Shining A Light On Legal Issues Surrounding Solar Panels

Expert Looks At FITs And How They Affect Homeowners

20.06.2012


Solar panels are a common sight on many homes across the UK, but what do you need to bear in mind when buying a property featuring solar panels owned by a third party? Jamie Wilcock from Irwin Mitchell’s Conveyancing team examines the issues, beginning with a look at Feed In Tariffs.

Feed In Tariffs (FITs) came into force in Great Britain on 1 April 2010 and are administered by Ofgem. In a nutshell, a solar panel provider will install the panels on the roof of the property and the owner will have the benefit of the electricity generated by the panels during daylight hours. The provider will then be paid for this at a fixed tariff.

However, the energy is not stored and any not immediately used will be sold back to the electricity company at an inflated rate to help the UK meet its climate change and renewable energy targets.

If the owner uses more than the amount of electric generated at any time, or if electricity is used when the panels are not producing energy (eg. at night), then the rest of the electricity will be pulled from the electricity grid.

FITs are available to everyone, including businesses, landlords, local authorities and households and the government is required to carry out regular reviews of the FITs scheme, including tariff levels.

Often the provider of the solar panels will install them free of charge to the owner of the property, subject to the owner entering into a lease of the airspace above the roof.

The leases vary but they are often for a term of 25 years which will see the provider pay for maintenance, repair and insurance for the solar panel system. In addition, the provider will have various rights over the property such as a right of entry to the house in order to install, maintain, alter and replace the solar panel system. 

A clause is often included that the provider will remove the system temporarily to enable improvement works to be carried out on the home; however this is up to the individual lease as to how often this will be allowed.

Are Building Regulations required?

Solar Panel installation will usually require building regulations, although some installers are registered under the self certified scheme and will notify the council automatically

Is Planning Permission required?

Planning is not usually required unless the property is situated within a conservation area or other area where the usual permitted development has been revoked or if the property is a listed building. If you are unsure as to whether planning is required please speak to your local council.

Will solar panels affect my ability to get a mortgage?

This is up to your individual mortgage lender; the Council of Mortgage Lenders has issued guidance to their members regarding solar panel schemes. The lender will need to ascertain whether the provider is accredited and whether the scheme meets the lender’s minimum requirements.