RICS Issues Warnings about Solar Panel Installations. What if you have installed solar panels on your property, and now you are moving house?
In the last few years many householders have installed solar panels. Some for ecological reasons, others because it made good financial sense. Anyone with about £12,000 to invest could be guaranteed high returns by the Government’s feed-in tariffs. Solar energy companies were quick to spot an opportunity to ‘rent’ roof space from those who wished to benefit from the incentives without spending their own money on the installation.
What impact do solar roofs have when you move home? In recent years numerous studies have suggested that solar panels command a premium approximately equivalent to their cost of installation. It seemed you couldn’t lose by having solar panels on your home.
However, a recent report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) suggests that there could be problems. If you are buying a home with solar panels already installed, it is very important to get an independent Chartered Surveyor to look at the condition of the roof.
Structural damage. Installers of solar panels are not yet subject to formal regulation - there is a danger that a DIY or badly done professional installation could be damaging to the structure of the building. A roof can be damaged during installation, so that for example, it might leak where not properly flashed in. Or over time the panels can cause serious problems in a roof not strong enough to take the additional weight.
Problems with the lease. If the panels are not owned outright by the seller of the property, this can present a problem. Many such leases run for up to 25 years without a break clause, effectively committing any new owner to maintain the arrangement. The prospective buyer may not want to keep the installation and will be put off buying if a long lease is in place.
Problems with the mortgage. The installation of solar panels and the leasing of the roof to a solar energy company may not have been discussed or agreed with the mortgage provider. Any such breach of the mortgage agreement can come to light when it is time to sell and cause problems for the home owner.
In addition to the problems outlined above, changes to the Government’s subsidies mean that buyers may well be less willing to take on someone else’s solar installation. The Government has announced that the feed-in tariffs will be cut by half in December 2011. This means that having solar panels on your roof is no longer such an attractive idea in cash terms, and if a buyer doesn’t like the look of them, or prefers a different technology or set up, or if there are problems with the lease, this can all add up to a much harder property sell.
If you have solar panels on your property, it may be wise to address these concerns before putting your house on the market or before you purchase a house with panels on the roof.