Solar Panels: Green Dream or Ticking Time Bomb?
David Wallis, head of GA Solicitors’ residential conveyancing department, looks at the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of installing solar panels on a residential property.
Since the government introduced the favourable ‘Feed in Tariff Scheme’ in April 2010, the number of solar panels spotted on roofs around the country has vastly increased.
Of course for homeowners there is substantial appeal in adding these to their homes. This appeal is heightened by the high number of companies which offer to supply and fit the panels free of charge, allowing the homeowner to benefit from free electricity without the hit of an initial investment. Not a bad deal!
Or so it seems initially….As with most things in life, if it seems too good to be true then there is a chance that it probably is!
Essentially, the supplier of the solar panels is leasing the roof, and the air space above it, from the homeowner. This contract is likely to be around 25 years and is legally binding. The homeowner is committed to this period and will need to consider a range of factors; including the ongoing maintenance of the roof. Over a 25 year period it is quite likely the roof of a property would need maintenance – or perhaps even a complete recovering.
On the logistical side there is also a lot to consider. Roof installed solar panels will need building regulation approval and a detailed assessment of all aspects of taking on such responsibility is essential. If the installation does not have building regulation approval then there is a real risk that the house could become structurally unsound, thus making it unsellable and impossible to mortgage.
If the property is in a conservation area or the property is listed, then planning permission and listed building consent will certainly be required. To add to this, all electrical works need to be undertaken by a qualified electrician who can issue a Part P Cer
tificate. The qualification of the person fitting the panels should be checked with the installer.
Of course there is also a high possibility that damage to the roof covering will occur during the fit out. Anyone taking out a contract should ensure that repair work is included and that the roof remains watertight. After all your home insurance will be unlikely to foot the bill should a leak occur as a result of the fit out.
Very importantly, homeowners will need to check if there are covenants in the title deeds which prohibit alterations to the exterior of the property, and that the installer has secured all relevant consents from the Local Authority.
It is not just the structure of the property or the legal details that could affect the property’s saleability. Research has previously demonstrated that panels could affect the marketability of a property due to its negative impact on the aesthetics. Panels it seem do nothing for a building’s kerb appeal.
Of course, some buyers may be attracted by the energy savings but is this a gamble you are willing to take? After all, if you put your house on the market and have a purchaser who does not want to take on the lease, what happens then?
Buyout clauses may well be included however, depending on the size of the roof and the years remaining, this could be up to tens of thousands of pounds.
Do you foot the bill for this? Should your buyer? Or do you simply have to turn them away?
Quite simply, homeowners need to take great care when considering installing solar panels or they could face a ticking time bomb of problems at a later stage. All factors need to be considered to ensure the greatest return and the least damage.