Though Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently signed into law a bill to regulate the power that homeowners associations have over rooftop solar, an HOA and local government are moving forward with legal action against a homeowner.
The city of Bellville in southwest Illinois and an HOA association for the community of The Orchards are suing the Bassler family for installing solar panels on the front of their home, facing the street. The HOA asserted that panels are only allowed on the back of the home. The Basslers told local news outlets that panels on the front are necessary to meet their generation needs.
Prior to the passage of HB 644, HOAs could tell their members where rooftop solar panels would be allowed. Under provisions of a 2011 law, however, HOAs were barred from specifying placement that would “impair the effective operation of a solar energy system.”
The new law expands on the idea of “effective operation,” stating that any placement bylaws enacted by an HOA cannot reduce the annual maximum output of a system by more than 10% of the original design.
Paul McKnight, owner of the company that installed the panels on the Basslers’ home, told local press that adhering entirely to the community bylaws would lead to a 35% reduction in the system’s capacity .
The issue then became whether or not the HOA bylaw would impact the system’s operation under the old law, or if the case would be considered under the new law, which was enacted after the installation was completed and the lawsuit was filed. The Basslers argued that other homes in the community have been allowed to install panels on the front of their homes. Their motion to dismiss the case was rejected.
Illinois State Rep Dan Didech, who introduced HB 644, called the HOA action “unreasonable” and said that such resistance is part of the reason why he introduced the legislation in the first place.
Some of the Basslers’ neighbors, also quoted by local press, said that they had no issue with the installation, and that others in the neighborhood had expressed interest in installing their own solar systems.
The two sides will return to court later in August.