With many Massachusetts homeowners looking to go green by installing solar roof panels on their homes, Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell has put up the yellow caution flag. O’Donnell is advising those who are interested in having solar panels installed on their roofs to make sure that there are no legal or financial entanglements when it comes to selling or borrowing against their homes once they sign a contract with the solar panel company.
“Consumer advocates are becoming increasingly aware,” noted O’Donnell, “that some people are having difficulty obtaining equity loans or reverse mortgages if they have leased solar panels and equipment. Furthermore, Federal Housing Administration regulations may prohibit the FHA from approving a homeowner’s loan.”
Register O’Donnell further stated, “While we all support clean energy and the reduced usage of fossil fuels, consumers need to understand the potential title and financial risks of installing solar panels on their homes. Because the solar panels and equipment are being leased, and the contract signed is a multi-year one, homeowners are finding they cannot sell their home unless the solar company approves the new buyer. If the buyer is not approved by the solar company, the owner is faced with purchasing the solar panels and equipment before they can sell their home. This could cost consumers up to $20,000.
“Like other Registries, we are seeing a surge in the filing of UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) financing statements when it comes to solar panel and equipment contracts. This is a legal form that a creditor files with the Registry of Deeds to give notice that it has or may have an interest in the personal property of the debtor.
“My office recommends that a homeowner check out the Massachusetts Attorney General’s website by clicking on Advice to Homeowners Considering Solar Panel Installations at http://www.mass.gov/ago/news-and-updates/press-releases/2016/advice-to-homeowners-considering-solar-panels.html. If the homeowner, after reviewing the site, wants to pursue the lease (some go as long as 20 years), I urge them to have a licensed attorney review the contract to ensure that they understand all the implications of installing solar panels.”
Norfolk County homeowners who have already had solar panels installed in their homes should contact the Registry’s Customer Service Center at (781) 461-6101 to find out if a UCC Financing Statement has been filed by a solar company against their home. Please note UCC Financing Statements do not require the signature of the homeowners for the document to be recorded.
Concluding his remarks, Register O’Donnell stated, “I want to first express my appreciation for the groundbreaking work done on this subject by my colleague Essex County South Register of Deeds John O’Brien and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. My goal in issuing this consumer alert is not to alarm Norfolk County homeowners, but to inform them. After all, your home is your most important asset.”
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The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds, located at 649 High Street, Dedham is the principal office for real property in Norfolk County. The Registry is a resource for homeowners, title examiners, mortgage lenders, municipalities and others with a need for secure, accurate, accessible land record information. Residents in need of assistance can contact the Registry of Deeds Customer Service Department via telephone at (781) 461-6101, or on the web at www.norfolkdeeds.org.