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Nebraska man battles HOA for right to solar

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A Nebraska man being sued by his HOA for putting solar on his home is taking is case to the public with a billboard ad. [Photo Credit: South Shore Heights Lawsuit Web Site]

About a year ago, we wrote about a case in which a Texas HOA sued a homeowner for putting solar on his home.

As it turns out, that HOA had a change of heart and withdrew its suit, in part due to public backlash and in part because a survey of its own HOA members showed more than two-thirds were in favor of allowing solar installations on homes within HOA bounds.

Let’s hope for a similar outcome in a case that’s cropped up recently in Nebraska – like Texas, not exactly a hotbed for solar, in fact, a state that’s actually arguably worse for solar than Texas in terms of solar awareness.

There, Omaha resident and Orthodontist Timothy Adams has been sued by South Shore Heights Homeowners Association for putting up a solar system on the back roof of his home.

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And, unfortunately, in contrast to the Texas case, where a majority of fellow homeowners supported the right to put up home solar, a majority of South Shore Heights homeowners voted against Adams and his solar installation, according to a short report on the SSH Homeowner’s Association web site.

Billboard for home solar rights
Lacking support from his neighbors, Adams has gone public with his battle, investing in a billboard ad which states his case.

Currently, 20 U.S. states have so-called solar rights provisions which protect the right of homeowners to install home solar, including homeowners who live in an HOAs. Unfortunately for Adams, Nebraska is not one of these.

Adams is determined to stick up for the right to install home solar.

It's not about money. It's about sticking up for principles. If it's about spending tens of thousands of dollars educating people, I will do it.
--Timothy Adams, Nebraska homeowner being sued by HOA for installing solar on his home

"It's not about money," Adams, 49, told JournalStar.Com, a Lincoln, Neb., media outlet. "It's about sticking up for principles. If it's about spending tens of thousands of dollars educating people, I will do it."

Adams did not consult with his HOA before installing the system, perhaps not the smartest move.

Neighbor: HOA would've said no
However, one neighbor quoted in the JournalStar.Com story said he thought the HOA would not have approved the installation if it had been consulted. Given a post-installation vote which saw Adam’s fellow homeowners vote 2 to 1 against the installation, there appears to be at least some validity to this assessment.

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The solar system for which Timothy Adams is being sued by his HOA for installing. [Photo Credit: South Shore Heights Lawsuit Web Site]

In fact, if you take a look at Adam’s installation – you’ll see that it’s a very nicely done, sleek-looking one which also happens to be on the back-side of his house.

We feel fortunate to live in a fairly progressive HOA which approved our application to install a 5.59 kW solar system last May. Since then, what some would call our “ugly” solar system has since prevented the production of more than 13,000 pounds of CO2 – now that’s, “ugly” isn’t it?

Another neighbor is about to go solar with a 6 kW system – and both of our PV systems are on the front, south-facing side of our homes. A front-side installation is something the Texas HOA we discussed above banned. Such a ban – which effectively discriminates against homeowners who have the “misfortune” of having south-roof space on the front of their home -- would be illegal here in Colorado as well is in the other 19 U.S. states with solar rights provisions (Texas, like Nebraska, does not have a solar rights provision).

What's uglier: Solar, or coal pollution?
We respectfully – and strongly – disagree with Adams’ neighbors and his HOA, although we do think he should have gone to his HOA first, then, if he had been rejected – as seems likely -- gone forward with the project and a legal case anyway.

The argument that solar is ugly is, in our view, entirely bogus, although the right of local homeowner’s association to have some say in what a solar system looks like is important – as long as modifications don’t cost the homeowner too much and/or make the system inefficient.

We ask, what’s uglier: Mercury pollution, radioactive coal ash, sulfur dioxide and acid rain, lung and other forms of cancer, asthma, and, yes, premature death, or your neighbor’s PV solar panels, which help to eliminate all of these things?

To support Timothy Adams in his quest for solar rights in Nebraska, check out:

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