As I write this blog, there is a threat of a tropical storm forming off the coast of Florida and there’s another potential storm brewing in the Atlantic. So, we are entering the peak of hurricane season. Get ready. Be prepared.
I’m happy to say that after being without electricity after Wilma and Irma, I bit the bullet and installed an emergency back-up generator in my home. This is no small job. In order to install it, a large work crew had to come to my home and dig up the yard in the front of the house. They installed a 500 gallon tank that holds propane about 10 feet underground and then buried it again. Then, the actual GENERAC GENERATOR was installed in the rear of the home and was connected with underground pipes running the length of the home.
Luckily, I was not required to get permission from my HOA to install it. Despite not needing permission from my association, a plethora of permits and inspections were required. Obviously, if you do this job wrong, you can blow up the neighborhood. The City of Hollywood had to permit electrical, structural, mechanical and zoning. The generator and tank have to be a certain distance away from any home. Inspectors were at my home all the time. And rightfully so.
Even though millions of us live in HOAs in Florida, believe it or not, almost no HOA has anything in their governing documents that speaks about a homeowner’s right to install a back-up generator. So suppose you want to make the investment in your home and spend the money? Can the HOA say NO. In my HOA – the home owner happens to own the front and rear yards. They are not zero lot line homes. I had to produce proof that I was the owner of all the property that would be effected. But suppose you live in an HOA that has zero lot lines? This means that you own your home – but every inch outside your home is owned by the HOA? Now what? Can the HOA prevent you from installing the tank and the generator on association owned or common element property?
You would think that there would be some Florida law that would allow a homeowner to install backup generators in our homeowner associations subject to reasonable restrictions. You would be wrong, there isn’t. Not even for a person who has a medical condition and needs the ability to install an emergency generator for health reasons. However, I would think that if a person has a medical condition, they could ask the HOA for a “reasonable accommodation” under the Fair Housing Act which would allow them to install the generator if 1) it was done totally at their cost; 2) they agree to reimburse and indemnify the association for any damages; 3) they agree it has to be permitted by the county or municipality 4) they agree to replace any damaged grass and hide the generator with landscaping. If they agree to do all that — I think an HOA would have a problem denying the request if made for a medical reason.
But, why should you only get to have a generator if you have a medical condition? Everyone should be allowed to have one. Unfortunately, like so many other failures of the HOA statutes – the law is silent in this regard. So, I would urge HOAs where the homes are zero lot lines, to amend their governing documents to allow owners to install generators if: 1) it was done totally at their cost; 2) they agree to reimburse and indemnify the association for any damages; 3) they agree it has to be permitted by the county or municipality 4) they agree to replace any damaged grass and hide the generator with landscaping. Even better, I would urge The Florida Legislature to amend Florida Statute 720 and allow all owners in HOAs the right to install a generator with necessary and reasonable guidelines.