Solar panel approvals in a body corporate

Solar panel approvals in a body corporate

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Solar panel approvals in a body corporate

In the realm of renewable energy, solar power stands as the quintessential innovation of the 21st century. Much like how air conditioning became a household staple in the early 2000s, solar panels have now found their place on rooftops across the nation. This surge in popularity has a new challenge: the complexities surrounding approval for solar installations within body corporate schemes. 

Body corporate managers are no strangers to this phenomenon. In the early 2000s, air conditioning approval forms became commonplace on their websites, reflecting the surge of interest in this transformative technology. Fast forward to today, and the scenario has evolved. With the cost of solar plummeting with government rebates and technological advancements, requests for solar panel installations have become a common occurrence, prompting the need for clear and navigable approval processes. In this article, we will explore the legislation as well as solar panel approval conditions and rules within body corporate schemes. 

Can the body corporate refuse solar?

While bodies corporate once held the authority to deny residents the right to install solar panels, the Queensland Government has taken significant steps to redefine this privilege as an unequivocal right. In both 2010 and, more recently, in 2022, the government established solar panels as an entitlement for property owners, including those within strata schemes. This progressive move ensured owners within bodies corporate could not have their request unreasonably denied by committees and/or developers due to aesthetic concerns of the installation. 

The key consideration for bodies corporate has now shifted towards tracking the installations themselves. Knowing who has undertaken what and ensuring they have been professionally installed by licensed contractors using compliant products. The objective is to not only minimise potential issues with the integrity of the roof, but to safeguard the collective interests of the community by ensuring that fixtures and fittings like this are incorporated into the body corporate’s policy of insurance. 

So, while a body corporate cannot outright veto the installation of solar panels, it does have the authority to establish by-laws governing various aspects of their upkeep and maintenance. These include provisions of who is responsible for the maintenance of the system, as well as the roof underneath, and who is responsible for costs if the body corporate needs to temporarily remove solar panels to conduct roof repairs.  

Can you install solar on your property?

While the popularity of solar is skyrocketing, specific by-laws addressing solar panels are still relatively uncommon, especially in older buildings. Where there are no solar installation by-laws in place for your building, the following general guidelines may assist: 

Can I install solar on my property?

Apartment buildings

Apartment buildings are constructed vertically where units are stacked on top of one another, often making the roof space potentially available for owners as this is common property. 

In these instances, the body corporate may choose to install a solar panel system that provides a shared benefit to owners in the scheme. Whilst there is no direct cost-saving passed onto individual owners by reducing energy costs within a lot, the shared system can reduce energy costs for common area facilities which are often running 24 hours a day.  

Facilities like lifts, pools, gyms, lighting in foyers, stairwells, car parks and the common areas generally. Reducing costs in common area electricity consumption can be passed onto owners as less is required to be recovered from owners in levies. 

Townhouses, duplexes or stand-alone houses in a body corporate

In a townhouse complex, you will either have your own roof or a shared roof with 2 or 3 or more other lots. There are two types of plan subdivisions, each with different requirements explained below: 

Building format plan (BFP) – comprises around 90% of townhouses, duplexes, or strata houses in Queensland. In a BFP, the body corporate owns the roof making it part of the common property, which means it is the body corporate’s responsibility to maintain. As a solar panel request is dealing with an improvement to common property by a lot owner, how the request is approved (either by a committee or the body corporate) comes down to the cost of the installation.  

Where the cost exceeds $3,000, the request must be considered by owners at a general meeting. If the cost is less than $3,000, a committee can approve the request. Note: This is where there is the potential to add a by-law streamlining the process – essentially stating all owners can put solar on the roof directly above their lot, with the consent of the committee to ensure it is done professionally.  

BCsystems tip: We are often asked if, when the cost to you is under $3,000 due to government rebates, if approval by an AGM or EGM is still required. Yes! This is calculated on the cost of the change, not necessarily the out-of-pocket cost to the owner.  

Standard format plan (SFP) – comprise of approximately 10% of townhouses, duplexes or strata houses. Under an SFP, the roof is owned by the owner, making it your responsibility to maintain. your scheme’s by-laws will still require that your request be approved however all requests are considered at committee level, and the committee cannot unreasonably decline the application.  

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