New Illinois law may help homeowners sued over solar panels

FOX Files

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – A home in Belleville is an eyesore, according to a lawsuit filed by the neighborhood homeowner’s association. It’s over the placement of solar panels.

The homeowners are Jennifer and Mark Bassler.

“We want to reduce our carbon footprint and help the environment as much as possible and so this is something we had thought about for a while,” Jennifer Bassler said.

They had solar panels professionally installed in October 2020, despite HOA rules that say they can only be in the back. They wanted maximum efficiency and impact for complete coverage. They and their attorney believed they were protected by Illinois law.

John Albers of Shay Law in Peoria, Illinois said the law is called the Homeowners Energy Policy Statement Act.

“Usually, when I get involved in situations like this it’s simply a matter of educating the HOA on what that law provides for, and in every instance, in the past, they’ve just said ‘oh, ok’ and that’s the end of it,” Albers said.

“In this instance, they insisted they would be able to enforce their policy.”

Neighbor Frank Wallace said he supports the Basslers.

“The job of the HOA is to protect our home values,” he said.

Wallace said he told the HOA to stop spending his dues on attorney fees to go after people doing the right thing.

His response from the HOA was that “They said most of the people we’ve spoken to in the Orchards say they’re against putting solar panels where others can see them.”

“I don’t believe it because I’ve spoken to many, many people that live here and they’re not against solar,” Wallace said. “We’re all for the whole renewable energy thing.”

The HOA would not comment to Fox 2, citing ongoing litigation.

“We have had a lot of people who’ve told us if things go well for you we would be interested in pursuing solar as well, so I know it’s something that a lot of people even in just this neighborhood have been interested in, but they’ve kind of had their hands tied,” Bassler said.

A bill awaiting Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature could bring a victory for the Basslers, as it would strengthen homeowners’ rights to get solar panels.

FOX 2 will post an update on that bill, as well as what happens in court.

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