18th July 2017
With the regulations surrounding energy performance in households changing from 1 April 2018, an increasing amount of homeowners are installing solar panels, offering them a chance to increase their property’s energy efficiency whilst earning money by producing electricity. Installing solar panels may seem like an attractive proposition, but there are a number of important legal considerations which need to be assessed before proceeding. MSI's Northern UK law member Myerson explains further.
You will not normally need planning permission from the local authority before installing panels because their installation is classed as General Permitted Development. However, to come within this definition, solar panels should not be installed above the highest part of the roof and should not project more than 200mm from the roof slope or wall surface.
Further, if your property is a listed building or in a Conservation Area, National Park or World Heritage Site, you will need planning permission.
The installation of solar panels is controlled under Building Regulations, which are mainly concerned with health and safety, the types of materials used, the construction methods used to carry out the work and making sure the roof is strong enough to support the weight of the solar panels. The vast majority of installers of Solar PV panels belong to a Competent Person Scheme (CPS) and as a result, all relevant parts of the Building Regulations will be covered. If, however, you are intending to install the panels yourself, or through an installer who does not belong to a CPS then an application for Building Regulation Consent must be made and a certificate of compliance issued by the Local Authority.
Third party consents
If your property is leasehold or you have a mortgage, check your documents for limits on what alterations/additions can be made to the property without the landlord’s or mortgagee’s permission. For example, where you have a lease of whole (including the roof space/structure) of a building the tenant will normally have the right to carry out the installation subject to landlord’s consent.
As well as checking the terms of any leases and mortgages affecting your property, the title to the property should be reviewed for any restrictive covenants prohibiting you from making such alterations/additions to your property.
Leasing of a roof space
Some utility companies offer to enter into leases with homeowners for their roof space and airspace above to place solar panels there. These leases are known as business leases which, unless properly dealt with, benefit from the protection of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 which allows the utility company to renew its lease and retain the panels on the roof when the original lease term expires.
Homeowners must also take care to ensure that they do not remain liable for complying with any obligations in the lease after the property is sold. These same obligations could also have an impact on the marketability and value of the property should the homeowner wish to sell. A buyer would need to buy your property subject to the terms of the lease and if they view the obligations as onerous, may decide not to buy.
Whilst solar panels could save you money in the long term, depending on the property, there may be legal obligations to overcome that could affect whether they are a worthwhile investment. Myerson has the expertise to guide you through these issues. If you would like to discuss any of these issues, please contact a member of the Residential Conveyancing team on +44 (0) 161 941 4000.
Myerson was founded in Manchester, Cheshire over 30 years ago and is a leading, full service commercial and private client law firm providing bespoke legal advice to businesses and affluent individuals across Manchester, Cheshire, the UK and beyond.
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