More and more South Africans are rushing to get solar systems for their homes, to get off the grid and escape loadshedding and the country’s ongoing electricity crisis. If you live in a sectional title complex, however, harnessing the power of the sun has become a heated issue. Should individuals be allowed to install their own solar systems, or should trustees and bodies corporate undertake these projects to benefit all owners?

With the one-year tax rebate now available to residents, solar systems have become even more attractive, so sectional title schemes and role players like managing agents, trustees and bodies corporate need to arm themselves with the facts and be prepared for an influx of applications from owners. National Treasury says that bodies corporate and sectional title schemes will not be able to take advantage of the rooftop solar tax breaks.

In my experience, bodies corporate are generally allowing individuals to install their own solar panels on condition that the sectional title property owner pays for them and also for the maintenance thereof. Because solar panels generally need to be installed on the roofs of units or carports, and these are common property in a sectional title development, an owner wanting to install solar would need to get consent from the body corporate by way of a Special Resolution. You simply cannot make decisions about installing solar panels on your own when you live in a sectional title property.

On a practical level, instead of providing permission to one individual owner, I would advise the trustees to word the resolution in such a way as to create a policy on solar for all owners.

If the trustees decide that the whole complex should go solar, they would need to send a letter to all owners with details of the project, including the cost, how it will be funded and how it will look. Which roofs will the panels be installed on, for example? Will a special levy need to be raised? Would there be any issues with the weight of the panels? If the body corporate plans to install a system using reserve funds, it will also be responsible for maintenance. Once the trustees have sent out the letter outlining their solar project, owners would have 30 days in which to object.

Installing solar power in a sectional title home is not a quick or simple solution to the electricity crisis. There are tricky issues to unravel around relationships, money and aesthetics.

Director, BBM Law
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