Dane County, Wisconsin, is full of new housing developments, and many of the homes are ideal for solar panels — except homeowners’ associations often stand in the way.
Kathy Kuntz leads the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change, and a realtor tipped her off to the problem.
“When the realtor first called me, I was like, ‘Well, that can’t be an issue because we have a law,’” she says.
Wisconsin has a ‘solar rights law,’ so HOAs cannot legally ban solar. But many do unintentionally. Kuntz had an intern review HOA covenants.
They found that most restrictions were not written by residents but by developers. Sometimes the rules are specific to solar, but often they apply to anything that changes a home’s aesthetics. HOAs inherit this language and frequently never question it.
“We’re in the Midwest, where people follow rules,” she says. “They pull out their HOA agreement and they go, ‘Oh, we can’t do this.’”
Kuntz says towns approve new HOA covenants. So she’s helping them remove the language that impedes solar development during that process.
“Because these documents are so templated, we kind of think if we get them out of five or six developments, they might never appear again,” she says.
Reporting credit: Meg Duff/ChavoBart Digital Media