Installing solar panels has become an attractive way for homeowners to potentially increase the value of their homes and trim their electrical bills. In Connecticut, more than 19,000 households currently use solar power, according to the Department of Consumer Protection. Recently, the state passed a new law stipulating that HOA’s cannot block members from installing solar panels, which will pave the way for more households to add solar systems in the coming years.
But when it comes to buying or selling a home, solar panels definitely add a wrinkle to the closing process that will require extra care and attention. Knowing what you’re dealing with can go a long way when navigating solar panel transfers, so let’s outline what to expect.
What steps are required to transfer solar panels?
A seller can either lease or own solar panels, and the steps for transferring the panels will differ in each case. Either way, the seller usually initiates the process by reaching out to the solar company, which will lead the company to contact the buyer and describe the necessary steps. The solar company will also tell the buyer about outstanding payments on the lease.
If a seller leases solar panels, most solar companies will have filed what’s called a “Uniform Commercial Code” (UCC-1) on the land record. This is essentially a lien that shows the solar company is the true owner of the home solar system. By publicly declaring ownership, the solar company ensures the bank will not claim the solar system as part of the homeowner’s property. When leased solar panels get transferred to a new owner, the UCC-1 filed for the previous owner gets released and a new one will need to be filed.
If a buyer refuses to assume the lease obligation, the seller legally must pay the balance of the lease at closing, because ownership of the property must be transferred free from liens.
If the seller does not want to inherit solar panels, they can negotiate to have them removed before closing, but if an agreement isn’t reached, they will have to do it themselves after the sale is finalized.
Transferring solar panels can add time to a closing
From our experience, the process when dealing with solar panel companies can move slowly. Solar companies, many of which of relatively new, don’t always have a department or much staff dedicated to handling transfers, so communication can take additional time.
For this reason, I strongly encourage the two sides start the process as soon as possible to get the ball rolling.
Buyers should keep in mind that if they are taking on leased solar panels, their mortgage lender will require information about the lease during the loan application process, making it all the more important to make contact with the solar company as soon as possible.
To finalize the transfer closing, solar companies will usually require the buyer provide a copy of the deed to confirm the property has been transferred.
Buying or selling a home is already a big job, and the transfer of solar panels will add work and complications. But knowing what you’re dealing with going in and having a good team of real estate professionals around you during the transaction will ensure efficiency and thoroughness.
At Pederson Real Estate Law, attorney Charlene Pederson has over 25 years of experience guiding Connecticut clients through residential real estate transactions. Attorney Pederson has extensive experience with transactions involving solar panels. If you need an experienced, attentive attorney for your closing, reach out today for a free consultation.