Beware any pitfalls of installing solar panels

Rising household energy bills, ever increasing concern for the environment and government incentives to install renewable power souces has seen a boom in solar panel installations on the roofs of homes across Shropshire and Mid Wales.

This has also led to a range of outwardly attractive packages being offered by installers, with a popular option being the ability to have solar panels fitted free of charge and to make use of the electricity generated to run the home, with any excess power going back into the national grid for the installer’s profit.

Such an arrangement is, at first glance, very appealing and could be viewed as a win-win situation. However, in order to be commercially viable, these deals are normally done by way of a 25-year lease on the roof space of the property, which according to one expert on the legal implications of solar installations, throws up a raft of issues homeowners should consider before entering into such an arrangement.

Ellen Tranter, who advises on solar panel contracts at PCB Solicitors, in Shrewsbury, said that these long-term contracts often had very specific obligations for homeowners to meet, and should not be entered into without first obtaining permission from any mortgage lender with an interest in the property.

It is also very important to examine the detail in the agreement, to be clear on who is responsible for what. Very often the home owner will remain responsible for the roof structure and its repair and may even face having to pay compensation to the electricity company for any profits lost if the solar panels should have to be removed to make repairs to the property, as well as any cost to the installer to remove the panels for such work to take place.

Ellen explained that leases would often restrict homeowners from doing anything which might interfere with the flow of light to the solar panels, including erecting new extensions or allowing trees to grow to a height or width that shades them.

She added: “It’s very hard to plan 25 years ahead for anything, but if you go down this route to lease your roof space in return for the power from solar panels, you have to think about the long-term consequences. Generally, at the end of the lease the installer will be under no obligation to remove the panels from the property, which could leave the householder with redundant technology that will be expensive to dismantle.

“There is no argument that solar energy is environmentally friendly and provides an opportunity to reduce energy bills. However homeowners need to be fully aware of the commitments associated with a lease of this kind and legal advice should be sought before signing on the dotted line. Such leases and agreements change from company to company and homeowners should always get specialist guidance to ensure peace of mind for many years to come.?

If you would like to contact Ellen with regards to the above please email her : ellen.tranter@pcblaw.co.uk.

 

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