Row after tenant electrician fitted solar panels on own French home

He is qualified to install panels but rental agency says it did not give permission. A court will rule on whether permission was needed for the panels which are on walls rather than the roof

Some of the confusion comes over the panels being installed on the property’s walls, which is unusual
Published Last updated

An electrician and his partner could be evicted from their rented bungalow in southern France after he installed solar panels without permission from the property’s owner, a large rental agency in the area.

The electrician, identified only in the media as ‘Benjamin’, is a registered self-employed electrician and has certificates that allow him to install solar panels.

He used his skills to fix eight photovoltaic panels to the bungalow in Montaigu-de-Quercy (Tarn-et-Garonne) and says he informed the owning rental company two months in advance of the project and did not hear back. He said he assumed it did not oppose the work.

Rental company claims works are illegal

Tarn et Garonne Habitat, however, claims the wall-mounted installations have damaged the property due to the holes drilled to fit the solar panels, as well as creating safety risks.

It claims the property had just undergone a ‘thermal renovation’, so the new walls should not have been tampered with, even for such added ecological renovations.

It also believes the instalment should have included a signed agreement between the tenants and Enedis, which manages France’s electrical grid, and the installation of a Linky metre, neither of which were provided.

The company also argues that, despite Benjamin’s qualifications, it should have been responsible for choosing an approved installer due to its liability from an accident arising from the works, both to tenants and to nearby buildings.

Read more: Eight questions about installing solar panels on homes in France

Dispute over ‘fitting’ or ‘adding’

Generally, roof-mounted installations require a landlord’s explicit written permission because of the extensive work required to fix the panels onto the property.

Ground-mounted panels installed in gardens, however, do not require adaptations to the property’s structure and usually do not require such approval – the landlord just needs to be informed two months in advance (as Benjamin did) so they can refuse the works if they want to.

In this case, the panels being fixed to the wall made it a ‘middle-ground’ situation, with Benjamin arguing the lack of response counted as approval - as it would for ground-mounted panels - and the agency claiming written permission was needed, as it is for roof-mounted panels.

Case will be heard in December

The case will be heard at a local court on December 7.

A hefty fine – on top of the €7,500 Benjamin paid for the panels – is possible, and they could be evicted for a breach of contract.

They have contacted politicians including a senator as well as local councillors to argue their case.

They have also started a campaign to make it easier for tenants to install eco-friendly renovations.

A petition on also promoting this change of rules has been posted, which has currently attracted over 1,300 signatures.

Related articles

France solar panels: How do I connect them to grid and sell my energy?