Solar Easements & Rights Laws
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The Maryland Real Property Code was amended in April 2008 by H.B. 117 to provide much more detailed protections for solar energy systems and to expand upon the required content of solar easement agreements. Under the new law (effective October 1, 2008) restrictions on use that act to significantly increase the cost of a solar collector system or significantly decrease its efficiency are prohibited. The definition of "restrictions on use" includes any covenant, restriction, or condition contained in a deed; declaration; contract; bylaws of a homeowners or condominium association; security instrument; and any other instrument affecting the transfer or sale of real property or interest in real property. The only condition for this protection is that the owner own or have rights for the exclusive use of the roof or exterior walls of a structure.
In addition to the added detail, other notable changes to the law are: (1) the removal of the July 1, 1980 grandfathering date for existing restrictive covenants; and (2) the replacement of the term "solar collection panels" with "solar collector systems". Solar collection systems are defined to include solar devices primarily used to collect, store, and distribute solar energy for electricity generation, space heating, space cooling, and water heating. This definition appears to include technologies such as passive solar space heating and solar pool heating.
Under H.B. 117, the right of property owners to enter into solar easement agreements is affirmed. Written instruments for this purpose are required to contain a description of the dimensions of the easement (e.g., vertical and horizontal angles), restrictions on potential impairments (e.g., vegetation, structures, etc.), and terms for revision or termination.
* While this law does not apply to historic properties, at least one local jurisdiction -- the Howard County Historic District Commission -- has developed guidelines for solar installations in historic districts.