I want to go solar but, what can I do about my neighbor's big old tree?

A tree on your neighbor's property can not only cause unwanted shade over your rooftop solar panels preventing you from maximizing solar energy production, but things could also go terribly wrong on a whim if you don't take preventive action. Read on and learn from other's experiences in these types of situations.

When your solar panels are shaded by your neighbor's tree

Evidently, solar arrays need maximum exposure to sunlight to operate at full capacity, and an issue that comes up a lot with homeowners is when a neighbor’s tree blocks the sunlight from reaching their solar energy system. Is there a remedy?

In such instances, the recommended remedy is to claim the right to use your neighbor's land for a particular purpose — in this case, maximize sun exposure to your solar system. This remedy is legally known as an easement. Easements are often formal; they are recorded on the deed of a particular property, and publicly discoverable by future buyers.

What does a solar easement do?

In layman's terms, a solar easement aims to curb what your neighbor can grow or develop within the airspace of their property, to prevent him or her from blocking sun exposure to your solar arrays. Although a verbal agreement between homeowners is legally binding, oral contracts that are taken to court are always a risk of failing it's purpose, since one of the parties could lie about the terms of the agreement. In some cases, all or multiple parties may choose to misrepresent the terms of the agreement and thus create a legal impasse for the courts. A dully written document is the best solution to assure future and permanent solar access, even under different owners — since solar easements are a permanent property record at the county clerk.

The tricky part is that solar easements are voluntary. This means you can't force your neighbor to agree to a solar easement; even if your property falls within the boundaries of a jurisdiction that allows for the creation of such remedy. Your neighbor will need to agree, and that likely takes some monetary incentive or "consideration" to formalize the agreement.

There are 33 states that currently have formal solar easement policies:

  1. Arkansas

  2. California

  3. Colorado

  4. Florida

  5. Georgia

  6. Idaho

  7. Indiana

  8. Iowa

  9. Kansas

  10. Kentucky

  11. Maine

  12. Maryland

  13. Massachusetts

  14. Minnesota

  15. Missouri

  16. Montana

  17. Missouri

  18. Montana

  19. Nebraska

  20. Nevada

  21. New Hampshire

  22. New Jersey

  23. New Mexico

  24. New York

  25. North Dakota

  26. Ohio

  27. Oregon

  28. Rhode Island

  29. South Dakota

  30. Tennessee

  31. Utah

  32. Virginia

  33. Washington

Some states offer other forms of solar access laws, which are a bit different from a solar easement. If you don't see your state listed here, like Texas for example, it's likely their solar laws are listed in the state's property code.

What if a tree falls on your property or solar array?

Imagine your neighbor's tree fell over the fence and onto your roof causing major damage and he refused to pay for it. You would think since it's not your tree, it's not your responsibility, right? Wrong! Sadly, at this point most will be surprised to learn there's not much you can do to force your neighbor to cover the damage. The law says a fallen tree on your property is your problem to deal with unless you take preventive measures before the occurrence.

Insurance claims can be expensive due to deductible fees and premium hikes — most homeowners will try to avoid them at all cost. If your neighbor refuses to cooperate and doesn't want to call his carrier, you can file a claim on their behalf, provided you have the information necessary to start the process.

Prove your claim

Your neighbor's insurer will likely try to avoid covering for an expensive claim unless you can prove to them that it was a known hazard, and that you had notified your neighbor of your concerns in writing. Consider that liability claims can be hard to prove and are often settled in court if you encounter resistance from the other party, so be prepared to provide hard evidence and documentation to support it. As the party who experienced the loss, you'll be required to provide the date and time of the occurrence, as well as a full detailed description of the damage.

Also, be ready and expect an insurance claims adjuster's investigation, which will typically happen once you file the claim. The insurance adjuster will likely do a site visit to gather evidence that either backs or counters your allegations.

Be proactive, not reactive

To avoid a possible sour conflict with your neighbor, take these steps beforehand, so there are no surprises if the unfortunate happens.

  1. Talk to your neighbor about your concerns about the tree(s) and procure to reach an agreement to try to minimize the risk of damages.

  2. Offer to exchange homeowner's insurance policy information to show good faith from your end.

  3. Trim back the branches that flow into your property as much a possible.

  4. Document your agreements (or lack thereof) in writing so there is physical evidence of such.

Remember, these matters are commonly settled by insurance companies, which don’t really profit from payouts. So, neither insurance (yours or your neighbor's) will want to pay for the damage repairs or replacements. If the matter settles in court, liability will be decided by the bench. Whatever your particular situation, consider the benefits of a solar system greatly surpass most obstacles you'll encounter on the way, particularly those involving a neighbor. I hope this article helped to give you some ideas on how to protect your property and your solar investment.

MANOLO BARDEGUEZ - Welcome to my Blog. I hope the articles on this site inspire you and I encourage you to discover the benefits of going solar for yourself by clicking Go Solar. By clicking Join you can also learn how you can join our movement to connect the world to sustainable technologies and get paid handsomely by the fastest growing solar company in America. If you have any questions, contact me directly at ManoloBard@SunbrightNet.com or call me by clicking the phone icon above.

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