Homeowners hoping to save money by leasing their roofs to host solar panels could struggle to sell their houses, surveyors have warned.
Squeezed Britons have rushed to rent out roof space to solar energy companies for some extra income, encouraged by state subsidies for the industry.
The problem is that many leases run for up to 25 years without a break clause, which could put off prospective buyers who do not want to keep the panels, according to RICS, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
Homeowners may also unwittingly violate the terms of their mortgage by signing a long-term lease which is not acceptable to the lender.
In addition, RICS warned that installers are not yet subject to formal regulation, so people could be tied into a contract which risks structural damage. Nor do all agreements promise to upgrade the equipment, which could leave unwary leasers tied to the rooftop equivalent of an unfashionable bathroom suite that cannot be removed.
“While we wholeheartedly support the use and production of green energy, it is important that consumers are aware of the potential dangers before entering into these agreements,” said David Dalby, director of RICS. “Anybody considering it should consult their mortgage provider and seek legal advice.”
The boom began when the Government announced its “feed-in tariff” or subsidy scheme in April 2010, which offers money to homeowners who generate electricity through renewable means.
Those unwilling to pay the £12,000 or so needed to install solar panels can still benefit by renting out their roof to a solar provider, which collects the subsidy and sells the energy on to power suppliers.
The warning comes at a bad time for solar panel installers, with Greg Barker, the energy minister, on Monday set to announce cuts to the subsidy.
The Government is expected to halve the state incentives given to installations before the year end, as costs for panels have been falling rapidly.
Alex Lockton, managing director of Freesource Energy, said: “We can live with a 50pc cut in the tariff but, if the December deadline is true, we urge the Government to reconsider the timing, which is going to cause short-term chaos across the solar industry.”