As more and more business owners and homeowners in New Jersey take advantage of the incentives available to build and maintain solar energy systems and solar panels, it’s important that such investments be protected from unwanted disputes with neighbors. A little known New Jersey statute may be able to help.
Recent statistics on New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program website indicate that New Jersey is the fastest growing market for solar power in the United States, and has the largest number of solar panel installations, second only to California, where neighborly disputes over trees blocking solar panels, solar panels impairing views, causing glare and other general nuisance claims are becoming more and more common. To avoid the same pitfalls in New Jersey, those installing solar panels should take advantage of New Jersey’s Solar Easements Act (N.J.S.A. 46:3-24, et. seq.), on the books since 1978.
Solar easements prohibit those giving the easement, for example, a neighbor, from obstructing the benefiting property’s access to sunlight. Under a solar easement, the neighbor would be precluded from construction or placement of anything in a specified area described by vertical and horizontal angles, that would block sunlight to the solar panels on the adjacent property. The Act grants formal legal standing to solar easements and sets forth required content for easement instruments. The easement instrument must include:
- A description of the easement
- Terms/conditions under which the easement will be granted or terminated
- Provisions setting forth any compensation to the owner of the property being burdened by the easement in return for maintaining the easement or compensation to the owner of the property benefiting from the easement in the event of interference with the easement
Those looking to obtain a solar easement from their neighbors need to know that granting of such easements is not mandated by the Act, so negotiations with their neighbors will be required. It’s recommended that interested parties work with an attorney to negotiate and draft solar easements. It may be annoying to negotiate such a document prior to installing a solar energy system, but it could avoid future problems from neighbors who have second thoughts after a solar installation is built.