When impending massive energy price rises hit the news in the summer of 2021, I immediately asked my housing association for permission to install solar panels in my garden. I have a space where they could face south and get the full benefit of the sun.
The initial response was rudely blunt: "We don't allow tenants to install solar. It’s not allowed."
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After extracting the information that the person to answer my many questions was the Heating Partnerships Manager, I sent him an email asking WHY. He phoned me a few days later and angrily stated his dislike of being threatened with legal action by me.
I encouraged him to rant on.
He said he believed in alternative energy and was deeply committed professionally and personally to net zero, as was the housing association. He explained they had targets of 2035 for commencing solar installation throughout the housing stock and 2050 for completing the programme. He's not well, poor chap. I forgot to ask if he has solar on his house, but it's safe to assume he has, I think, don't you?
Next, I wrote to the association's legal team asking them to set out their reasons for refusal of permission for solar and got a comprehensive reply several weeks later. The main reasons are that it's hazardous to have a cable running through a garden, and they don't have a team of inspectors yet to check on safety. They also expressed concern about decommissioning and safety inspection costs.
I replied saying, "OK, can I place panels on the roof?" pointing out (as a reminder to these people where this will end up) that a court might not consider their failure to acquire inspectors as a valid reason for refusing permission. In respect of their concerns about decommissioning and regular safety inspection costs, I insisted that I was sure we could negotiate a deal that was satisfactory to them.
After a couple of weeks, I got another letter from the legal team saying they were developing a full and comprehensive response. And then, about six weeks later, I received a response from the legal team as a whole, with no signature, just from “The Legal Team.” They stated, without giving any reasons at all, that solar installation would NOT be allowed under any circumstances, and the matter was closed. Their tone was condescending and angry.
What happened to the full response?
On the morning of 5th September, I asked for an appointment to see my lawyer preparatory to summoning my Housing Association to the county court.
An interesting soupçon adding flavour to this ensemble is that six weeks ago, I asked my neighbour to remove a length of power cable where it protrudes into my garden. I didn't mention it could be dangerous even though it's armoured. She explained that she would remove it when an electrician was available. By then, I had written two letters to the housing association complaining about the protrusion. They have not replied to either letter.
Perhaps they don't think a power cable is dangerous after all. I am keen to establish the real reason the housing association has refused permission. Could it be that, actually, now they've been forced to think about it, there IS no reason?
I hope to get a consultation with a lawyer sooner than my neighbour can get an electrician. This is a nerve-wracking time for me because until I see a lawyer, it’s difficult to know for sure if I have a case. I will keep readers informed of developments. Please kindly let me know if you have comments, questions or advice.
Since Jack wrote this article, another reader, who wished to remain anonymous, has been in touch to tell us of a similar experience. They told Pension Times: "I am also having problems. I am in shared ownership housing and have been offered solar panels it's so annoying because they won't allow this, especially at times like this when you really need them. Something needs to be done because I've been assured that fitted on the roof there shouldn't be any safety issues and being an ex-health and safety man I can't see any problems either. It's the same old housing trying to make money again somehow. If there's nothing in it for them then they don't want to know."
Are you in a similar position to Jack? Is your local authority or housing association landlord putting unnecessary barriers in front of initiatives that can ease your financial burden? Leave a comment below or get in touch to tell us your story.