Bills would bar HOA prohibitions on solar installations, political signs

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on two proposals Jan. 25 that would prohibit homeowners associations from restricting the installation of solar panels or the placement of political signs on homeowner property. 

Sen. George Dungan
Sen. George Dungan

LB1119, introduced by Lincoln Sen. George Dungan, would prohibit HOAs from restricting the installation and use of solar panels in any covenant, declaration, bylaw, deed contract or other agreement. Under the bill, any regulations prohibiting solar installations would be deemed void and homeowners would have a civil cause of action if a violation occurred. 

Homeowners, within reason, should be able to do what they wish with their property, Dungan said. The bill would not harm any person or entity, he said, but rather would allow landowners to improve their homes without infringement of their personal property rights.

Al Davis testified in support of the bill on behalf of the Nebraska chapter of the Sierra Club.  Davis said solar energy has become more popular, affordable and durable in recent years, and tax credits have made installation lucrative for homeowners. He said there is no evidence that homes with solar panels lower the value of neighboring properties. 

“Solar panels on a roof are not an eyesore but an adaptation to a new technology, which is helping our planet reduce the use of fossil fuels and should be encouraged rather than opposed by local and state governments,” Davis said. 

Merlyn Bartels of Lincoln testified in opposition to LB1119. He expressed concern that installing solar panels on a home could increase costs for other association members who obtain property insurance through their HOA.

Sen. Danielle Conrad
Sen. Danielle Conrad

LB886, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, would prohibit HOAs from banning political signs that promote candidates or ballot measures on homeowner property 90 days before or 10 days after an election.

Conrad said she has heard numerous complaints during election seasons from individuals who were told by their HOA, or similar groups, that they couldn’t display political signs on their property. LB886 would ensure the preservation of two “quintessential liberties,” she said — personal property rights and First Amendment rights.

Under the bill, HOAs could, however, require that political signs be mounted to the ground and homeowners could be limited to one sign for each candidate or ballot measure. LB886 also would allow HOAs to prohibit a variety of signs, including those that have lights, sounds or other distractions, are larger than 4 feet by 6 feet or that threaten public safety. 

Grant Friedman testified in support of the bill on behalf of ACLU Nebraska. The First Amendment prohibits the government from encroaching on a resident’s right to free speech, he said, which includes the right to speak about political and electoral issues.

“While private organizations like HOAs have the ability to regulate private property within their associations, they cannot disregard the free speech rights of their residents,” Friedman said. 

No one testified in opposition to LB886 and the committee took no immediate action on either proposal.

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