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Solar panels at home – too good to be true?

  • May 23, 2014
  • By Hunters Law

A growing number of companies are offering free installation of solar panels (or photovoltaic cells as they’re known) and free electricity for your home through “rent a roof” schemes; but is the lure of free electricity too good to be true?

This article only deals with the free installation schemes. Generally the other type of scheme involves home-owners purchasing solar panels and selling any surplus energy back to the electricity company.

There are a number of complex issues to consider and before you commission a company to install free solar panels we suggest you consult a solicitor.

The companies who carry out the installations retain ownership of the panels and require a lease from you, usually for 25 years, of the roof and the air space above the roof.  The quid pro quo is that the home-owner receives free electricity generated by the panels for the duration of the lease; but feed in tariffs (for the excess energy) are retained by the solar panel provider.

The following should be carefully considered:

1.Under the terms of the lease the company must have access to the roof at any time during the term which is typically 25 years. The lease might give you a break right; but you are likely to have to buy the panels from the provider (at great cost) when doing so.

2.A survey must be carried out prior to installation to ensure that the roof is suitable to withstand the weight of the panels without causing any structural damage.

3.Building regulations will normally apply and roof strengthening work may be required.

4.Planning permission is not usually required unless the property is in a conservation area or is a listed building.

5.Finally, but most importantly, all leases must be approved in advance by your mortgage provider and this can also affect marketability as the panels may not be an attractive proposition for a prospective purchaser with a mortgage.

The installation of solar panels is a complex area and we suggest you take legal advice at each stage of the process.

If you would like advice on any aspect of property law, please contact the partner at Hunters having responsibility for your legal matters, or (for new enquiries) please contact a member of our Property team.

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