House passes bill making it easier for condo owners to install solar – Connecticut Inside Investigator

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Owners of standalone condominiums looking to install solar panels on their roofs are one step closer to being able to after the passage of HB 5168 by Connecticut’s House of Representatives.

The bill serves as an expansion of the solar rights of members of common interest communities, which include condominiums, community apartments, planned developments, etc. A provision in the State’s Clean Air Act, passed in 2022, already prohibited common interest communities from adopting or enforcing rules that would prohibit community residents from installing solar panels. That law did not, however, include condominiums or housing cooperatives.

The bill, which originally passed the House last year but was not signed into law, was brought before the House again today by Rep. Eleni Kavros-DeGraw (D-Avon) to be amended to include provisions for residents of both condominiums and housing cooperatives. Kavros-DeGraw ultimately brought two amendments to the bill to the floor, both of which were adopted. The first amendment extends the period of time homeowner associations (HOAs) have to consider solar applications, and the second amendment removed the bill’s applicability for housing cooperatives.

Rep. Joe Zullo (R-East Haven) explained the finer points of the bill; it would only apply to owners of standalone condos, meaning those that share no walls or roofs with other condos in their community. It would allow those owners looking to install solar to apply through their HOA, which under the original provisions of the bill, would require associations to provide written notice of approval or rejection within 60 days. Under Amendment A, which was passed on the floor, the bill allows associations to receive an additional 30 days for consideration upon receipt of additional information from the applicant if the association asks for it. If the association does not accept or deny applications within this 60-90-day timeframe, applicants are allowed to proceed with the installation of solar by default. Under the bill, associations can only consider “reasonable” restrictions in their application process.

If an applicant’s wish for solar is accepted, they must have it installed by a licensed and insured solar contractor, and have to cover all costs of the installation, such as attorney fees, engineering fees, or permit fees. Applicants would also have to compensate the association for any extra costs or damages incurred by the association as a result of the solar panels’ installation. Applicants would have to cover the costs of maintenance, repairs, or removal of the solar panels, and if they decide to sell their condo, they have to notify buyers of the panels and the obligations attached to them and transfer the rights and responsibilities of the panels into the buyers’ name. If the buyer isn’t interested in maintaining the panels, then the seller is responsible for removing the panels before the sale is made. Any roof repairs required as a result of the panels’ removal are also the obligation of the panels’ owner.

Lastly, the bill would allow HOAs to install solar panels on any “common elements” such as shared roofs in the community, for the shared benefit of the community.

“The point of this bill is that the homeowner gets all the benefits of the solar, and therefore is responsible for every single consequence, financial, logistic, legal or otherwise, that stems from the installations of these panels,” said Rep. Zullo.

The bill would also allow HOAs the ability to opt out of all provisions of the bill if they so choose. Associations formed before Jan. 1, 2025, may hold a vote to opt out of the provisions of the bill, and if 75 percent of the association’s board votes to opt-out, then the bill will not apply to them.  The option to opt-out, however, expires on Jan 1, 2027.  

“I think we all want to preserve as much as possible the self-governance rights of the associations,” said Zullo. “We also want to be good stewards of the environment, we want to be promoting practices and renewable energies, things that help us create a better world and preserve the environment. I really believe in good faith that we have done everything possible to make sure that condo associations will be held harmless and indemnified.”

Several Republican lawmakers viewed the bill as dubious in nature, arguing that the bill would infringe upon property rights, specifically HOA’s ability to self-govern their communities. 

“We’re kind of forcing their hand to have to do this, especially in areas where it will be impactful,” said Rep. Bill Buckbee (R-New Milford). “It’s something I don’t think I can support.”

Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco (R-Southington) questioned whether the bill would undermine the binding nature of the rest of HOAs’ bylaws, questioned what restrictions could be defined as “reasonable,” and questioned the need for the bill in its entirety, after asking Kavros-DeGraw if she knew how many HOAs currently have rules preventing solar installations for their residents. 

Rep. Craig Fishbein questioned whether the bill’s provisions would be applicable to planned unit developments, to which Kavros-DeGraw answered it would. 

“Then I guess that solidifies my opposition,” said Fishbein. “Because even if those owners collectively got together and said, “We don’t want to provide for this,” that is only applicable until I think 2027.”

After a recess, Kavros-DeGraw brought another amendment, Amendment C, before the floor, which would remove the applicability of the bill’s provisions to housing cooperatives. Rep. Zullo explained the reasoning behind the amendment, saying that in housing cooperatives, residents do not technically own their units.

“It’s a very practical fix,” said Zullo. “It certainly makes the bill a little bit better, I wholeheartedly support it.”

Amendment C was passed, and the bill was passed as amended in a 106-37 vote.

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