I live on a 2.5 acre lot. I installed a ground mount solar array 6 years ago. Then 4 years later my neighbor planted over 39 tall cypress trees which are blocking the sunlight. Is there any law in Maryland that protects the solar owner?

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    Do you have any proof that the trees were planted specifically to block your panels? – Greendrake Apr 12 '19 at 7:06
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    Also, the tree is there for two years already. Why did it only now become an issue? – Deduplicator Apr 12 '19 at 11:17
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    neighbor probably didn't want to have to look at solar panels, would rather see trees. – DavePhD Apr 12 '19 at 12:23
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    @DavePhD Seems like sound logic to me. I don't see anything wrong with what the neighbor did. I wouldn't want to look at a bunch of ugly solar panels either. – user91988 Apr 12 '19 at 14:19
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    @only_pro If that was the issue a shorter tree/bush would do just as well... What the OP describes seems more like a spite fence – Bakuriu Apr 12 '19 at 18:33

Maryland has no law requiring a neighbor to not plant / trim trees that might shade a solar panel (on the ground or on the roof). There are laws against deeds, declarations, covenants, contracts etc. (excepting registered historic properties) which prohibit of roof panels (e.g. as part of a HOA's rules). The law also recognizes the right to enter into an easement agreement, but that requires agreement by the neighbor. California has a law requiring tree trimming that would cover this case.

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    "There are laws against legal prohibition of roof panels" Confused by the "legal" in here. What does it mean? Would "There are laws against prohibition of [solar] roof panels" be the same? – Azor Ahai -him- Apr 12 '19 at 17:09
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    My reading of "laws against legal prohibition of X" is "laws against laws prohibiting X". – shoover Apr 12 '19 at 21:41
  • @shoover: So, constitutional restrictions, then? – Vikki - formerly Sean Apr 13 '19 at 3:47
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    @Sean: No, more like laws that make certain clauses in contracts unenforceable. For example, a condominium association can usually put legally binding restrictions on the sorts of improvements you make to your property; the law says that these restrictions can't prohibit you from installing solar panels. – Michael Seifert Apr 13 '19 at 13:56
  • @Sean: Also, you have to bear in mind that there are several different layers of laws here. The state, for example, can preempt or block county and municipal ordinances. – Kevin Apr 13 '19 at 15:08

I am not a lawyer. I do not fully know of the current case law or climate of this type of law in Maryland. The cause of action you are looking for is private nuisance.

“Section 821D of the Restatement (Second) of Torts (1979) defines a private nuisance as a nontrespassory invasion of another’s interest in the private use and enjoyment of land.” See Echard v. Kraft, part III (internal citations omitted).

“Nevertheless, not every interference with the use and enjoyment of land constitutes an actionable nuisance, inasmuch as the interference must be both substantial and unreasonable.” (Ibid)

The facts you have stated may be considered private nuisance, but generally I would think your case is on shaky grounds. To be successful this is not something you should delay in resolving in any way and you will definitely need to hire an attorney. The statue of limitations is generally 3 years so do not delay if you wish to bring a cause of action. After 3 years, you cannot do anything. You may still be able to bring a cause of action because you only realized the trees were a permanent condition two years ago. There are other reasons the statue of limitations may be overcome in this case, ie if temporary nuisance instead of permanent nuisance is established.

An attorney who has experience with this statue should assist you because there is a considerable amount of case law that needs to be evaluated to resolve the question of whether or not a suit should be brought. Additionally, an attorney may be helpful in evaluating if there are any other claims you could be successful in bringing.

I would definitely recommend against going to your neighbor and telling the neighbor you plan to sue him/her for nuisance and to fix the trees right now. Definitely do not file an action yourself as private nuisance seems to be very deferential to the defendant in Maryland and by hiring an attorney, the attorney representing you will be able to craft the best argument in favor of your claim.

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    Seems a bit hard to argue you thought the trees were temporary. – Azor Ahai -him- Apr 12 '19 at 17:10
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    Does the statute of limitations prohibit bringing a case where the cause of action began more than three years again, even if the cause of action still exists? – Acccumulation Apr 12 '19 at 18:11
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    @Acccumulation based on my brief reading of caselaw it seems to suggest that it does prohibit. I can provide a citation later today. – Viktor Apr 12 '19 at 18:24
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    @AzorAhai, you could reasonably argue that you didn't expect them to grow as tall as they did. – Mark Apr 12 '19 at 21:25
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    @Acccumulation here is a link to some caselaw on the issue you asked about: mdcourts.gov/data/opinions/coa/2013/75a12.pdf – Viktor Apr 13 '19 at 5:04

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