Is free energy from solar panels a good idea?

Our lawyer Fiona McNulty sheds light on the legal issues of getting free electricity via solar panels installed under a "rent our roof" lease
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© Merrily Harpur
Question: We own a house that faces south. My brother suggested we install solar panels on the roof, which would give us free energy, plus cash from "feed-in" tariffs. It sounds great but the kit costs a lot of money. However, we have found a company that will pay for the installation in return for receiving the tariff payments, but we would still get free electricity. The company wants a lease to "rent our roof". Is this a good idea?

Answer: These schemes are becoming quite popular and all use a similar legal framework. This includes a lease granting the company exclusive rights to your roof for a fixed period (usually 25 years). It expects to earn enough from the tariff payments to recoup its outlay and make a profit in addition. Your job is to see if the figures stack up.

For a start, you can't store energy generated when you are not in the property, so how much free electricity will you actually get? You must also ask whether the arrangement will put off potential buyers if you decide to sell; if you have a mortgage, you will need your lender's consent.

Also ask who will remove the panels at the end of the term; when and how the company will obtain access (through your house?) and who pays for repairs. If you decide the benefits outweigh any disadvantages, instruct a solicitor to go through the lease in detail to ensure that you do not take on any unexpected liabilities.

What's your problem?


If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP www.thrings.com.


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