(WSVN) - A showdown over solar panels in a South Florida community. One man says he was trying to save money, but says his homeowner’s association gave him a hard time. So he called Help Me Howard With Patrick Fraser.
Pablo and Lilia have been married for 14 years. Long enough to be comfortable enough to joke with each other.
Pablo Vasconcelos: “Let me put it this way: I’ve been expensively married for the last 14 years.”
The Vasconceloses can laugh at themselves. But when it comes to South Florida’s environment, they are serious.
Pablo Vasconcelos: “We are the state that has the most sunshine in the country. Why not take advantage of that?”
When Pablo needed to replace his entire roof, he decided that was a good time to also install solar panels. It would cost a lot — but also save a lot.
Pablo Vasconcelos: “We have a combination of the roof and the solar panels, about $65,000.”
Pablo then pulled everything together: an engineer, a roofing company, a solar installation company. He even got preliminary approval from Miami-Dade County.
And then the California Club Homeowners Association responded…
Pablo Vasconcelos: “The association says it can only be installed on the flat roof of the property.”
Pablo needs 36 solar panels for his power needs. Since part of his flat roof is in the shade much of the day, the engineer said only six panels could be put there. The other 30 would be installed on the inclined part of his roof.
The association president said no way.
Pablo Vasconcelos: “This is the first time you get this request. He said, ‘No, I already denied three other requests.'”
There is a state law that says an association can tell you where to put the panels unless it restricts their effectiveness, which Pablo says would happen in his case. So he showed the association president the law.
Pablo Vasconcelos: “He got really upset when I said that, and he said, ‘You know what? I put a special assessment of a $1,000 to each owner and I take you to court.'”
Needless to say, Pablo is stunned that he is following the law and the association is blocking him from installing solar panels by not following the law.
Pablo Vasconcelos: “Frustrated. Only one thing that take my sleep, and it is injustice.”
Well, Howard, who is reading the law correctly, Pablo or the association?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “Pablo is right. As the law says, the association can determine where the solar panels go, but the law goes on to say those rules cannot make the solar panels ineffective. That’s what would happen in this case, so the association has to back down.”
We contacted the California Club President Conrad Tkach. He didn’t want to talk to us.
The association’s attorney, Cheryl Levin, sent a letter saying she believes the board can determine the location of the panels, and does not believe that the location the engineer says is shaded will impair the effective operation of the solar panels.
Howard Finkelstein: “Pablo needs to legally go after the association, and when he wins — and I think he will win — the association will not only have to pay their attorney’s fees, they will have to pay Pablo’s attorney’s fees, as well any costs he incurs.”
Pablo will now have to go to court to get a judge to order the association to allow him to install the solar panels, because he says the board president is not backing down.
Pablo Vasconcelos: “Seems to me this is something personal. He does not like it, and he is not going to approve it.”
Here come the legal battle, and unless they have a money tree growing at the California Club Homeowners Association, every homeowner is going to have to open their checkbook over the decision to block Pablo from putting his solar panels where he needs to put them.
Scorched trying to generate a solution to your problem? Ready for another source to power you? You don’t need a panel to assist, just a couple of people with a sunny outlook on things. That’s us.
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