To paraphrase the Beatles’ song, it has been a long cold winter but the sun will come out soon and everything will be all right.
But, will it really be all right if you are thinking of using the sun by installing solar panels on your property?
Typically, solar panels can either be owned where you have paid outright for the panels and their installation or leased whereby the panel provider retains ownership of the panels and takes a lease, usually for 25 years, of the roof space above your property. Either way, some or all of the following points need to be considered to ensure that it is all right to install solar panels:
1. Planning permission
In most cases, installing solar panels is likely to be considered a ‘permitted development’ with no need to apply for planning permission unless your property is listed or in a conservation area. You should, however, always contact your local planning authority to discuss the proposal before any work begins as panels must:
- Not be installed above the highest point of your property (excluding chimneys)
- Not protrude more than 200mm from the surface of your roof
- Not be on a roof which fronts a highway.
2. Building regulations approval
Regardless of whether or not planning permission is required, solar panel installations are normally subject to standing building regulations. The best way to avoid any problems with building regulations is to use a certified installation company to fit your solar panels as the ability of the existing roof to carry the weight of the panel will need to be checked and some strengthening work may be needed. You can find a full list of certified installers and suppliers on the Microgeneration Certification Scheme website.
3. Mortgage requirements
In 2011, the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Building Society Association issued guidance outlining the major issues that should be addressed prior to solar panel installation which provided that a lender must have a right to break a lease and have the solar panels removed if they adversely affect the sale of a property in possession. It is, however, possible that some home owners may have signed contracts with panel providers which contain terms that are unacceptable to lenders and accordingly their properties may be potentially unmortgageable. The guidance notes are available on the CML website.
4. Landlord’s consent
If your property is leasehold then solar panels are an addition to the building which will probably require landlord’s consent under the terms of your lease.
Solar panels could affect the marketability of your property by reducing its ‘pavement appeal’ and deter potential purchasers. It is not clear yet whether buyers will pay more for your property with solar panels because of the energy saving cost or if the panels will reduce the value because it makes your property less attractive.
It is likely that the roof of your property will require periodic maintenance or even a complete replacement during the 25 year period of a solar panel lease. Therefore, any solar panel lease must clearly set out who is responsible for removing the solar panel whilst such works are carried out and also who is to pay the cost of this removal.
Some installations will not be as productive as hoped due to basic matters such as geographical location or orientation and this should to be checked at the outset.
8. Rights to light
The Law Commission has recently asserted that a right to light is a ‘right to enjoy light through defined apertures’ (such as windows, skylights, glass doors etc.) whereas a solar panel benefits from light from all angles making it difficult to define the extent of the easements – a pre-requisite for the existence of a right as an easement. The common view is that there can be no right to receive light to solar panels and therefore if your neighbour erects a building that blocks the light to your panels you will not be able to claim that it is an infringement of this right.
It is probably still too early to assess the impact of solar panels on the property market but, if the above pitfalls can be avoided, the future for solar panels could be a bright one!