Merryn's Blog

More reasons to steer clear of 'rent a roof' solar electricity deals

Solar panels on your roof that are owned by a third party are not only a bad investment idea, they could make it impossible to sell your home.

We've long been wary of the idea that having solar panels put on top of your house is a good idea.

When the huge subsidy payments were first introduced we could see how putting in panels might make sense if you paid for them yourself. If you did, you would see a fall in your energy bills and you would get to sell energy you couldn't use back to the grid. The whole thing would have made you a tax-free and inflation-linked return of about 10% a year.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Become a smarter, better informed investor with MoneyWeek.

However, we really couldn't see how it would make much sense if you used one of the rent-a-roof companies to put a panel up for you.

Sure, you'd save something in the region of £70 a year on your bills. But in return for that, you'd have to put up with the hassle of having the panels fitted and having equipment owned by someone else on your roof for as long as 25 years, which could reduce the resale value of your house and irritate your neighbours. Not worth it at all.

Advertisement - Article continues below

But it turns out that when we said we thought it might affect the resale value of a home, we hadn't even begun to realise the extent of the potential problem.

Having panels on your roof that are owned by an investment company might not just hit the value of your home: it might mean you can't sell it at all. A story on the front of the Guardian Money section this week points to the sad story of John and Rebecca Welton.

The couple had panels installed on their roof in December 2011 by a firm called My Energy Station. MES was to pay for the panels and harvest the astonishingly generous feed-in tariffs they would provide. The Weltons were promised free electricity from the panels during daylight hours (apparently around £150 worth). I wouldn't have thought that much of a deal, but it clearly made some sense to them they were even conscientious enough to check with their mortgage provider (RBS) to make sure it was OK. RBS said it was, and so did their mortgage adviser.

Then they tried to remortgage on to a cheaper deal with the Skipton Building Society. No go. Skipton told their broker it won't offer mortgages on houses with a solar lease in place. They tried the Nationwide. Same story there. And it seems everywhere else.

They can, of course, stay with RBS, but that means taking their chances on the bank's standard variable rate, something that is bound to cost them more than £150 a year as interest rates start to rise.

The whole thing, says John Welton, "has turned out to be a nightmare." And a very expensive one at that: according to a representative of My Energy Station, the couple can buy out the scheme for £15,000, something which would solve the problem. Perhaps it would, but I can't help but think that if the Weltons had had £15,000 to spare in the first place, they would have been unlikely to hand over the rights to their roof and the sun above it for 25 years for a mere £150.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Last Thursday, I got two phone calls in a row from a very aggressive solar sales person. I hung up on him in the end. I suspect everyone else should do the same.


Most Popular

House prices

The biggest risk facing the UK housing market right now

For house prices to stagnate or even fall would be healthy for the property market, says John Stepek. But there is a distinct danger that isn't going …
17 Feb 2020
UK Economy

How the BBC can survive the end of the TV licence

The TV licence that funds the BBC is looking way past its sell-by date, says Matthew Lynn. Here's how it could survive without it
16 Feb 2020

Money Minute Monday 17 February: good news ahead for the UK economy?

Today's Money Minute looks to a week in which we get the latest employment and inflation numbers, plus retail figures for January and a slew of eurozo…
17 Feb 2020

The rare earth metal that won't be a secret for long

SPONSORED CONTENT – You can’t keep a good thing hidden forever; now is the time to consider Pensana Rare Earths and the rare earth metals NdPr.
31 Jan 2020