Rs in situations like this is not really in question.  Covenants are not trumped by environmental concerns, no matter how deeply felt.   Until a state or federal law explicitly overrules property covenants  (see, e.g. OTARD) , homeowners should be wary of preemptively installing solar, wind, or any other power-generating devices without consulting their CC&Rs.  This owner apparently is out $75,000 plus court costs.

Imagining HOAs’ Future

August 7, 2012

A while back, I enjoyed author Neal Stephenson’s imagining of a United States where neighborhoods exercised virtual national sovereignty, with extreme border security and visa requirements restricting even the movements of a high-speed katana-wielding pizza deliveryman.  While this would certainly be an unexpected evolution of today’s covenant-based associations, there has been some evolution of HOAs over the years.  I sometimes wonder how HOAs will evolve in the near future.

First, I think we can all agree that homeowner associations are inherently conservative organizations.  They are based on covenants conditions and restrictions that are recorded on real property and that often remain unchanged for decades.  Usually CC&Rs can only be amended by a supermajority of the owners: an action that takes coordination, participation, and consensus.

It is no surprise then,  that HOAs are not weather vanes of social change.  Instead, we see conservative covenants challenged by owners with particular agendas, be they environmental responsibility, political activism, or the like.  Those who challenge covenants no doubt see precedent set in federal legislation that has retroactively outlawed covenants creating racially segregated housing communities, age-specific restrictions (except in retirement communities) and other fair housing issues, in addition to less-obvious federal rules regarding satellite dishes.

It would be interesting to see if HOAs could play a leading role in even more politically-charged social areas.  For instance:

  • Could an HOA ban undocumented residents?
  • Could an HOA ban guns of any kind?
  • Could an HOA require smart meters, solar panels, or laundry lines?
  • Could an HOA dive into the marriage debate?

Of course, we always advise our clients to avoid issues that might lead to litigation.  But that doesn’t mean attorneys can’t enjoy imagining legal problems yet to arise.

Update: These Colorado HOA attorneys just blogged about another social topic:  smoking bans.