Conditions may include cost, technical requirements, building and electrical permits, and method of installation
Dear Tony: We live in a medium sized townhouse complex on the Sunny Coast. Two owners have notified the condominium board that they will be installing solar panels to reduce their energy consumption. This will require fixing the panels to the roof and accessing electrical cables, and can have a long term impact on the maintenance and potential replacement costs of roofs in the future. Our board has several concerns and would appreciate some guidelines on how to address this.
In a townhouse complex, the building exterior and roof systems are usually common property. This is the situation in your condominium corporation. Owners wishing to install solar panels request permission to alter the common property, this could also result in a material change in the use or appearance of the common property. Your Articles of Association, with the same wording as the standard Condominium Ownership Law Articles, requires an owner to seek written permission from the Condominium Corporation/Board before altering common ownership. The condominium board may apply conditions on cost, technical requirements around installation of panels and trays, building and electrical permits as this system will be connected to existing electrical service, method of installation and who is qualified and insured to install the system, and future impact such as roof renewal. The condominium corporation may require as a condition of installation that owners assume responsibility for costs associated with installation and maintenance requirements, and conditions on how a future owner will be responsible for the installation.
It is beneficial for the condo corporation to have a modification agreement drafted by a lawyer who regularly deals with condo issues, and this cost may also be a condition of the agreement. It sounds a bit excessive, but damaged roofing systems or increased fire risk will cost all homeowners dearly if not formally addressed, and the increased risk puts a strain on your insurance qualifications. This modification can also be a significant change in the use or appearance of the property, requiring a special general meeting and a vote of 3/4 of the owners.
Solar systems in bare land strata, townhouse complexes, and even common space generation for apartment buildings/high rise buildings are an excellent source of energy with beneficial results if the installation and usage are handled properly. Now might be a good time to hold a landlord briefing. There may be more interested owners, and the product and labor cost benefits are always better when applied on a larger scale. For a helpful newsletter on: Solar PV Systems for Multi-Unit Residential Buildings, go to bchousing.org and access Licensing and Consumer Services.
Tony Gioventu is Executive Director of the Condominium Home Owners Association