Can we really have free solar panels on our roof?

Our property lawyer Fiona McNulty answers your questions

Question: We are interested in having solar panels on our roof and have been told it is possible to have a deal where we don't pay for them to be fitted, and we also get free electricity. This seems too good to be true. How does it work?

Answer: The Government is keen to encourage the generation of low-carbon energy. A feed-in tariff pays people for generating their own electricity. The feed-in tariffs enable a home owner to earn income through the generation tariff, export tariff and through the electricity supplier. The generation tariff is based on the electricity generated from the panels and the export tariff is for any surplus electricity exported.

Some solar panel firms, in order to benefit from the feed-in tariff, run "rent-a-roof" schemes which involve leasing the airspace over a roof, including rights over the roof structure for the installation of photovoltaic or solar panels. The firm will lease airspace for 20-25 years, for example, and in exchange will install and maintain panels at no cost to you, generally keeping generation and export tariffs while you get the benefit of free electricity.

Consider the proposed contract very carefully and establish, for example, who owns the solar panel system, and what happens if you wish to sell your property, or make alterations or carry out work near the panels? If you have a mortgage you may need your lender's consent for such a lease, so contact them to establish their requirements. The lease will have to meet the minimum requirements of the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Take legal advice before proceeding.



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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.



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