Delaware lifts rooftop solar restrictions

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For Delaware homeowners, installing a rooftop or ground-mounty solar system on their property just got a whole lot easier. That’s because HB 65, brought forth by State Rep. Kim Williams’ (D-Newport), has been signed by Gov. John Carney (D).

Like the shoulders of an ox the bill is broad and strong in its ruling, stating

Any  covenant, restriction, or condition contained in a deed, contract or other legal instrument which affects the transfer, sale or any other interest in real property that  effectively  prohibits or unreasonably restricts the owner of the property from  installing or  using a roof mounted system for obtaining solar energy on that owner’s property  is void and unenforceable.

The key term in the above statement is “reasonable”meaning residential projects can still be challenged in court, but only in rare situations of residential development. However, once a judge has determined the reasonability of the challenge, the bill also outlines that the legal fees of the prevailing party will be provided.

So will this law lead to more development? Well it’s not exactly fair to pin any development strictly on one law or decision and this is even trickier to say with Delaware. This is because the traditional drivers behind residential development aren’t all present in Delaware.

The state has mandatory net metering and sales tax exemptions for solar systems, however the killer is that these systems receive no property tax exemptions, meaning that any value added to one’s home through the installation of these systems will be reflected in that homeowner’s annual taxes.

And the shaky standing of residential solar in the state is reflected in Delaware’s annual installation figures.

The word we’re looking for here is volatile, inconsistent, maybe. The impending investment tax credit step-down won’t help those residential installation figures either, so the passage of this bill could prove to be largely inconsequential, however not by virtue of any weakness on the bill’s behalf.

There is one very specific aspect of the bill that actually makes it easier for residential projects to be blocked, but only under a specific circumstance. In instances of a homeowners association looking to amend restrictions in a deed related to solar energy, a simple majority is now all that is needed to amend these restrictions, rather than a 2/3 majority, So while it makes it eaier to pass amendments that could prohibit installations, it is equally as easy to pass amendments expanding solar under the same homeowners association.