Some home owners have been swayed by the prospect of free electricity and in some cases an income from selling spare electricity to power companies.

The installation of solar panels on roofs of properties can sometimes create a huge amount of difficulties and any homeowner considering such an option should fully investigate the facts and potential pitfalls. Not only should legal advice be obtained but also expert advice from a surveyor.

Where solar panels are bought outright, the homeowner will benefit from free electricity. They will be responsible for the maintenance and repair of the property including the roof and solar panels.  However, the difficulty arises when the panel providers retain ownership and take a lease for usually around 25 years on the roof and airspace above the property.  It must be clear who has responsibility for maintenance and repair of the panels and also the roof.

Adding solar panels could cause damage to the roof structure. Building regulation approval would need to be obtained if the panels will add more than a third to the weight of the existing roof covering and an assessment is therefore vital.  There is possibility that planning permission would also need to be sought.

In addition to the safety aspect, some lenders will not lend where a lease of the roof and airspace has been created and there are a number of requirements to be satisfied before lenders will accept the position. Therefore, there is a real risk that the property could become un-mortgageable thereby greatly reducing the property’s saleability and value.

Another matter to consider is that some titles contain restrictive covenants which do not permit any alterations or additions without the consent of the original transferor. A charge would more than likely be made for such consent.  Installation of solar panels without consent would be a breach of covenant and this would need to be rectified by obtaining retrospective consent or indemnity insurance depending upon the circumstances.

Clearly, the installation of solar panels must be carefully considered and advice sought before any commitment is entered into.