Credit: Blake Wheeler on Unsplash
Chapter 22B, Section 20 of the North Carolina General Statutes states, “any deed restriction, covenant, or similar binding agreement that runs with the land that would prohibit, or have the effect of prohibiting, the installation of a solar collector ... is void and unenforceable.” State lawmakers added this language in 2007 to prevent homeowners’ association (“HOA”) rules from overriding local and state authority to set policy. While each individual association may be small, over 50% of US homeowners live in HOA communities, which means the parochial rules governing things like acceptable exterior paint colors and proper lawn care standards can end up having a major impact on policies typically set by state and local authorities. Say, for example, residential energy policy.
In 2018, when the Farwig family installed $30,000 worth of solar panels on their home in northeast Raleigh, they did so without first seeking approval from the HOA’s architectural review committee. Why would they? Their HOA rules contained no mention of solar panels. Nevertheless, the HOA committee requested the family to apply for approval retroactively five months after the panels were installed, which they did (and included a petition of support from two dozen of their neighbors). The committee summarily denied their application and ordered them move the panels to a section of the roof not visible from the road—despite the mandated section being covered by shade most of the day—or else face a $50 fine per day. The Farwigs demurred, so the committee assessed the first $50 fine. They then deemed the Farwigs in debt to the HOA ($50 in debt, to be exact), sued the family, filed a lien on their home, and began steps to foreclose on it.
Before we go any further, we should note that, as sign fabricators, we’re predisposed to be suspicious of HOAs and their overbearing anti-signage mentality. Municipalities do a perfectly fine job of regulation through local sign codes; there’s no need for another ruling body to restrict residents’ freedom to creatively express themselves on their own property. Having said that, can you imagine? Can you imagine your HOA trying to foreclose on your house over something like this? The Farwigs, righteous in their cause, counter-sued and took the case all the way to the North Carolina Supreme Court. After a years-long battle, justice finally prevailed when the court ruled in favor of the Farwigs and effectively stripped HOAs of the authority to regulate home solar panels, which, to be clear, they never should have had in the first place.
Credit: Bob Self / Florida Times-Union
JEA's new headquarters is scheduled for completion this October. Brilliant work by Ryan Companies on the first major office tower built in Jacksonville's downtown core since the 1980s. Good looking set of wall signs, too. Wonder who made those. (*wink*)
Yo!!! Talk about asleep at the wheel!
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