What can I do about my neighbor's trees blocking my solar panels?

Solar access rights and regulations vary considerably across the United States. Many states and municipalities protect solar access rights through statutes and ordinances that regulate vegetation obstruction of solar panels. Where such public regulation does not exist, condominium or homeowners associations may adopt covenants, conditions, and restrictions to protect solar access rights. In both public and private settings, regulation often depends on the chronology of the matter.  That is, if Neighbor A’s tree existed at its current stature before Neighbor B installed his solar panel, then the law may rule in favor of Neighbor A. However, if Neighbor A planted trees or had young trees that grew up to obstruct Neighbor B’s existing solar panel, then the law may rule in favor of Neighbor B. Many states also permit solar easements, which are agreements between landowners to assure access to sunlight by restricting obstructive vegetation. These easements are recorded with the deed, permanently restricting the land use.


Contributed by P. Eric Wiseman, Associate Professor of Urban Forestry, Virginia Tech