The North Carolina Supreme Court last week ruled 4-3 in favor of homeowners who had fought their neighborhood homeowners association to keep the solar panels installed in February 2018 on the roof of their Raleigh home.
The ruling could benefit homeowners statewide who want to install solar panels on their homes but are restricted through rules set by a homeowners association. The state attorney general had filed an amicus brief in favor of the homeowners.
“North Carolinians must be able to use clean energy alternatives to power their lives and protect our environment,” Attorney General Josh Stein said Friday on Twitter.
After the homeowners, Thomas Farwig, wife Rana Farwig and Nancy Mainard, installed solar panels costing more than $32,000, the Belmont Association Inc., the subdivision’s homeowners association, fought to have the homeowners remove the panels.
Before the case went before the state Supreme Court, the Belmont Association’s architectural review committee demanded the defendants apply for approval of the solar panels about six months after they were installed.
The HOA’s covenants do not mention the use of residential solar panels, which the committee acknowledged. Rather, “aesthetic” problems were the reason the committee cited in denying approval. The Farwigs and Mainard then unsuccessfully appealed the denial.
The association had voted to fine the Farwigs and Mainard $50 for each day after March 1, 2019, that the solar panels remained. The homeowners paid the fine to avoid foreclosure after the association put a lien on the property.
A Wake County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the association and the homeowners lost their appeal.
The state Supreme Court reversed the appeals court decision, saying that the restriction had the effect of prohibiting the installation and reasonable use of solar panels under state law.